A Beginner’s Guide to Electric Chain Hoists

Electric chain hoists are a common equipment selection in situations where speed is important. Still, as always, there are several factors to consider before deciding whether an electric hoist is the best choice for your application. From ambient conditions to duty cycles, here’s everything to know about selecting and using an electric chain hoist.


One of the most critically important aspects of choosing an electric chain hoist is the power requirements based on the capacity of your hoist. What power is the job site wired to run? If your site is only wired for 120 volts, your choices are limited to lower-capacity hoists. When choosing an electric chain hoist capable of performing heavier lifts (over 2.5 tons), power requirements step up to a minimum of 230 volts but may also be wired for 460 volts. Knowing what your site has available allows you to determine if you will need alternative equipment.

Additionally, ensuring consistent, sufficient amperage arrives at the hoist is equally important. Far too often, the extension cord falls as an afterthought, yet the wrong gauge or length extension cord can completely stop a lift in its tracks. See the accompanying graphic to make sure you have the appropriate power supply for your electric chain hoist.

extension cord requirements chart for electric equipment

Duty Cycle

Once you’ve addressed the appropriate power requirements, it’s essential to consider the duty cycle of the hoist. Many electrically powered pieces of equipment operate with a 25 percent duty cycle. For those unaware, a duty cycle refers to the duration of time equipment can operate within one hour. For instance, an electric hoist with a 25-percent duty cycle can run uninterrupted for 15 minutes before requiring a cool-down period.

Suppose your project will require a hoist to bring equipment or supplies up and down continuously. In that case, you may need to consider alternative options, such as manual or pneumatic hoists, which have no duty cycle.


A sometimes-forgotten aspect, and the next thing to consider in conjunction with the above-mentioned duty cycle, is how fast the hoist lifts a load against the height of lift. For example, say you’re using a 5-ton hoist and lifting 60 feet in the air. With a lift speed of 11 feet per minute, that means for one lift, you are using just over five minutes of your duty cycle to raise the load. Will you need to make more than three lifts in an hour, or will that meet your needs? If you need more frequent trips, you could add a second hoist or, if possible, step down to a lower-capacity hoist and lessen the load while increasing lifting speed. Making sure to factor in the height of lift, lifting speed, and frequency in your lift plan can keep the job running without a hitch.

Mounting Method (headroom) image of a Harrington electric chain hoist

Another thing to consider is the style of mount you will require. With both hook tops and trolley tops available – depending on the hoist model – you must ask, which is your best option? For example, suppose you have headroom restrictions and need a trolley for your hoist. In that case, there are hoists designed with a trolley mount top that not only cut down the headroom taken up by the hoist itself but also remove the headroom eaten up by the separate trolley. While that option is available on only a few capacities, it may be the preferred choice for your project when things get tight.

Mounting Method (weight)

In conjunction with the headroom aspect, electric chain hoists weigh considerably more than their air and hand-operated counterparts. Often, you may find that to mount an electric chain hoist, you need a different hoist just to offset its weight. If you can mount your hoist before being in the air or have additional help already on the job site and prefer or require an electric hoist, then the weight is a non-issue.

Consider, however, a 10-ton electric hoist. Nearly any model you choose will tip the scales at over 500 pounds with a 10-foot height of lift (plus another 7-8 pounds per foot of additional lift). Compare that to an equivalent air hoist weighing around 200-270 pounds or a hand chain hoist weighing approximately 115 pounds, each equipped with the same 10-foot height of lift, and you may find an alternative option that fits your project profile a bit better.

Ambient Conditions

What does your job site look like? Do you have excessive humidity, dust, dirt, or other pollutants in the air? Can you ensure that the hoist and control pendant remain dry and free of moisture that may cause issues with the electricity? These are all things that can and will affect the performance of an electric chain hoist. If you find that your site may compromise any of the above factors, perhaps there are better equipment options for this project than an electric hoist.

Lifting Tension

Another critical and final thing to note on your lift is whether the load is being lifted in a straight line vertically or if there will be angular forces applied. An angular load always creates tension on the hoist and can potentially render a hoist unusable if the load is at or near the hoist’s rated capacity. For instance, if you are lifting a load weighing in at 9,500 pounds using a 5-ton hoist, it may be in your best interest to opt for the next size up unless you intend to lift the load in a straight line vertically.

For more resources on electric chain hoists, please visit https://rentlgh.com/?s=electric+hoist.

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