Power Vs Manual Recliners: Pros, Cons and The Difference

by Andrew Smith| Last Updated: May 3, 2021

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Regardless of the size of your space or your style, a chair is an essential part of any home. Your choice of chairs should not only offer functionality but some aesthetic appeal. For many, a recliner is their go-to chair.

Today, due to their popularity, recliners come in various models, shapes, sizes, colours, and brands. Choosing the right one is not easy. 

But before you settle for a particular brand, model, or colour, you first must determine the type of recliner you should get- a power recliner or a manual recliner.

To help you make an informed choice, we have compiled a detailed article outlining their differences and the pros and cons of each type.

What Is A Power Recliner?

A power recliner or an electric recliner is a chair (sofa, loveseat or sectional) that uses automated motors to recline the backrest and lift the footrest. The operating buttons are usually located at the top of one armrest or on the wireless remote control.

These kinds of recliners must be plugged into a source of electricity or a battery pack to function. They are specially designed for people who have difficulty operating manual recliners.

Types of Power Recliners

  • Traditional power recliners

This type of power recliner chairs uses a motor or a series of motors to recline or adjust to your preferred position. They usually come with one to three motors.

  • Lift Recliners

The power lift recliner chairs are an excellent choice for people who need mobility assistance. They can recline and let you relax and lift you from a sitting to a standing position at a touch of a button.

  • Duo Power Recliner

These recliner chairs look like a stationary sofa but operate as a recliner. They can be positioned inches away from a wall to save space (wall huggers). They come with both a powered back and footrest that can move to your preferred position at a touch of a button.

Pros

  • Smooth movements: Operating a power recliner doesn’t require much effort or physical strength. With a single press of a button, your recliner smoothly eases back or forth. This makes it very convenient.
  • Versatility: unlike manual recliners, power recliners offer you more positions and settings options. You can manipulate the chair to whatever angle and position that suits you. The different parts of these recliners like the footrest, backrest and headrest can move separately. Also, the seat can be inclined forward to allow the user to stand up.
  • Durability: Power recliners live through less wear and tear hence have longer lifespans compared to regular recliners.
  • Technology: Power recliners are created and operate using advanced modern technology.
  • Warranty: Most power comes with a generous warranty that covers the electric motor and other parts.

Cons

  • Cost: Generally, electric recliners are more expensive than manual recliners. The prices depend on the recliner brand and the number of features it provides. Also, the electric mechanism malfunction repairs is a bit costly. And so are the replacement materials.
  • Positioning: An electric/power recliner requires electricity. Hence it must be placed near a power outlet. This makes its room placement limited. It must be inches away from the wall.

However, some power recliners can use a battery pack to power the recliner. But even those require constant recharging.

  • Mechanical/Power Failure: In case of a power outage or motor failure, your recliner will be rendered useless. It will just be an ordinary chair until the electricity comes back or the motors are fixed.
  • Portability: Power recliners are generally than regular chairs due to the motor and gears inside. They are, therefore, strenuous to move from one place to the other.

What Is A Manual Recliner?

A manual recliner a chair that is operated by either pulling a lever or by bodyweight exertion by the occupant. The lever handle is mainly located at one side of the chair, where you can pull/push to manoeuvre the chair.

The other manual recliner requires you to use the armrests as leverage while leaning back against the backrest. You’ll then use your body weight to extend the footrest.

Types of Manual Recliners

  • Traditional Rocker Recliner

This recliner uses both a manual release lever and your body weight to move the chair into position. It gives the occupant lumbar and total body support.

  • Push Back Recliner

This recliner chair has no lever. You have to use your body to push the backrest backwards and lift the footrest to enjoy reclining comfort.

  • Swivel recliner

This recliner chair is built with a circular base that allows you to turn right and left and recline backwards.

Pros 

  • Cost: Manual recliners don’t come with expensive components and thus more economical than power recliners. Also, their repair requires less cost.
  • Mobility: Manual recliners are more compact and less bulky as compared to power recliners. You can, therefore, move them around your living room with ease.
  • Simplicity: Manual recliners come in simple yet elegant designs. They have no electric circuits inside and don’t need a source of power or recharging to function.
  • Speed: The manual has a fast reclining motion compared to power recliners. However, the motion is so abrupt.

