Mobile Shelving Cost: Powered vs Mechanical Price Per Square Foot

By Stuffey | March 12, 2020

When you’re looking for a new car, you’re confronted with abundant options. The sales lot is filled with 17 of the same vehicle in three colors. The difference is often in the add-ons. Will your car have two, four, or all-wheel drive? Heated seats? A kick plate to lift the trunk when your hands are full of groceries? These change the price. The same is true of high-density mobile shelving. Even down to the features.

High-density mobile storage eliminates unnecessary aisles by creating one or more movable aisles instead. With the same number of shelves, but fewer fixed aisles, you can save on floor space. In most instances, you’ll save up to 50% floor space allowing new ways to use that additional footprint.


Along with efficient use of space, budget is a top concern when in the market for this kind of compact or mobile storage. Cost is one reason mechanical-assist mobile storage is more popular. It typically runs 25% less than powered mobile shelving.

You might think about budgeting for powered or mechanical assist shelving the same way you weigh costs on that car lot. Do you want a sunroof? Are you going with a gas transmission or the more expensive hybrid?


Powered mobile storage lets users access a particular aisle, up to 30,000 pounds per carriage, with the push of a button or touch of an LCD screen. The user can control where the aisles move to and can easily keep aisles open to the high traffic areas, space aisles evenly for ventilation and park aisles in a fire.

Plus, you remember that vehicle kick plate to open the trunk when your hands were full? Powered shelving offers that option too! That can be a big help to archivists or warehouse workers with their arms full of heavy items for storage.

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When you use mechanical assist storage, your shelves and cabinets are still installed on movable carriages and a track system. However, you’ll turn wheeled handles to create the aisle space. The mechanical assist does make movement smooth, with carriages carrying up to 10,000 pounds, but it’s not as efficient as the electrical powered option.

Comparing Powered v Mechanical Assist Shelving Costs

There are several factors, but to estimate the cost per square foot of your high-density mobile storage solution, we work with these multipliers (based on a 1,800 cubic foot footprint or less):

  • Mechanical Assist, Letter Depth Multiplier = $36 per cubic foot
  • Mechanical Assist, Legal Depth Multiplier = $35 per cubic foot
  • Eclipse Powered, Letter Depth Multiplier = $48 per cubic foot
  • Eclipse Powered, Legal Depth Multiplier = $42 per cubic foot

Why is the powered option more expensive?

A powered shelving system typically costs more because of the motors, guides, power and wiring. The good news is the Eclipse Mobile System from Spacesaver is designed to handle continuous, heavy use. Downtime is unlikely, but you get a 10-year warranty just in case.

The powered solution is also smoother. The moving aisles have a soft start and stop as the moving rows gradually speed up or slow down. Mechanical assist shelving is more jerky as it moves. So, if you’re storing delicate or oddly-shaped objects, powered shelving can be worth the extra cost.

There are also added features with power storage solutions. For instance, Spacesaver’s optional PowerLink 24/7 app helps you monitor the system and act proactively for any maintenance needs. With electronic tracking from the powered system, your business can also see who opened what shelf, when, and for how long.

The biggest difference, however, maybe the safety of the powered systems. Eclipse comes with a full range of standard and optional automatic passive, in-aisle safety systems to protect your personnel – from waist-high and aisle-entry sensors to photoelectric or mechanical floor-level sweeps. It is specifically designed to help prevent users from getting trapped or injured by the moving system.


So, powered mobile shelving is faster, reliable and safe. Plus, it offers all of the same customizable shelving designs, colors and materials as the mechanical assist option. In fact, it tends to look more elegant and less industrial, giving your environment a sleeker look. Additionally, you can easily reconfigure powered storage as your needs change.

One other factor to consider? The powered system weighs less than the mechanical assist machinery. Thus your building can have a lower floor load capacity with powered than with mechanical assist.

The Best Application for Your Business

Mechanical assist shelving is most popular when the only goal is to save space and there are budget restraints. Still, there are other factors to consider. In a public setting with untrained people accessing the mobile shelving, think twice about mechanical assist. The public is less likely to think about safety and won’t typically check for obstructions before moving the system. Plus, they are going to lack the finesse of a trained user and could bang the runs of shelving together, which could be damaging.

Patterson Pope’s experts recommend powered systems when the items being stored are breakable or particularly valuable, as this shelving offers more control of the shelf movements.

Additionally, when the system is being installed in a large space, with many rows of shelving, powered is our first choice. The user can walk up to any row in a powered system and push a button for easy access to that aisle.


On the other hand, with a mechanical assist system, the end-users can only move a few rows at a time. So, if there are many rows, and what they want is at the far end of the system, they could end up having to open several sections before reaching their goal.

Safety is another consideration. As mentioned, if the public is involved, powered systems can be a better route. With safety sweep features to determine whether there is someone or something in the aisle, the powered system won’t close on workers, other guests, or any valuable artifacts that have been left off of the shelves.

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High-density mobile storage systems can maximize your storage capacity per square foot, increase efficiency, and improve your employees’ morale. When evaluating powered shelving versus mechanical assist options, it’s important to balance your budget concerns against convenience and safety too.

Patterson Pope’s design and installation experts can help you decide on the best storage solution to meet your business needs. Contact us today!

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About Stuffey

To say that Stuffey was made for this role would be an understatement. A life long hoarder, Stuffey understands how the Laws of Stuff can wreak havoc in the real world of an organization’s space. Now as part of his reformation, he is committed to passing on to you his secrets in our battle against the tyranny of STUFF.

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