Remember when you were a kid
and the coolest trick at birthday parties was releasing an inflated balloon, again and again, to watch it dart around the room wildly? This, in its most basic and untamed form, is pneumatics at play. Pneumatics is air, put to work. Specifically, air that has been pressurized or compressed to transmit force and energy. We see pneumatics in manufacturing lines, pavement breakers, and paint sprayers. And, recently, we started seeing pneumatics in adjustable-height standing desks. The application makes sense: a pneumatic system is simple, reliable, and requires no energy to operate.
Why aren’t pneumatic desks as popular as electric desks?
Unfortunately, electric desks are recognized as the go-to for sit-stand desk designs. Why? For one reason: electric motors are the newer and, thus, more exciting technology. Because of this, people seem to think that electric-powered desks are better. But — by specific, important measures — they’re actually not.
So we want to set the record straight. There are distinct benefits that a pneumatic sit-stand desk unlocks — benefits an electric one can’t. Pneumatics is an economical, environmentally-conscious technology that affords, perhaps, the easiest transition to standing more at work. In basic categories — say, speed, noise, and ease of use — pneumatic-powered desks even outright outperform their electric counterpart.
Pneumatic and electric desks do share one thing in common: they’re both height-adjustable
And for all the right reasons. A sit-stand desk eliminates the stress and struggle of transitioning to the standing lifestyle — or of merely standing more. Namely, because you still have the option to sit as needed. It also pairs perfectly with an adjustable leaning or perching stool that supports you through postures as you sit, stand, and perch or lean — and movement is the key to success with a standing workstation.
→ Height-adjustable desks are also called sit-stand, sit-to-stand, sit and stand, or adjustable standing desks
We expand on these benefits beneath reason #1 — but you’ll see that a sit-to-stand desk unlocks ALL the benefits of a standing desk while a fixed-height desk only unlocks a handful of them. So we highly encourage you to hone exclusively in on adjustable-height designs as you start your search for your new workstation.
Where pneumatics outperform electric
Let’s get straight to it. Here are the 8 reasons pneumatic height-adjustable desks are better than electric ones.
1. A pneumatic, adjustable standing desk = the easiest way to start standing — or stand more
Let’s first expand on our point above about how adjustable height desks allow for the easiest transition to the active, standing lifestyle.This easy transition is made even easier if said adjustable height desk is powered by pneumatics — because its 3-second adjustment allows you to tweak until you find your sweet spot. And ‘finding the sweet spot’ is what most standing desk converters report struggling with. Because a pneumatic desk moves at pace with you (as you change positions naturally throughout the day), it supports movement by design. And the more you move, the more you’ll want to. This ‘movement’ feedback loop is what you ultimately want to catalyze to find success with your standing desk. Because movement is what the body wants and needs. Getting into motion in the first place is the hardest part.
This overall ease of use you find with a pneumatic allows you to gradually build the muscles needed to stand more — and to make a real change over time. In short: The commitment isn’t overwhelming, and the transition won’t fatigue or hurt your body.
A pneumatic desk also pairs perfectly with all top three tools that make standing and moving easier: a supportive adjustable chair, a footstool, and an anti-fatigue mat. A standing desk chair (sometimes called a perching/leaning stool) is a pneumatic’s natural companion because it, too, can be set at any point on a range. It supports the body in a sitting, perching/leaning, or standing posture, giving you the freedom to move through working positions throughout the day, in tandem with your desk. Do a quick Google search for ‘standing desk chair’ to get an idea of the kind of chair were talking about. For people who need more support and cushion to stand, this kind of chair might be the fix.
As for a footrest and a standing mat, a pneumatic desk that’s designed smart will leave ample floor space beneath for both. What do we mean by designed smart, exactly? Look for a model that doesn’t have any crosswise supporting bars that will get in the way of any foot equipment or impede the natural, necessary movement of your legs. Also, make sure the product’s supporting column is located towards the back end, and the tabletop has a depth of at least 30″. Both design aspects will leave ample room for tools and movement beneath.
