Chain Hoist, Wire Rope, Electric, and Air Hoists – Which is Right for You?

Chain Hoist, Wire Rope, Electric, and Air Hoists – Which is Right for You?

So, you need a hoist – that’s a start, but there are many choices like chain hoist and wire rope, not to mention the choice between an electric, manual, or air hoist. Who knew this would be so complicated?

We do. But you can trust O’Brien Lifting Solutions to dig deep into your process requirements and design the perfect application to hoist and move your loads when and where you need them. Consistently, constantly, reliably.

Offering hoists from a quarter-ton to 200-ton capacity, we have a complete line of out-of-the-box hoists, custom-configured hoists, and hoist accessories. O’Brien boasts an exclusive partnership with Street Crane, one of the world’s leading electric wire rope hoist manufacturers. We also work closely with Kito Canada, a trusted manufacturer of manual hoists, air hosts, and electric chain hoists.

So, with all this selection on offer, how do you find the right hoist for your application? Let’s break it down.

Chain hoist O'Brien Lifting Solutions

FIRST CHOICE: POWER – Manual, Electric, Air (Pneumatic)

The difference in hoist power is pretty easy to understand:

  • Manual hoists are powered by the operator – a human being lifting the load with the support of a system of pulleys and gears. Manual hoists are reliable and cost-efficient, and they won’t overheat. The more you use them, though, the more tired the operator might get. Generally, manual hoists are used to lift lighter loads – but by lighter, we mean up to 3 tons, depending on the product. It’s important to note, manual hoists are great in applications where you’re not making a lift very often, once or twice a day for example.
  • Electric hoists – if you figured out electric hoists were powered by an electric motor, you got it right. It’s a pretty simple assumption, really. Depending on the configuration, electric hoists can lift heavier loads than manual hoists, without strain on the operator. They’re also great for lifting lighter loads repeatedly. The only challenge is designing a system that can handle how much you want to lift, how often, and how quickly you want to lift it. Too fast, too often, too heavy, and the motor might wear down, overheat, or even fail. But a properly-engineered electric hoist system can be your facility’s best friend – ready to hoist and move loads accurately and consistently, with the press of a button.
  • Air hoists (pneumatic hoists) – air hoists use compressed air for lifting power. Air hoists are typically used to lift loads, quickly and efficiently. The advantages of an air hoist over an electric hoist are cooling and speed. The same air that is used for lifting actually cools the system, making it less prone to overheating. And loads can be lifted at higher speeds than electric motors. But they’re also a little more technical – you need to keep an eye on air pressure and airflow for the system to operate smoothly. When you need delicate handling and powerful lifting capabilities, an air hoist could be the right choice for you.


While many people associate chains with a manual hoist, they are typically used in both manual and electric applications.

Lift height, load weight, your operating environment, and budget will be your main considerations.

  • Chain hoist – chain hoists are simple and easy to install. They’re typically lower cost, and designed to carry lighter loads. Chain hoists are compact, very versatile, simple to use, and useful in many different applications. They can also come with lower maintenance costs.
  • Wire rope hoist – in general, a wire rope hoist can lift heavier loads more accurately than a chain hoist. Wire rope is made of many strands of individual metal wire twisted together to form a solid cable, making it exceptionally strong and durable. The downside is that wire rope hoist systems can be more complex than a chain hoist, translating into slightly higher costs for maintenance and repair.

Reliability, Consistency, Endurance – O’Brien Supplies the Tough Wire Rope and Chain Hoists You Need

Whether you need an out-of-box solution for your shop, a custom-designed crane and hoist system for heavy manufacturing, or someone to service for your lifting system, contact O’Brien Lifting Solutions. With the world’s most comprehensive range of advanced hoists on offer, we have the products you want and the expertise you need to design the perfect lifting solution. Contact O’Brien for more information or to request a quote today.

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