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Here is Everything You Need to Know About Electric Motorized Standing Desks

This is a guide and an introduction to electric standing desks. How do they work, and how do they compare to other types of standing desks?

How do electric motorized standing desks or sit/stand desks work?

Most power standing desks have either a brushed motor or a brushless motor. This small DC (direct current) motor is activated by a controller to raise, stop, or lower the desk column(s).

How powerful are electric motors used in standing desks?

Electric motors that are used in standing desks need to be able to smoothly raise and lower loads up to 200 pounds or more. These small DC motors offer high power density.

Brushed motors are fairly simple and cheap, but a little slow due to limited high-speed torque. In addition, the brushes wear down and require motor repairs, and the motors can be a little loud. Brushless motors offer instant response without lag when you press a button, and these motors are more efficient, more durable, and produce less noise than traditional brushed motor drive.

The power of an electric desk motor only matters when it translates to factors that matter in operating the desk – adjustment speed and weight capacity. Ideally, the desk motor should be strong enough to move whatever load is on the desk so quickly that you don’t even notice. At The Standing Desk, the Oben desk’s rated voltage is 28 V (DC), and its rated power is ca. 140 W (single column). With a small, powerful brushless motor, it can lift and lower at a rate of 1.7” per second, about twice as fast as the average motorized desk.

Do they run on battery charges or do they need to be plugged in to an outlet?

Most motorized stand up desks require an outlet for electrical power to raise and lower the work surface. There are one or two battery powered electric sit and stand desk models on the market that have a rechargeable battery. The battery powered motorized desks allow for some more mobility, but they have more limited weight capacity and require regular charging sessions.

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How do electric or motorized adjustable desks compare to mechanical or pneumatic desks?

A motorized standing desk is similar to a pneumatic desk and a manually adjustable desk, because all are offering a way to alternate siting and standing while working. But there are some key differences.

  • Durability: Similar to other types of height adjustable desks, the durability of electric sit stand desks depends on the quality of components – frame, work surface, and, in the case of an electric desk, the electric desk motor. In terms of durability, the best electric desks are those tested to the commercial ANSI/BIFMA X5.5 standard.
  • Strength / weight rating: Compared to manual and pneumatic desks, electric stand up desks can be some of the strongest in terms of weight capacity. Powered assistance is needed to lift and lower the heaviest weights, and a strong electric motor can outperform pneumatic power. However, when the desk only holds a light laptop and a monitor, and perhaps a cup of coffee, the difference in weight capacity between pneumatic and electric sit stand desks may not matter much.
  • Speed or ease of use: Speed varies quite a bit between various electric standing desk models, with some of the fastest clocking in at 1.7 inches/second. Adjustment of manual desks can be much slower and more cumbersome, while pneumatic desks often feature the fastest height adjustment.
  • Cost & availability: Height adjustable desks have become widely available in recent years wherever office furniture is sold in stores and online, at a variety of price points. Since powered assistance makes a height adjustable desk so much more practical, electric standing desks are probably the most common type. Generally, the addition of sophisticated motors accounts for the price difference between a manual vs electric sit-stand desk.
  • Environmental impact: A number of factors play into the environmental impact of a choosing one type of desk over another. Many parts of an electric standing desk, like a stainless steel frame, may be recyclable at the end of the desk’s useful life, depending on the materials of construction. Other parts, like electronics, are not as readily recyclable. Choosing a long-lasting, quality desk helps reduce the environmental impact of any type of desk by extending its lifecycle.

What are some specific benefits of electric standing desks over other types?

With electric stand up desks, their biggest strength is…their strength. Electric desks can usually lift some of the heaviest loads with the smooth powered assistance of an electric motor. An Oben electric desk has a weight capacity of 250 lbs, lifting multiple monitors and other equipment with ease. Unlike pneumatic desks, an electric sit stand desk does not need to be selected for the specific load it will carry, or calibrated for changing loads.

Electric desks simply support a sit/stand habit much more effectively than manual adjustable desks because they are faster and easier to use. Pneumatic desks offer similar usability, but some people prefer a motorized desk for a variety of reasons.

What are some cons or disadvantages or common problems, if any?

A common issue reported with electric desks is that the desk lift motor can produce a districting whining noise. Other problems unique to electric desks include electronic failures and motors that overheat or even burn out when weight capacity is exceeded. To find the best electric standing desk, look for features like a quality brushless electric motor to mitigate some of the noise and reliability issues that can come with an inexpensive imported motor.


What materials are used for electric motorized standing desks?

Both the frame and the work surface of a power rising desk can be made from a number of different materials, though some materials are better suited to the task than others.

Electric desk frames are most often made from steel, which is sometimes powder coated or chrome coated. Some economy desk models have legs made from plastic as well. An electric desk’s work surface can be made from solid hardwood, soft wood, glass, plastics, or laminated substrates. If you choose the DIY standing desk route you can purchase an electric desk frame only, and then use any unique surface material you like, whether it’s an upcycled antique table top or a bamboo desk surface.

What finishes, color options, or desktop surfaces are available?

Powered computer desk surfaces are generally laminate or veneered particle board, but you’ll also find solid wood or plastic. For laminate surfaces, a range of colors are possible, although the most popular colors are the timeless neutral options that will last as long as the desk – white, black, gray, or tan. Veneered and solid wood surfaces are often birch, walnut, bamboo, or oak.

The best surface depends on the work you’ll be performing. If you’re going to be writing, a smooth, hard surface will keep marks to a minimum. In those cases, a soft wood surface might not suit the purpose.

At The Standing Desk, power standing desks are made in a selection of colors – neutral twill, graphite twill, Dover white, or urban oak. Each work surface is made from a recycled wood substrate, with an attractive, durable Formica finish that stands up to coffee spills and pen strokes. The coordinating powder coated steel desk frames come in neutral black, gray, and white.

What sizes? How large can an electric motorized adjustable desk be?

When choosing a height adjustable desk, consider the adjustable range and how well that suits the person who will be using the desk. A height range of 23” to 46” will accommodate most workers.

A powered computer desk can be useful regardless of the size of the actual work surface. Some people prefer a large electric standing desk for multiple monitors or for collaboration, while others need a small electric adjustable desk designed for a small corner of the room.

Generally, a large electric standing desk surface would measure up to 30” x 60”. Of course some are even larger, up to 72” wide, or L-shaped. If you go the DIY electric desk route, a desk with a powerful motor can accommodate nearly any size work surface, large or small, and the weight capacity of the desk is probably the main limit to keep in mind.

At The Standing Desk, the most popular sizes of electric rising desks are offered:

30” x 60” rectangular work surface

30” x 48” rectangular work surface

Would you like to know more? Connect with us – our standing desk pros are ready to help.