At the end of the day, you can simply tuck your chair and tools beneath your workstation as you sign off for the evening. It’s a compact, functional, and clutter-free set-up.
- No-pressure way to start standing; you still have the option to sit
- Slowly build muscles for standing over time — alternating between postures — for lasting change
- Fine-tuned adjustment to find your unique sweet spot, easily
- 3-second adjustment; movement is encouraged by design
- Pairs well with standing desk chair or perching/leaning stool (‘standing’ support and cushion)
- Plenty of room beneath for additional equipment that helps you stand more — footstool or anti-fatigue mat
2. A more economical and long-term investment
You might be thinking, okay, an adjustable height desk does sound like the thing I need, but I don’t want to pay for whatever powers it — and I certainly don’t want to physically crank it up and down multiple times each day. This is where pneumatics wins: it’s powered by air — and air is, of course, free. Because there is no electric-powered motor within a pneumatic desk, the monthly cost of operating one is zero.
They are also generally less expensive than electric, motorized desks. But make no mistake: a well-made one is by no means cheap in build, material, or design. A quality-built pneumatic desk made with commercial-grade materials can last 30 or more years. That’s a whole quarter of a century!
And while electric motors are notorious for electric failures and motor burn-out, pneumatic desks introduce no maintenance or risk of malfunction. This means no service calls or power losses, spikes, or collisions. A pneumatic system is more dependable, namely because it is non-complex — there are fewer components on it than on a motorized desk. Ironically, this ‘simplicity’ of design is what people scoff at, in favor of the more complex, malfunction-prone electric system.
→ Our American-made pneumatic desks are designed in Germany, where European furniture makers have been perfecting their craft for hundreds of years. It’s the only commercial-grade desk on the market — built with Swiss steel and designed to last for 30 years or more.
- 8X’s faster than electric desks
- Less expensive than commercial-grade electric desks
- No ongoing cost to run it — namely, an electric bill
- No maintenance or potential for motor burn-out and other electrical malfunctions
- Can last 30+ years
3. Safer than an electric, motorized desk
Pneumatic-powered desks are safer than electric desks. You aren’t going to cause an electric fire or damage your workstation’s lifting system in the case of the (somehow inevitable) coffee spill. And there is no risk of a voltage issue or wiring break causing a fire. You can also control the up and down motion more immediately and can stop the desk instantly.
- Can stop the desk instantly when adjusting; you control the motion
- No risk of electric fire when you spill your coffee
- No chance of voltage or wiring break causing a fire
4. The lower carbon footprint desk
If you’re eco-conscious and are buying for the long-game, you want a product with an excellent product lifecycle and a low carbon footprint. A pneumatic desk satisfies, here, too. While an electric motor system drains power 24/7, a pneumatic system uses no electricity. A high-quality pneumatic desk can be expected to last 30 or more years and will be built for 100% recyclability. Take our Andern and Luften desks, which are made with nearly 100% recyclable materials. Electric motors, on the other hand, have multiple components that aren’t recyclable.
- No 24/7 electricity drain
- Will last 30+ years (whereas electric motors notoriously burn out or malfunction)
- ~100% recyclable materials without electric motor
5. A pneumatic desk is easier to install
See our installation video for either the Andern or the Luften pneumatic desks for an idea of how quick a pneumatic desk set-up can be. Because there is no integrated power cord or cable management feature, there’s no need to mount and connect your handsets, control boxes, or cables to the desk. Installation takes about 10 minutes. And operating the table is merely a matter of lifting the desk up or pushing it down as you hold the handle; there is no training needed to get started standing.
It’s worth noting that some people do prefer electric-powered desks because they like the functionality of presets and programming. Others prefer the no-fuss nature of a pneumatic design — adjusting until the sweet spot is found — and find programming to be complicated and unnecessary. This one truly comes down to preference, but the pneumatic wins, if simplicity is preferred.
