How do I choose the right ceiling track hoist system?

A ceiling track hoist system is a type of overhead hoist that is commonly used for moving and handling. The core components of a ceiling track hoist system are the tracking, a hoist unit and a spreader bar.

Overhead ceiling track hoist systems are popular because they provide several benefits over mobile hoists. They don’t take up any floor space which reduces trip hazards and keeps rooms looking neat and tidy. They also have a greater lifting range, which means they can be used to move patients higher and lower to safely perform transfers that would be impossible with a mobile hoist.

Despite these clear benefits, healthcare professionals that we work with are often concerned about choosing the right ceiling track hoist system. This is because there are lots of decisions to make.

Ceiling track hoists are bespoke systems, so there are multiple options to choose from for each of the core system components.

Common questions about ceiling track hoist systems

Do you want an automatic system? How do you make sure the system works with the room layout? How will the ceiling track be mounted? Can the system span multiple rooms? Which type of hoist unit should I choose, and what kind of spreader bar?

These are all questions that need to be considered when choosing a ceiling track hoist system. The number of options can be overwhelming for someone who isn’t familiar with the technical specifications of hoist systems. In fact, we know plenty of architects who dread having to specify ceiling track hoist systems too!

But choosing a ceiling track hoist system doesn’t have to be daunting. We’ve put together this step-by-step guide to help you choose the right system.

The guide covers seven simple questions. Thinking about your answers to each of them will give you a better understanding of what type of ceiling track hoist system you need. Let’s get started!

The first two questions will help you to choose the right kind of track layout and track components:

1)    What is the room layout like?

When choosing a track layout, you need to consider the layout of the room and which areas the hoist will need to cover.

For ceiling track hoist systems that will be used in a single room, there are three main types of track configuration.

Straight monorail

Straight monorail ceiling track hoist system
This room plan shows how a Straight Monorail could be positioned over a bed

A single, straight rail is fitted. This type of tracking is typically used where the hoist system is only needed to transfer someone from bed to chair, and vice versa.

The monorail can run perpendicular to the bed or on an angle to provide a more suitable transfer area.

This system layout only provides limited coverage but is easy to use and is quicker to install than more complicated systems.

Straight monorail with curve

Straight monorail with curve ceiling track hoist system
Here is an example of a Straight Monorail with a 90-degree curve

Just like with a straight monorail, a single rail is fitted. There is a straight portion of rail with an additional curved section. Curves can be at a 15o, 30 o, 45 o, 60 o or 90o angle, depending on the space they will be used in.

This type of layout is also designed primarily for bed to chair transfer. The addition of the curve is often just to provide some cosmetic benefits.

For example, adding the curve can create a more suitable space for a charging point, if one is required. It makes it easier to tuck the hoist unit away when it is not in use.

It is also possible to install a cupboard around the curve point so the hoist can be stored away when not needed. This option offers a much more aesthetically pleasing solution that can more closely resemble our Integralift hidden hoist than a traditional ceiling track hoist system.

H-Frame System

A H-frame system, sometimes called an X-Y system, consists of three pieces rather than one single rail. There are two parallel fixed rails and one perpendicular moving traverse rail.

Ceiling track hoist system with H-frame
This is called a H-Frame system because the tracking looks like a letter H

This system layout can provide full room coverage, as the hoist can reach all areas covered under the H-frame.

The additional coverage means H-frames can be used for transfers between multiple locations e.g. bed to chair or bed to wheelchair. Plus, this system layout gives you more interior design options in the future. You can update the furniture layout at any point because the hoist has full coverage of the room.

The traverse rail also makes this system more flexible; the hoist can be moved forward, backward and side to side!

2)    Do you need to make transfers from one room to another?

If you need a hoist system to make transfers between rooms, no problem. You can combine straight monorails, straight monorails with curves and h-frames to create more complex ceiling track hoist systems that meet your requirements.

Choosing a ceiling track hoist system for room to room transfers
Here you can see this ceiling track hoist system moves from the bedroom straight into the ensuite

The most common reason people choose a multi-room ceiling track hoist system is so they can transfer people from their bedroom into an en-suite bathroom with a single hoist.