Cons

  • Longevity: A manual recliner is likely to malfunction faster due to the constant use of the pull handle/lever. When this happens, the reclining mechanism is rendered useless. Meaning, its lifespan is shorter than that of a power recliner.
  • Versatility: Due to the simplistic design of a manual recliner, it comes with fewer settings than a power recliner. Usually, it has two to three reclining positions. Also, all its parts tend to move together.
  • Effort: Operating a manual recliner requires effort and a significant amount of body weight. You need to reach and pull the lever and sometimes lean on the backrest and push for it to recline. Closing the footrest also requires some leg strength. It’s therefore not ideal for the disabled and elderly.

Differences Between Power and Manual Recliners

The main difference between a power recliner and a manual recliner is how they work. A power recliner has an inbuilt electrical mechanism that allows you to operate the chair at a click of a button. On the other hand, a manual recliner uses a traditional pull handle and the occupant’s body weight to operate. However, there are other differences. They include:

  1. Cost

Mostly, costs plays are the most crucial determinant of which recliner to buy. Due to the advanced technology used to design power recliners, they are generally more expensive than manual recliners.

  1. Maintenance

Manual recliners have a simplistic design with no electric systems hence much easier to maintain. Basically, if you take gentle care of the recliner and clean it occasionally, it should serve you for quite some time without a malfunction.

With a power recliner, on the other hand, this is a bit complicated. The electrical components are more prone to failure or damage, which would be costly to repair.

  1. Versatility

One of the advantages of a power recliner is its many different settings and positions for ultimate comfort. A manual recliner only offers a maximum of three positions. You, however, have to consider that a power recliner has to be located near a power outlet which limits where you can place it.

  1. Durability

Due to their controlled movements, power recliners are exposed to less wear and tear than manual recliners. The power recliners, therefore, have a longer span.

Which One Is the Best for You?

There is no best choice when it comes to choosing between a power recliner and a manual recliner. It all boils down to your preferences.

Although the power recliner uses modern and advanced technology, it has not diminished the manual recliner’s popularity. Both options are popular and come to both positive and negative effects.

However, if you are on a budget and don’t necessarily need the options, a power recliner provides, go for a manual recliner. There are a variety of budget recliners with the competitive quality you can choose from.

On the other hand, a power recliner would be the best option if you have a physical disability or are buying it for your old folks. It will help them relax, sit, and stand up without assistance. Additionally, a power recliner offers you more options like sleeping on the recliner or having a massage to relieve fatigue. However, it comes at a higher cost.

All things considered, both manual and power recliners are fantastic. They offer you relaxation and comfort, help relieve back pain, improve blood circulation and many more benefits.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Electricity Does A Power Recliner Use?

When you hear of a power recliner, the first question that pops in your mind is, “do power recliners use a lot of electricity?

The answer: it depends!

The amount of electricity consumed by your power recliner depends on the size, frequency of use, and power ratings.

Usually, the bigger the recliner, the more electricity consumption. Also, if you keep changing the positions (which is fine as you have to find the perfect position), the recliner will consume more power.

Similarly, if your recliner has high power ratings, it’s bound to consume more power. It’s therefore advisable to ensure  your recliner of choice has favourable power ratings.

Can You Manually Recline A Power Recliner?

No! they don’t come with a lever. You must plug in or use a wireless battery back for your power recliner to function.

However, some recliner models backrest can be manually pushed to an upright position in the event of power failure.

Want to learn more? This guide will explain how to manually recline an electric recliner in detail.

Can I Convert A Manual Recliner to A Power Recliner?

Absolutely! You can contact a professional to convert it for you or do It Yourself (DIY).

To do it yourself, you have to buy a conversion kit online or from furniture stores. Alternatively, you can contact your recliner model’s manufacturer to ask whether they have a kit. You can find videos and conversion guides online.

How Long Do Power Recliner Motors Last?

On average, an electric recliner cord can last between 10 to 20 years. This depends, of course, on how you handle it and the frequency of use.

Last Words

Both power recliners and manual recliners are awesome chairs with great benefits. They come with a fair share of disadvantages too. Weighing the pros and cons, your budget and other preferences will help you make a well-informed choice.