Battery powered cordless tools have been around for years and the convenience of not being attached to a power cord makes them an ideal choice for many awkward jobs. However if your experience with battery powered tools has been that they’re just too ‘wimpy’ to do a real job it may be time to think again.
There’s no doubt in years past, many older battery powered drills for example, weren’t much more than battery-powered screwdrivers that you couldn’t rely on to last through a job (or even be ready to go when you wanted to start working). However, there has been a lot of changes in the world of battery powered tools (not just drills but saws and grinders as well) and many are now both powerful and long lasting enough for even pros to consider using them.
Newer batteries make the difference
Older battery powered tools used NiCad batteries (Nickel Cadmium) as their power source since this was all that was available at a reasonable price. These batteries delivered consistent power only over a short period of time, so required continual recharging (and made having a backup battery a necessity). They also didn’t hold a charge very long so if you left your battery out of a charger, the next time you went to use your tool, it likely needed a recharge, - not good for an impromptu job. Additionally, since the batteries contain cadmium (considered a toxic material) when the batteries give up the ghost and won’t hold a charge, you need to dispose of them as hazardous waste, you can’t just put them in your trash.
Newer (and more powerful) batteries get their power from combinations of either Nickel Metal-Hydrate (Ni-MH) or Lithium-ion (Li-ion). These increase both the power and run time of cordless drills (and in the case of Li-ion actually decrease the weight of the tool). While these batteries do cost more than NiCad batteries, they hold a charge much longer and last for years without needing to be replaced. So, you can put your Li-ion powered tool away for a month or two and when you pick it up, it’s ready to go to work.
They’re also much better for the environment, since neither Ni-MH nor Li-ion batteries are considered hazardous materials, so, when they do finally give out, you can just put them in with your regular trash and they won’t any contribute any toxic chemicals to the earth.
Understanding Power Ratings
In the world of cordless tools, voltage equates to horsepower. Cordless tools are available with voltages ranging from 9.6 all the way up to 36. If all you’re going to do is hang a few pictures, a 9.6 drill would be fine, but, for most homeowners 14.4V or 18V is probably the size you’d need for a variety of jobs around the house (hanging pictures, driving screws, drilling holes in wood or metal). Moving up to 24 or 36 volts means you’re moving into professional power (and professional prices) so unless you’re planning on doing some major construction, they’re probably not for you.
Keep in mind, voltage isn’t the only measurement to consider when evaluating cordless tools. Another, and perhaps more important measurement is Amp hours. This is the measurement that tells you how long your battery should last (and your tool keep on working) before needing to be recharged. Amp hours used to be a measurement tool manufacturers kept to themselves, but with increasing competition ion in the power tool industry, it’s now becoming more readily available and it’s an important factor. Consider that a battery with an amp hour rating of 3.0 amp hours will last more than twice as long as a battery with an amp hour rating of 1.3 and you can see why longer amp hours means less battery swapping and a quicker job.
Other Advantages of Cordless Tools
Manufacturers are now packaging combination kits of a variety of cordless tolls (drill, reciprocating saw, circular saw, grinder and others) as well as a carrying bag for a few hundred dollars. Since the batteries in a manufacturer’s line of tools are usually interchangeable, many manufacturers give you the option of buying fewer batteries than tools and just swapping them back and forth. If available, this option not only reduces your price for the tools, but also has a positive affect on the environment, since at the end of the day there will be fewer batteries going into landfills.
Battery powered and cordless tools have come a long way in recent years. If you’ve been discounting the idea of battery powered tools based on earlier bad experiences, it might be time to take another look at what’s available and start taking advantage of the convenience of going cordless.