Hoisting can be unpleasant, so this reduces stress and increases comfort for the patient. It also saves time for carers. Once they have positioned someone securely in the sling, they can easily move them from bed to the bathroom in a single transfer.

When you start to look at more complex systems that span different rooms, there are some additional track components to consider:

Transit couplings

A transit coupling is used to connect two separate rails in a system. It acts like a gate allowing you to move smoothly from one rail to the next.

Example of a overhead hoist transit coupling
Sliding the rail to the left will align it with the transit coupling

Our innovative Airglide360 transit couplings use sensors and magnets to automatically lock the track in place to allow you to move between rails safely without having to press any buttons.

You need a transit coupling to connect a H-frame system to a monorail, or to connect two H-frame systems together.

Track switch

A track switch, quite simply, allows you to switch tracks. Like the transit couplings, this works automatically. If you pause at the junction where the tracks meet for 2 seconds, the track will switch. Then you can safely move from one track onto the other.

Airglide track switch
Overhead hoist track switches look similar to railway track switches

You can use a track switch to access different areas of a bathroom i.e. the bath and the toilet.

Turntable

A turntable is another option for connecting different rails. Once again, it works automatically! If you move to the end of one track, where the turntable is located, and wait for 2 seconds then the turntable will rotate allowing you to move onto the other rail.

Ceiling track hoist system turntable
This is a 3-point turntable

When you work with Innova, our team will help you to work out which track component is right for you during our consultation. So, there’s no need to worry about which one you need for your specific system!

Answering the next three questions will help you to select a hoist unit:

3)    What is the maximum weight the hoist will be lifting?

You need to make sure that whichever hoist unit you choose has the capacity to lift all users the ceiling track hoist system is intended to serve.

Different hoist unit models have different weight limits.

The AirRise range offers some of the best hoist units on the market. Not only are they designed for quiet, smooth movement but each model is named after it’s weight limit. This makes choosing the right unit really simple:

AirRise ModelWeight Limit
AirRise200200kg
AirRise260260kg
AirRise350350kg
AirRise500500kg

The hoist units with a lower weight limit are smaller and more streamlined. A lot of clients will therefore choose the smallest model that can safely lift their users to make the system more subtle and stylish.

The AirRise500 has been a brilliant innovation for bariatric care. Traditionally, if you needed a hoist system that could lift more than 350kg, you needed to use two hoist units fastened together. Not only does this look less attractive, but it’s more complicated. The units either need to be synchronised to use one handset, or the carer has to struggle to operate two units at once.

4)    Do you need a portable or fixed hoist unit?

A fixed hoist unit is permanently attached to the ceiling track. These are ideal for environments where the hoist system is frequently in use or where the hoist has been installed for a single user.

Critical care units and private residences are examples where a permanently attached unit may be the best option. It is unlikely that the hoist unit will need to be moved or changed regularly.

AirRise hoist unit
This AirRise hoist unit is permanently fixed in place

A portable hoist unit can be quickly detached from the ceiling track. It is also more lightweight than the permanently attached unit. It is designed to be easily moved between locations.

Portable units are a great option for multi-user healthcare settings where not all the ceiling track systems will be needed all the time. For example, a hospice may have ceiling tracks fitted in 10 rooms but only have three patients who are hoisted. By opting for several portable units rather than 10 fixed units, they can save costs and simply move the hoist units around as needed.

AirLifter Portable Hoist Unit
This is our AirLifter Portable Hoist Unit

5)    Do you want manual or powered traverse?

A hoist unit with manual traverse requires the carer to physically move the patient along the track in the sling. There are wheels on top of the hoist unit which allow it to glide smoothly along the track, so this option doesn’t require as much effort to operate as you might initially think.

Whereas, a hoist unit with powered traverse is operated electronically. So, the patient can be moved along the track using a handset.

There isn’t really a ‘right choice’ when it comes to traversing. It really depends on your preferences and requirements.

