While electric hoists may be more common, pneumatic hoists may offer better performance and lower operating costs for your facility. Are you aware of how pneumatic hoists stack up against their electric counterparts?

Read on to find out!

Types of Hoists

The basic design is quite simple: a wire, cable or chain is wrapped around a wheel to allow loads to be raised/lowered. These hoists are available in different types, including manual and powered. In the case of powered hoists, the lifting power is provided by a motor, but it doesn’t have to be an electric motor. And that’s where pneumatic hoists come in.

Benefits of Pneumatic Lifts or Hoists

Pneumatic hoists, also known as air hosts, depend on pneumatically driven motors for the power to lift loads instead of electric motors. These hoists are often used in mining, chemical processing, and paint shops, where sparks from an electric hoist could prove hazardous. However, these aren’t the only applications where they are used.

There are numerous benefits to investing in a pneumatic hoist. First, their ability to be used in hazardous environments means that they work well in conditions where electric sparks must be avoided. Secondly, they are engineered to be impervious to contaminants such as dust and humidity.

Pneumatic hoists are safer than their electric counterparts and can be used outdoors without special IP ratings. In fact, pneumatic hoists are self-cooling and can be used in hotter environments without compromising performance.

Pneumatic hoists have fewer moving parts, are engineered to be resistant to contamination, and have a robust design. This can lower some maintenance costs, but they also include an air compressor that involves additional maintenance.

Pneumatic hoists can also be used in more remote environments because they are not dependent on electricity. They also weigh up to 50% less than equivalent electric hoists, making pneumatic hoists easier to maneuver and operate. In addition, they are easier to install.

Another excellent feature of pneumatic hoists is their ability to stall without damage and handle high duty cycles, assuming they have been properly lubricated and otherwise maintained. They also provide a smoother overall movement of loads without initial jerk. They implement progressive acceleration and are variable speed simply because of their design.

Benefits of Electric Hoists

Electric hoists are more widely used than pneumatic hoists because they are less expensive and cheaper to operate. Because electric hoists don’t require an air compressor, they are more energy-efficient and much quieter to operate. And the gears used in electric houses are generally cheaper than the control valves, necessary for pneumatic hoists.

They also have a higher load capacity, with designs available to handle loads up to 5 tons. Electric hoists also offer more flexibility in design, and there is little to no delay in response to controls. It can also provide very smooth, precise motion when variable speed control is installed. Electric hoists can usually offer vertical and horizontal movement because they combine a hoist and trolley in one unit.

While limited in the length of duty cycles, electric hoists do lift loads faster than pneumatic hoists, and as mentioned early, they can lift heavier loads. This can undoubtedly increase the level of productivity of your facility and expand the usefulness of a hoist. And when maintained correctly, electric hoists also have a long useful life. In addition, electric hoists can be used in dangerous environments if equipped with the correct hazardous duty motors.

Limitations of Pneumatic Hoists vs Electric Hoists

There are limitations and disadvantages to using air hoists. For example, the compressor needed adds to maintenance requirements and results in power inefficiencies. In addition, pneumatic hoists will be more expensive than electric hoists. However, this is partly due to standard features on pneumatic hoists that would be add-ons for electric hoists. Pneumatic hoists are louder and attempts at reducing their noise output also reduce their power efficiency. In addition, they do not respond as quickly to controls compared to electric hoists. The longer the control lines, the longer the delay time.


According to an article from HOIST magazine, most hoist applications involve infrequent lifting of loads less than 3 tons and moving them over a short distance in a clean, dry, and safe environment. In these types of applications, electric hoists work exceptionally well. However, pneumatic hoists offer numerous benefits that suit your facility and work environment better than an electric option. Factors such as safety, continuous duty cycles, outdoor usage, variable speed, maneuverability, and lower cost of ownership can influence whether a pneumatic hoist is suitable for you.

At Hi-Speed Industrial Service, we sell, maintain, inspect, and repair electric and pneumatic hoists. In addition, we are also Master Distributors for Harrington, Columbus-McKinnon (CMCO) and key distributors for most other major crane and hoist manufacturers. If you are trying to decide the correct type of hoist for your facility, talk to one of our experts today. Our team can help you determine which option is the best for your goals and your budget.