The Difference Between Electric Chain Hoists and Manual Chain Hoists

Do I Require An Electric Chain Hoist Or A Chain Block (Manual Hoist)?

That is a very good question and one we hope this article will answer. We explore the following factors to help you make an informed decision when it comes to choosing the right chain hoist for your operations. To help you use this guide as effectively as possible we have included a table of contents so you can find exactly what you are looking for, or skip to what is most relevant if you are short of time.


Understanding Chain Hoists

A chain hoist is a very useful innovation which is essentially a piece of equipment used to lift and lower heavy loads. It is commonly found in various workspaces such as factories, plants, construction areas, and warehouses. It is also characterised by a heavy-duty chain. Due to its efficiency and high carrying capacity, the the crane spares you the hassle, stress and time spent in lifting heavy items.


How Does An Electric Chain Hoist Work?

Electric chain hoists have an induction motor and a brake to ensure the load is held when lifting (enabling heavy objects/loads to be lifted safely). The motor converts electrical energy into mechanical energy which can then lift the load/weight. It has a brake that has an interlocking mechanism in combination with a motor that operates in a unique way. When the electric chain hoist is in operation the energy supply to the brake will be released, but when the motor is off, the supply is automatically provided and the brake will resume – to ensure that the crane load can be held. The hassle, stress and time spent in lifting heavy items are virtually removed.



How Does A Manual Chain Block Work?

A chain block (also known as a hand or manual chain hoist) is a mechanism used to lift and lower heavy loads using a chain. Chain blocks contain two wheels which a chain wound around. When the chain is manually pulled, the chain winds around the wheels and begins to lift the item that is attached to the other end of the chain. Chain blocks can also be attached to lifting slings and chain bags to lift the load more evenly. This is a fully manual process, whereas the electric hoist is capable of lifting far greater weights and with more ease.



What Are Chain Blocks (Hand Chain Hoists) Used For?

A chain block is used in many different scenarios. You will often find them in car mechanic workshops to assist with loading and unloading car engines. This is the perfect application as it would normally require a number of persons and manpower, but with a chain block (hand chain hoist) you can perform a task such as this with one person, making it very efficient. Most places where chain blocks exist will have infrequent use, or can not justify the cost of an electric chain hoist.  They are even used in manufacturing production lines or to winch vehicles when they have encountered tough terrain.



What Do Electric Chain Hoists Do?

The electric chain hoist is the one found in most industries around the world. It operates on two different supply voltages available in South Africa: 525V and 380V. The 525V version is usually found in mines and larger industrial operations, while the 380V is the de facto industry standard. A determining factor when choosing an electric chain hoist is the speed required. A single-speed operation is the most common and is used under what are considered ‘normal’ lifting and lowering applications. A dual-speed operation, is used when more precise movements are required.



What Are The Benefits Of An Electric Chain Hoist?

Electric chain hoists are inexpensive compared to cranes. They are hassle free and they can be easily operated with simple controls. They offer high-efficiency, at an affordable cost even in demanding conditions. They will ensure a smooth and steady vertical lift, with a high degree of precision and make light work of heavy objects when compared to a manual hoist.


Do I Need An Electric Chain Hoist?

An understanding of supply voltage is critical in choosing the right one, in South Africa, we primarily have two supply voltages that are used in an Industrial capacity, namely 380/400c and 525V. 525V is more commonly found in mines and bigger Industrial operations while 380V is the conventional industry norm. Another determining factor in selecting your hoist is choosing between single and dual speed operation. Single speed operation is most common and utilised under normal lifting and lowering applications such as offloading of goods. Dual speed hoists are ideal when more precise movements are required. Electric chain hoists have very obvious benefits over using manual chain hoists (chain blocks), they are safer, quicker and far more convenient.

The Quick Guide To Choosing The Right Electric Chain Hoist

We have compiled a full guide on how to chose a chain hoist so we are linking to this rather than repeating ourselves but here are some key points:


What weight will you be lifting, and what capacity is required?

If you are looking for an electric hoist for your plant, the first thing that you must know is the weight of whatever you will be lifting. This is the first and minimum requirement. Safety is a key consideration in your selection and its best to err on the side of caution when selecting the safe working load of your hoist. Standard increments in lifting machinery and chain hoists are 125kg, 250kg, 500kg, 1000kg and 2000kg for what are considered ‘light’ loads. So if, for example, your constant load is 500kg and the likelihood is that you will exceed that weight, then don’t risk it. Go for the 1000kg chain hoist to optimise your production and ensure the safety of both your workers and your cargo.


What lifting speed do you require?