Pros & Cons of Manual Traverse

ProsCons
The carer can control the speed at which the person moves along the track. This helps to ensure transfers are completed safely.It requires more effort to move the person along the track than manual traverse.
Less expensive than powered traverse
It is often easier to position a patient precisely as the hoist self-centralises above the patient when moving up and down.

Pros & Cons of Powered Traverse

ProsCons
The person being hoisted can move along the track independently. This makes powered traverse a popular choice for private residences where the resident wants to maintain their independence and has the cognitive function to operate the unit themselves.You need to have room to install a charging point so that you can recharge the unit.
Carers can transfer patients with minimal effort using the handset. This lets them focus on supporting the patient.Difficult to operate with a H-frame system.
Ideal for bariatric wards. It reduces the effort required to transfer patients and makes the process more dignified for them.More expensive than manual traverse

The final two questions will help to determine what kind of spreader bar is best for you:

6)    Will the hoist be used for adults, children or bariatric patients?

Different spreader bars are better suited to patients with different body sizes.

  • Adults: A 2-point spreader bar is the most common choice. The sling is attached to the bar at two points – one on each side of the bar
  • Children: 2-point spreader bars are also commonly used for paediatric patients. However, you can get a smaller version that is 30-40cm wide rather than the standard 50-60cm. We always recommend these if a hoist system will only be used for children. The smaller spreader bar allows the sling to support the child’s body more securely during lifting.
  • Bariatric patients: For plus-sized patients, we recommend a 4-point spreader bar. As the name suggests, the sling attaches at four points rather than two. This provides a larger surface area for lifting and makes the process much more comfortable for the patient.

7)    Will the hoist be used for repositioning?

If the hoist will be used to assist a patient with moving from a seated to a laying position, or vice versa, then you should consider an electric wishbone spreader bar.

The unique shape allows the carer to lift different parts of the body at different speeds. This helps them to steadily change the patient’s position with little physical effort. It’s safe and more comfortable for the patient and reduces the risk of injury for the carer.

For more information on spreader bars and the options available, you can also read our full Guide to Ceiling Hoist Spreader Bars.

Other Important Factors to Consider

This guide is designed to help you better understand your options when choosing a ceiling track hoist system. However, there are other important factors to consider before installation.

One of the most important factors that we have not discussed here is building structure.

Structural Considerations

Structural considerations need to be factored into all aspects of the design and installation of a ceiling track hoist system. Doorway height, floor structure, ceiling structure and wall structure all affect how the track system is fitted and fixed.

A whole variety of important measurements and calculations need to be taken to make sure the system functions efficiently and safely. You can learn more about the key technical specifications in our Specifier’s Guide to Overhead Tracking Hoist Systems

Any calculations need to be checked by a qualified structural engineer.

Consultation, Designs and Pre-Installation Checks

At Innova, we provide full consultation and design services for all our ceiling track hoist installation projects. Our in-house track layout advisors, BIM and CAD designers, and highly trained installation team work together to ensure the project stays on track every step of the way.

Cheesy track puns aside… their combined years of experience allows them to work closely with architects and contractors. This ensures everything has been properly planned before installation, so you get a ceiling track hoist system that properly meets your practical and aesthetic requirements.

  • Consultation: We will arrange to discuss your requirements in more detail. This stage will typically include some of the questions in this guide. We will then be able to make recommendations for what kind of hoist system will work best for you.
  • Pre-Installation Checks: Trained personnel will carry out a check of the room(s). They will then consult with you to finalise how the track will be mounted and which areas of the room require hoist coverage.
  • Design: Our team can then provide 2D CAD and 3D BIM drawings to show the ceiling track hoist layout and fixings details to scale in your room layout.
CAD for ceiling track hoist system
This is an example of how we would create a CAD drawing for a straight monorail with curve system

These drawings help any contractors working on the project as they highlight features like charging points which will need to be factored into any building work.

Our knowledgeable Project Managers will also be on hand throughout if you ever have any questions. Once the installation is complete, they will also arrange full staff training for the new ceiling track hoist system.

CONTACT US FOR MORE INFORMATION ON CHOOSING THE RIGHT CEILING TRACK HOIST SYSTEM