What is a Manual Recliner?

Written by
Emily Carver

What is a Manual Recliner?

You will have likely seen these in many a living room, but when it comes to the technicals, you may be wondering, what is a manual recliner? A manual recliner is a chair that can be placed into a recline setting either by a lever or by pushing against the backrest with your body weight. Manual recliners do not require a power source and they typically recline backwards and lift the feet in one simultaneous movement. 


If you are living with an injury, illness or limited mobility, you may have considered updating your furniture to introduce some pieces that can support your comfort and health. A recliner is a great solution to help you improve your health at home. Recliners have been proven to help alleviate symptoms of a variety of conditions like poor blood circulation and arthritis.

How does a manual recliner chair work?

Unlike a power recliner, traditional manual recliners operate - you guessed it, manually! You may also have heard of the manual recliner being referred to commonly as a push-arm recliner. This is due to the fact that it requires you to place your arms on the armrest, and use your body to push back on the backrest to activate the reclined position. For manual recliners with a lever or pushback function, you will be able to control how far you recline and lift up the leg rests to a limited number of positions, usually one or two. To reset the chair to its original upright position, the user would need to exert pressure on the footrest to lock the chair back into place.

Manual recliner set

Image: Adobe Stock, Manual Recliner Set.

Manual Recliners vs Electric Recliners

Electric and manual recliners have many different benefits and features for you to consider when making your purchase. We’ve outlined the key information for you to compare between the two recliner types, to help you to uncover which chair is right for you and your mobility requirements.

Manual Recliner Models

There are a few different models and variations of manual recliners to choose from. Here are some of the most popular manual recliners available. 

Push Back Recliner

This is a simple-to-use manual recliner that requires the user to push their body weight against the backrest to recline the chair and lift the footrest. 

Lay-Flat Recliner

The lay-flat recliner allows the user to ease back into a fully reclined position, creating a comfortable napping position that can provide lumbar support. The lay-flat models typically feature a lever and require you to push onto the chair to activate the recline. These recliners need a generous amount of wall space to full recline. 

Rocker Recliner

The rocker recliner combines a lever function with exerting your body weight in a rocking motion to activate the chair into a comfortable reclined position. 

Electric Recliner Models

Depending on your retailer, power recliners may have different motor models to choose from, varying in price and function. Middletons Mobility offers two different motor types on our rise and recliners to suit your unique needs.

Unique High Leg Lift

The Middletons Unique High Leg Lift Motor allows you to gently tilt your chair back and raise your feet whilst keeping you in a comfortable 90-degree sitting position. Elevating your legs above the level of your hips provides comfort and relief from many ailments including swelling and arthritis.

Woman in living room using a Middletons rise and recliner with unique high leg lift

Dual Motor

With a Middletons Dual Motor, you can find infinite positions as the footrest and backrest move independently of each other. So, if you want to relax with a slight tilt back or simply want to put your feet up, this is the perfect choice.

Woman sitting on Middletons Dual Motor rise and recliner

Manual Recliner Pros and Cons

Manual Recliner Pros

No Outlets Needed

Manual recliners are a great option for people with limited power outlets in the house and can be placed anywhere, so long as there is enough space to position the chair into a reclined mode.

Affordability 

Manual recliners tend to be more affordable than powered recliners, depending on your retailer. This makes them a great option if you are on a tighter budget. 

Lighter

As there are no motorised or electronic elements within a manual recliner they tend to be lighter. This can be beneficial for people who may need to move their recliner from room to room.

Manual Recliner Cons

Physical Strength Required

Due to these chairs being operated by a lever or through physical exertion creating force against the chair, they require an element of strength from the user. This means that manual recliners may be unsuitable for people with mobility restrictions or lower body strength. 

Limited Recline Positions

Unlike an electric recliner, there is more of a limitation on positions that a manual recliner can be placed into. On most push-back recliners, for example, there are only ‘reclined’ and ‘upright’ positions. This could be an issue if you would like to sit upright to read a book, but would like to have your feet raised. 

Electric Recliner Pros and Cons

Electric Recliner Pros

Simplicity

Electric recliners are incredibly simple to use and can have you reclining in blissful comfort in moments. Electric recliners come with an easy-to-use remote control that allows you to recline, lift the footrest and even rise to help you come to a standing position at the touch of a button. 

No Physical Strength Required

Rather than needing to push your body weight back onto the chair to shift it to a recline, you can adjust the chair with just the touch of a button. This makes it a great option for people with limited mobility, balance or strength. 

Flexibility 

With the power recliner remote control, you are able to place the chair into any position that feels comfortable for you. This means you can choose just to lift the footrest, or just recline - or a mix of both depending on what you desire. 

Long-Lasting

Electric recliners tend to last longer than manual recliners. This is due to the gentle motion of the motors, which means less wear and tear on the mechanisms and fabric. 

Heat & Massage Features

If you feel like you would benefit from heat and massage features on your recliner, this is an optional add-on you can have with an electric recliner. These features are ideal for alleviating symptoms of ailments such as arthritis. 

Electric Recliner Pros

Higher Cost

Due to the high-quality electric and motorised parts, powered recliners tend to cost more than manual recliners. However, as electric recliners last longer they could be a better choice long-term. 

Outlets Required

Electric recliners require access to power outlets, which could be a problem if you have limited outlets in your home. It is important to note that Middletons electric recliners come with a battery pack, to help you get in and out of your chair in the event of a power cut. 

Electricity Costs

You may want to consider electric costs when purchasing a powered recliner. An electric recliner would typically use around 5p of electricity per day. 

How Long Do Manual Recliners Last

Before you make your selection, you may want to consider: how long do manual recliners last? 

There are a few factors to consider, such as quality, fabric durability and warranty, all of which could affect the longevity of your manual recliner. As with many things in life, you tend to get what you pay for, so you may want to consider investing in a better-quality chair that you can enjoy for years to come. You could expect to receive around 10 years of use with a manual chair. 

An electric recliner can last to up to around 20 years, depending on the frequency of use and how the chair is handled. An electric recliner typically lasts longer due to the controlled motor that adjusts the chair gently. This can make a powered recliner a wiser long-term investment. 

Can you Convert a Manual Recliner to Power?

If you already own a manual recliner, you may be wondering can you convert a manual recliner to power? The answer, in some cases, is yes!

If you are comfortable with tools, woodworking and electrics, you may be able to do this at home. It is typically recommended though that you have this done professionally. Costs will vary significantly but a very rough guide price is around three hundred pounds plus. 

You could also check with your recliner manufacturer and request a power kit available for your recliner model. 

It’s important that you check the warranty of your chair before making any electric modifications to your recliner as you could be at risk of nullifying your warranty policy. You will be able to check your policy with your manufacturer. 

Are Electric Recliners Better than Manual?

In your research to decide between a power recliner vs manual recliner, you will have understood a number of pros and cons to each chair. There’s no right or wrong answer to either chair, so we recommend selecting the chair that you feel fits your lifestyle, budget and mobility needs.

Additionally, if there are a few people who would benefit from the use of a recliner in your home, you may want to consider a power vs manual recliner sofa. A power recliner sofa can allow two people to sit together and independently position their side of the sofa to suit their individual comfort. 

To conclude, are electric recliners better than manual?  In our years of expertise supporting customers with varying mobility requirements, we have found that many people really value the benefits that a gentle, fully adjustable experience that a power rise and recliner can provide. To see if an electric recliner is the right choice for you, we recommend visiting your local Middletons store where you will be able to test our extensive range of chairs. A fully trained member of the Middletons team will be able to listen to your requirements and concerns and answer any questions that you may have. 

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