Lifting speed is your next step and needs careful attention. If high production is your goal then a faster lifting speed will be required to get the best possible return on investment on your chain hoist purchase. If you are simply offloading delivered goods and shifting them sporadically then look at a more modest speed. Hoist speed is determined by several factors including motor power, gearbox ratio and the reeving of your chain.


What is the height of lift?

After the capacity and speed have been selected, next, you have to consider the height of lift that your lifting task requires. The biggest constraint in this regard is your proposed building. Don’t assume that because your building is a certain height, that you will attain that same height in lift. The size of both your lifting structure and your chain hoist or electric wire rope hoist need to be ascertained prior to any decision. If you are uncertain on any terms, then seek help from a lifting professional. Errors at this stage of your progress can be very costly and can be avoided with a mere phone call.


Do not overlook your future needs

A 4-tonne chain hoist may be suitable to lift your items now, but what about future needs? Do you see yourself lifting heavier objects in future than you are today? It wouldn’t be cost-effective to upgrade each time you need to lift heavier items.

Go for something that can cater for both your present and future needs and chose critically.

Chain Hoist Fact


Electric Chain Hoists are the most commonly sold hoists in South Africa!

What kind of material will the hoist be lifting?

Everyday items that require lifting from one place to the next can be hoisted easily, but what if your load is somewhat different, for example, an asymmetrical load? How will it affect the specification of your hoist and lifting equipment? Moreover, are there any hazardous environmental issues to consider? In this regard, be as open and honest with your service provider as possible. Failure to disclose any hazards can waste valuable time, money and production – and, of course, jeopardise the safety of those operating the lifting equipment.


How often will the crane hoist be operating?

Before getting a chain hoist, you must determine how often the crane will be operating per day. Also, consider how long every cycle takes. Your chain hoist must be clearly marked with its duty. Recognised authorities in this respect are FEM (European Materials Handling Federation) or ISO (International Organization for Standardization) and this will dictate the level of safety and efficiency of your electric chain hoist or wire rope hoist.


What is your budget?

Budget is always a consideration in the purchase of capital equipment and an electrical chain hoist is no different. It is, however, important not to be short sighted in this regard. Do not simply buy from the cheapest possible source and hope for the best. You need to be assured that your service provider has significant support in terms of expertise and spare parts should something go wrong. Make sure your supplier is the OEM or official distributor of a recognized product. Where possible, view the premises of your supplier and satisfy yourself that they can carry out both your immediate requirements and any future requirements.


Ensure you choose wisely and look for a long-lasting warranty

Any reasonable hoist will come with a warranty to guard the purchaser against any malfunctions or losses due to manufacturer faults. This term is normally 1 year but may vary. Have this warranty in writing from your service provider and as stated above, satisfy yourself that the supplier is capable of honouring the warranty through trained staff and spares back-up.

Following these guidelines will assist you in making your lifting machinery purchase a little less daunting. If you are in need of a chain hoist, go for quality brands such as Surelift and Guralp, and you will never regret it. Good luck!


The Difference – Manual Chain Blocks (Hand Chain Hoists)

Chain blocks have a very particular function and their advantage lies in mobility. They are commonly used for installations and less permanent applications as mentioned above. When used in permanent applications, the required frequency of use is normally very low and are considered when budget and application are factors.

Selecting The Right Trolley For Your Chain Hoist

The hoist being electrical or manual is the first step in the process, the second would be defining the right and most appropriate trolley. Electric hoists offer trolleys that are either powered or push type. Powered trolleys add an additional cost but if your requirement is that of a high volume, the return on investment from this is exceptional. Manual hoists are on the simpler end of the spectrum and are purchased with geared trolleys from a lifting equipment company such as RGM Cranes. Errors at this stage of your progress can be very costly and can be avoided with a mere phone call.


Choosing The Right Crane – Monorail, Overhead or Jib Cranes

Chain hoists are primarily installed in lower capacity applications such as jib or workstation cranes, monorails and (less frequently) on overhead gantry cranes.

  • Jib cranes or workstation cranes can be either free-standing or wall/pillar mounted. They can rotate up to 360 degrees and are ideal where work is concentrated in a very specific work area.
  • Monorails are a single beam with various mounting options, the length is not limited and can even incorporate bends with many different applications such as process automation and production lines.
  • An overhead gantry crane is an I-beam or fabricated box girder that runs on rails in a defined space in a factory or warehouse to assist in the moving of heavy loads.


Once you have chosen an electric hoist or manual chain block, a trolley, gantry or jib crane you’ll be ready to lift and move all the heavy items in your industrial warehouse or plant. Correct lifting machinery selection will offer a return on your investment and solve your material handling issues. It should, therefore, be done with careful scrutiny as the wrong equipment will exacerbate these issues instead of solving them.

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