Our Tips for Buying Cordless Power Tools
Cordless tools are becoming more and more popular among professionals and DIY-ers, simply because they offer the convenience of using them without a mains power source while delivering the same performance as corded ones. But if you want to get your money’s worth the next time you buy tools online, there are a few important things you need to consider. The batteries and chargers, plus the features cordless power tools come with can make or break your choice.
Look for Tools With Lithium-Ion Batteries
Li-ion batteries are quickly replacing NiMH batteries as the standard battery type for cordless tools. Although more expensive, li-ion batteries are lightweight, compact and provide a lot of power for a longer period of time. Further, with them, you can get up to three times the amount of charge cycles than you would with NiMH batteries, and they can be stored for months without losing a charge. But they also have their disadvantages. Besides being more expensive, they don’t perform well in extreme temperatures. Luckily, the great competition between battery manufacturers has made them more affordable in the past few years, and many batteries are now suitable for use in harsh temperature conditions. The newest smart chargers also keep them cool while charging.
Look for Tools That Have a Brushless Motor
Professional-grade tool manufacturers offer at least a few tools that are equipped with brushless motors. These motors eliminate the need for a physical connection between the parts of the tool, which completely eliminates friction and thus, wasted energy. Brushless motors are said to increase the run-time of your power tools by 50% and even more. Initially, brushless motor tools cost $20 to $100 more than their brushed motor counterparts, and they were first limited to drivers, drills and impact wrenches. But as brushless technology has gained wider acceptance, the cost of brushless models has dropped considerably, and you can now find brushless motors in many other tools.
Save Money by Buying Bare Tools
When you’re looking to buy tools online, you’ll notice that many models are sold as “bare”. What this means is that they are sold without batteries or chargers. That being said, if you already own batteries that are compatible with the tools you’re looking to buy, you can save a fair amount of money by purchasing a bare tool. Another way you can end up saving money is by purchasing tool kits that offer multiple tools at a lower price. Many renown brands offer tool kits that include batteries and chargers that are compatible with all the tools in that kit.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Batteries
The only running cost of your tools will be the batteries. Lithium-ion batteries should be kept at full charge and stored in a cool place if not used often. You should never discharge them completely, and in fact, you should recharge them before they drop to 20%, or as soon as you notice a drop in performance. Additionally, charge them up every so often, even if they are only partially discharged. Storing them in a cool area can ensure they last up to five years. However, don’t store them in a garage or truck, especially if the area is exposed to the sun. The battery should be stored at about 40%, as that partial charge will keep the protection circuit operating.
You should also look to get a smart charger to prevent overheating and incorrect charging. There are advanced chargers that feature voltage and temperature controls and electronic sensors which communicate with the chip inside the battery for the best charging. Usually, the same manufacturers that provide the tools and batteries also have a line of chargers that are suitable for charging their products. Additionally, try to get batteries that come with fuel gauges. The fuel gauge lets you see how much charge your battery has with the push of a button.
Keep in mind that batteries with longer run times are larger in size and heavier. And batteries that have the same voltage rating oftentimes come with a different amperage per hour rating. Batteries with higher amp-hour ratings are obviously heavier and larger and cost more. Some manufacturers list the amp-hour rating on their batteries, while others name them (for instance DeWalt’s XRP and compact versions).
Don’t Discard Corded Tools Completely
While it’s hard to argue against the convenience of cordless power tools, in some cases, you’ll need more use out of the tool than its batteries can offer. And in the case of tools like reciprocating and circular saws, you’ll get more use out of corded tools as they cost less and last forever.