A Beginner’s Guide to Electric Chain Hoists

Electric chain hoists are used in situations where speed is important, but as always, there are several factors to consider when choosing to work with an electric chain hoist. From ambient conditions to duty cycles, here’s everything to know when 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 jobsite wired to run? If your site is only wired up for 120 volts, your choice of hoist is 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 can also be wired for 460 volts. Knowing what you have available allows you to then determine if any additional equipment is needed. 

Additionally, ensuring consistent, sufficient amperage arrives to 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. 

Duty Cycle 

Once you have established the proper power requirements, the next thing to consider for your project is the duty cycle on your hoist. Many electrically operated pieces of equipment operate with a 25 percent duty cycle. For those that are not aware, a duty cycle refers to the length of time a piece of equipment can operate over the span of one hour. That means, with a 25-percent duty cycle, an electric chain hoist can only run for a period of 15 minutes before requiring a cool-down period.  

If you are running a project that requires a hoist to continuously bring equipment or supplies up and down, you must analyze if that is the best option or take time to plan out your lifts to maximize efficiency. 


A sometimes-forgotten aspect, and the next thing to consider in conjunction with the above-mentioned duty cycle, is how fast the hoist actually lifts a load against the height of lift. 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 up the load. Are you going to need to make more than 3 lifts in an hour or does that hoist meet your needs? If you would need more frequent trips, your options would be to either 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) 

Another thing to consider is the style of mount required. With both hook top and trolley top available – depending on the hoist model – what is the best option for you? If you have headroom restrictions and need to have a trolley for your hoist, there are hoists designed with a trolley mount top that not only cuts down the headroom taken up by the hoist itself, but also removes the headroom eaten up by the separate trolley. While that option is available on only a select few capacities, it may be a preferred option for your project when things get tight.  

Mounting Method Part 2 (Weight)

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

Consider, however, a 10-ton electric hoist. Nearly any model you choose is going to 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 it around 200-270 pounds or a hand chain hoist weighing around 115 pounds, each equipped with the same 10-foot height of lift, and you may find using an alternative option 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, as well as the control pendant, are able to remain dry and free of moisture that can 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 an electric hoist is not the right piece of equipment for this project.

Lifting Tension 

One of the more important and final things 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 rated capacity of the hoist. If you are lifting a load weighing in at 9,500 pounds using a 5-ton hoist, unless the load is to be lifted perfectly vertical, it may be in your best interest to step up to the next size up.  

For help on your next project or in selecting the right tool for the job, please reach out to your local representative or give us a call at 800-878-7305 to speak with one of our rental specialists. 

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