If you are not familiar with the jargon inherent to power tools, you may find it a bit intimidating to walk into your local home improvement store and confidently shop for the tools that best meet your needs. There are so many options available in the current market that making sense of all the descriptions is difficult.
Not only are there different brands to choose from, but there are unique features and benefits within each brand. Differences in size, power, and function require that you know a little bit about what you need before you ever walk in the door. Take a little time to get comfortable with what is available and familiarize yourself with some of the options that you might find so that you can buy with confidence.
There are two main genres of power tools on the market today. Some are powered the old fashioned way. These have a cord and must be plugged into an electrical supply in order to work. Depending on the job site, you may have hard-wired power or you may have to have access to a generator, but you still need some source of power outside of the tool. The amount of power that these tools have is measured in amperage. From saws, to drills, to vacuum cleaners, higher amperages mean more power.
As technology and the ability to harness electricity in smaller motors have grown, we have seen a steady rise in the amount of power that a small tool is able to generate. Not too many years ago, a power tool that utilized five to six amps would have been considered top-of-the-line. Quickly though, that number is rising. Today it is not uncommon to see basic power tools that operate at a level of eleven or twelve amps, and sometimes even higher.
The second way to measure power in tools is found in the multitude of cordless power tools that are on currently on the market. Voltage is the key indicator of power in this genre. When cordless tools first became available, a 9.6 volt battery was considered quite substantial and was an industry leader. In order to meet an increasing demand for more torque and longer life, manufacturers increased the power of these batteries to 12 volts, and then 14.4. We have seen a steady increase in the amount of power that these tools supply since then, moving all the way up to 36 volts and beyond. You can now find cordless batteries that are powerful enough to run a miter saw. This would have been unthinkable with a 9.6 volt battery. As the technology behind cordless power continues to grow, the availability of cordless tools will also increase.
Aside from determining how much power you need, there are a number of features on the latest power tools that have a direct impact on how easy the tools are to use. Developed with busy contractors in mind, most manufacturers have implemented a series of “quick change” features to their power tools. The ability to quickly change a blade, a bit, or a chuck increases the productivity of someone who is getting paid to get work done in a specified amount of time.
In addition to the quick change features, a number of power tools are now available with laser guiding systems. While the laser doesn’t actually improve the accuracy of a cut, it does decrease the amount of time that it may take you to get it lined up. The laser, like the quick change feature, was designed with the contractor in mind. To them, time is money.
These features do add some expense to the tool. If you are having a difficult time deciding whether you need these features, then it’s a good idea to think about how often you are going to use it. If this is a tool that you utilize everyday, then the time saving measures may be worth the investment. If you only use it a few times a year, then you will most likely be satisfied with the performance of a tool that functions well, but has fewer bells and whistles.
There are a lot of companies making high quality power tools. The advertisements that you see will each claim that theirs is the toughest, roughest, and longest lasting. While each of these major manufacturers has increased the quality of their tools, each is also heavily involved in marketing them. It may help you to decide if you can determine which product niche best meets your needs. All of the power tool makers are trying to stand out from the rest, and thus have created some unique twist that sets their product apart from the competition.
Perhaps the most important thing to look for when thinking about brands is the warranty. Several major producers of very high quality tools now offer lifetime replacement warranties on their tools. I would recommend buying one of these. If you are ready to spend the money on a power tool, make sure it’s the last one that you’ll ever have to buy. There is no reason to settle on a warranty that is anything less than lifetime.
Ready to Shop
When you've taken the time to familiarize yourself with what is available you’ll be ready to shop. As long as you determine what you need before you walk in the door, then you will be able to look around and make your purchase with confidence. It may also be helpful for you to pick up a consumer magazine and read some product reviews.
This step is especially useful when trying to determine which brand may be best for your needs. Additionally, the home improvement retailers are always formulating promotional deals with the manufacturers to increase business. You may find it much more economical to buy a combo-kit, which has several different tools, as opposed to buying them one at a time. In some cases, manufacturers have even given away additional tools free as an incentive to buy the combo-kit. Keep your eyes open, there are some great deals out there.