→ Check out our standing desk height guide for reference on where to set your desk height
- 10 minute or less installation
- No training needed to get started standing
- No need to mount or connect desktop tech
- No complicated presets — just fine-tune to find the sweet spot
6. Pneumatics = smoother, quieter, easier adjustment
Pneumatic desks are easy to adjust. You just hold the handle as you lift the desk or push it down until the right height is met. It’s the easiest of all adjustable-height desk models to operate. With a hand crank-operated desk, you have to physically crank the desk up and down. With a pin-set desk, you have to unload, adjust the pin-set height (difficult to do alone), and reload. And though electric-powered desks are not difficult to adjust, they introduce those environmental, economic, and reliability costs. Not to mention, the complicated preset functionality.
On our Luften and Andern pneumatic desks, you can even adjust the tension of the handle for maximum ease. And if you connect your desk to an app, you can change its height through your phone. Though it takes about twice as long to do so, it’s a cool and fun feature for some!
That’s not all. Pneumatics are also faster than electric-motor desks. As an example, our Luften and Andern designs are actually 8X faster than your standard electric, adjusting in about 3 seconds. It moves while you move! And its adjustment is gentle and smooth. Producing no noise — no unpleasant electric motor whine — a pneumatic desk doesn’t interrupt your flow or disrupt those around you. Instead, it contributes to your flow. Think of a pneumatic’s easy, quick, smooth, and quiet lift as a welcome reminder that you aren’t using up more resources to operate your desk each day.
- 8X faster than electric
- Easier to operate
- Smoother, satisfying adjustment
7. Pneumatic desks afford total mobility
A pneumatic workstation offers more mobility than an electric one. Because it’s power free, there is no limitation — per outlet availability — on where you can set up shop. Relatedly, you don’t have to worry about running over your most important cord when you do ‘relocate.’ A pneumatic allows you to take your work wherever it flourishes. Our advice here is to add lockable casters and opt for a model with a strong, but lightweight tabletop that maintains mobility — like particleboard surfaced with Formica.
→ There is also a ‘cost’ benefit to opting for a strong, but lightweight tabletop material such as Formica-surfaced particleboard. Our tabletops are about 10X cheaper than a solid wood top — and they look just as good as solid wood
- No extra cords = easy to relocate and no risk of running over your desk’s cord
- Lightweight (if you opt for a strong, but lightweight tabletop)
- No outlet-based limitations on where you can take your desk
- Total mobility (just add lockable casters)
8. A pneumatic standing desk is more minimal and compact
Because it isn’t electrically powered, a pneumatic doesn’t introduce yet another giant cord cluster cluttering your space. With the right model, you can even drill your own grommet hole and feed your wires artfully through it to uphold a minimal aesthetic. On this — because you aren’t limited by outlet availability on where to set up your desk, you can explore different layouts easily to find the most feng shui, functional room arrangement. Our advice? Buy from a design-minded manufacturer to get the sleekest-looking product. A well-designed pneumatic desk can serve as a sleek foundation for your work to thrive without restriction.
With our Luftern and Andern desks, you can also pick from an array of classic finishes for the tabletop and neutral colors for the base; because we expect our products to last 30 or more years, we’ve offered choices that are classic and versatile. You can match your current workspace aesthetic or pick the color/finish combination that you know will satisfy your eye for the next quarter of a century.
A pneumatic desk satisfies in one final — particularly unique — area. Because they are so easy to adjust, you can just lift your desk at the end of each day and tuck your chair beneath it, stowing it away to shift gears into the evening. Say you’re buying for the office and all your colleagues wind up following suit, you can also nest them — awesome versatility for an activity-based office or multi-use space.
- No cord, no clutter
- Total freedom on your room’s layout
- Sleek and space-saving
- Tuck your chair beneath at the end of each day
- Nest them to clear the room