The right hoist is critical to safety and efficiency when lifting heavy loads.
Hoists are essential in many industries, including construction, manufacturing and automotive, for lifting and lowering heavy loads. Using the right hoist for the task makes the job safer and more efficient. But given the multiple types of hoists on the market, how do you determine which to choose?
The best type of hoist—manual, electric or air, with a chain or wire rope—depends on how much weight you need to lift, how high and how often you need to lift loads, and what power source works best for the site and application. Get the details below.
Remember that a hoist and a crane are not the same thing. The difference between a crane and a hoist? A crane can’t lift anything without a hoist. By itself, a hoist can lift and lower loads vertically. A crane equipped with a hoist can lift materials and also move them to the left or right.
How much weight you need to lift is the most important consideration when choosing a hoist. Some hoists can lift 1,000 pounds, while others can lift more than 50 tons. Using a hoist with a lifting capacity that’s too low for the load can lead to equipment failure, accidents and injuries.
A hoist’s lifting capacity depends on the type of hoist, the power source and the choice of chain or wire rope. Electric hoists can typically lift more than manual hoists, and wire ropes can typically lift more than chains.
When calculating the lifting capacity you need, recall that a ton is 2,000 pounds. It’s smart to round up when calculating your load. That said, all United Rentals hoists are tested with 125% of the load for which they are rated.
Remember, never suspend a hoist from a structure that can’t support its maximum load.
Hoist power sources: Manual, electric and air
The ideal power source depends on the weight of the loads, the desired lifting speed, the availability of electricity, the environment and the required run time.
Manual hoists are raised and lowered by cranking a lever attachment or pulling a chain. Portable, compact and low maintenance, they are a good choice for work in tight spaces, in hazardous environments and when electricity is not available.
These hoists are ideal for light-duty tasks such as lifting equipment in workshops, removing engines in garages and positioning materials in factories. Lifting capacities for lever hoists range from ½ ton to 10 tons depending on the structure supporting the hoist. Some manual crane chain hoists can handle as much as 50 tons.
How much you can realistically lift with a manual hoist, and how often, is limited by the stamina and availability of your crew. These are not hoists you should turn to for continuous lifting, or for speed: A manual chain hoist lifts at about 2 feet per minute.
Electric hoists, the most common type, use a motor and a chain or wire rope to lift and lower loads with the push of a button. You’ll find them in manufacturing, power generation and industrial facilities.
Electric chain hoists can lift up to 5 tons; wire rope chain hoists can lift more. Lifting speeds range from about 8 feet to 28 feet per minute. If you’re lifting a load higher than 30 feet, using an electric hoist is much more efficient than using a manual hoist.
Electricity is required to operate an electric hoist. These hoists can overheat, so don’t use one near explosive material unless it’s a spark-resistant model.
Pneumatic (air) hoists
A pneumatic hoist, or air hoist, uses compressed air to power the motor. It can lift the heaviest loads—up to 100 tons—and hoist loads as high as 100 feet. Because these hoists can operate continuously, they are ideal for automotive assembly lines and warehouse distribution centers.
Air hoists are up to 50% lighter than electric hoists, which adds convenience on remote jobsites, and they don’t require electricity, so they’re safe to use in areas with flammable gas or explosive elements.
The downsides: They cost more, and they require a compressor to operate, which may add to maintenance costs over time. Additionally, they run louder than other hoists, so workers may need hearing protection.
Chain hoists vs. wire rope hoists
Chain hoists are lighter than wire rope hoists and easier to install and move, making them handy for using in multiple locations. They are generally used to lift lighter loads. They must be lubricated regularly.
Wire rope hoists, made of multiple steel wires twisted into strands, are stronger and more durable. Commonly found in factories, they can lift 50 tons or more and endure extreme environments, including hot and humid environments and those with significant dust or debris. They cost more than chain hoists and require electric power, but they are easier to maintain and can last over 20 years—twice as long as chain hoists.
Do you need a hoist that can operate continuously, or are you lifting intermittently? A hoist’s duty cycle indicates the percentage of time it can operate per hour without stopping.
Air-powered hoists deliver 100% duty cycles. Electric hoists need breaks to allow the motor to cool. Manual hoists run as long as the operator is willing and able.
To make choosing a hoist easier, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers classifies hoists from H1 to H5 based on a combination of factors including load capacity and duty cycle. H5 hoists can handle the heaviest loads and operate continuously.
Hoist suspension types
How you mount the hoist—from a crane, I-beam or other structure—can impact the duty cycle. The most common suspension types are hook, lug and trolley mounts.
- Hook mounts attach the hoist to a trolley or fixed structure with a hook. They can be used with any hoist but are most commonly used with chain hoists.
- Lug mounts use a mounting bracket attached to the hoist frame to suspend the hoist from a trolley or other support system.
- Trolley mounts allow the hoist to move along a vertical overhead structure such as an I-beam. There are three types: push (manual), electric and gear. The load weight and hoist determine the type of trolley mount you should use.
The right hoist can make fast work of load handling while enhancing worker safety. Not certain which one is right for your application? Contact a United Rental representative for help.