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How to Choose the Right Boom Lift for Your Job

How to Choose the Right Boom Lift for Your Job

How to Choose the Right Boom Lift for Your Job

Reading time: 6 min

A boom lift is a type of aerial lift that hoists operators through the air vertically and horizontally, allowing them access to hard-to-reach work areas.

Boom lifts come in a variety of sizes and types. They are frequently used in construction and agriculture for tasks such as painting, ceiling repairs and harvesting fruit from trees. In fact, the first boom lift was made for harvesting cherries from cherry trees. This is why boom lifts are sometimes referred to as cherrypickers.

The two main types of boom lifts are telescopic boom lifts and articulating boom lifts. Both types consist of a work platform/basket suspended by a boom arm, but there are subtle differences between the two.

What is a Telescopic Boom Lift?

A telescopic boom lift is a type of boom lift whose boom arm extends in a straight line. Telescopic boom lifts typically feature a rotating base, which allows operators to move the boom lift into position before extending the arm.

Generally, telescopic boom lifts offer superior stability and reach. Due to the rigid construction of its boom arm, a telescopic boom lift is capable of reaching out horizontally over great distances.

While telescopic boom lifts come in a range of sizes, the most standard sizes are 40’, 60’, 80’, 120’, 150’ and 180’. They can be either electric or diesel, with electric models being the preferred choice for indoor use.

What is an Articulating Boom Lift?

An articulating boom lift is a type of boom lift with an articulating boom arm. The boom arm of an articulating boom lift has joints that allow the boom arm to take on a limitless number of positions, helping operators reach challenging work areas in cramped environments. Due to the structure of its boom arm, which can bend at any of a few points along the arm, articulating boom lifts are sometimes called knuckle lifts.

Articulating boom lifts are ideal for tight work environments where maneuverability is a key consideration. An articulating boom lift allows operators to reach up and over obstacles, making it a great machine for operators involved in HVAC repair, fire sprinkler installation and ceiling maintenance.

While the largest articulating boom lift in the world can reach a height of 210’, most models are built to reach much smaller distances. Articulating boom arms typically come in 30’, 45’, 60’, 80’, 120’ and 150’ models.

Telescopic Boom Lift vs Articulating Boom Lift

The main difference between a telescopic boom lift and an articulating boom lift is that the work platform of a telescopic boom lift extends in a straight line, whereas articulating boom lifts can take on a number of positions.

A telescopic boom lift’s boom arm extends in and out like the sections of a fishing rod. Its boom arm cannot bend or pivot. By contrast, an articulating boom lift’s boom arm has joints in it. The boom arm can bend at any of its joints, allowing it to take on a greater number of configurations.

Due to the rigid construction of telescopic boom lifts, they are generally considered more stable than articulating boom lifts. They can reach out over greater horizontal distances without tipping and usually have greater load capacity.

Meanwhile, what articulating boom lifts lack in stability they make up for in versatility and maneuverability. Articulating boom arms excel at working in cramped, indoor conditions and can easily maneuver in and around cluttered work environments. Articulating boom arms are a better choice for reaching up and over obstacles. For example, when making fire sprinkler repairs above machinery in a factory or warehouse.

Boom Lifts vs Other Aerial Lifts

The main advantage of boom lifts over other types of aerial lifts is their ability to reach high and difficult-to-reach areas with great flexibility and precision.

While machines like scissor lifts can only move vertically, boom lifts can move both horizontally and vertically. In addition, they have a smaller work platform than scissor lifts, making them better suited to reaching tight areas.

On the other hand, boom lifts may not be the best suited machines for moving loads across distances. Their work platform is small and they cannot easily move around the jobsite. For these tasks, forklifts or telehandlers are a better solution. They provide better stability and are better suited to transport loads.

Boom Lift Attachments

While all boom lifts feature a work platform or man basket, attachments are sometimes used to make the boom lift better equipped to handle specific tasks.

Some common boom lift attachments used today include:

Arrest Bars

Provide a stable interface for workers to tie themselves off to the work platform, preventing falls.

Tool Trays

Provide a stable spot for stowing tools and equipment, so that nothing falls from the work platform and injures workers down below.

Panel Cradles

Are specially designed mounts that attach to the outside or side of the basket. They provide a secure storage mount for bringing sheets of drywall, plywood or glass up to the work area.

Pipe Cradles

Are designed to allow operators to bring PVC, conduit and steel pipes up to the work area.

With the wide range of boom lift attachments available on the market, it’s easy to customize a boom lift to meet the needs of any job.

Boom Lift Engine Types

When choosing a boom lift, you’ll want to consider the engine type. Electric, diesel and hybrid boom lifts are the most common types available, and each type has its own strengths.

Electric Boom Lifts are quiet and emissions-free, making them the best option for the majority of indoor applications. They are also easier to maintain than their fuel-powered counterparts. They must be plugged in to charge, however, so they may not be a great solution if your work environment lacks electricity.

Diesel Boom Lifts are powerful and rugged, making them a good option for outdoor use on challenging terrain. They also have high torque and fast ascent speeds, making them more powerful than electric models. They are also louder, produce emissions and are harder to maintain than electric boom lifts.

Hybrid Boom Lifts combine features of both electric and diesel boom lifts. They have a greater range than electric lifts, while also beating out diesel boom lifts in terms of fuel efficiency. However, they are the hardest type of boom lift to maintain and are frequently more expensive than electric or diesel models.

Boom Lift Safety Tips

Unfortunately, falls continue to be one of the most common causes of death on construction sites. While boom lifts are generally safe when used appropriately, you should always take the proper precautions when working at heights.

For starters, always make sure your boom lift is in good condition before operating it. You should always begin your shift by inspecting the boom lift’s work basket. Ensure none of the railings are loose or missing, and that any safety devices are in proper working order.

In addition, make sure there are no hazards in your work environment before climbing into a boom lift. Some hazards that are especially problematic for boom lifts include uneven terrain, windy conditions or overhead hazards such as electrical wires. If any of these hazards are present, do not operate your boom lift until they have been addressed.

Finally, make sure you’ve read your machine’s operating manual. Your boom lift’s operating manual is the best resource for safety information related to your particular machine.

The EquipmentShare Shop is a great place to find OEM and aftermarket parts for your boom lift. Find components for JLG boom lifts, Genie boom lifts, Skyjack boom lifts and others. Can’t find the part you need? Contact our parts team to place a custom order.

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