Oh, it’s almost that time of year again. Soon, the sun will be shining, the grass will be greening up and the outside temperatures will put everybody in the mood to finally replace that deck, upgrade their windows, or dress up the house a bit. If your tools are getting a bit shabby, it might also mean this is the year that you’ll upgrade or replace those aging things in your toolbox.
Battery tools have been a huge convenience for professional contractors for years and many are now designed with homeowners in mind. But how do you choose the tool you need, rather than some random battery-powered bit of plastic?
Look at Your Options
It sounds trite, but don’t buy the first tool you see, even if it’s on sale, even if the salesman insists that it’s the perfect thing for your job. Sure, it might be good for this job, but will it be good for all those other jobs around the house that need doing? This should be an occasional purchase, not a buy you make every time you do a major project, so take your time and look at your options. Lowe’s and Home Depot aren’t the only places that sell battery-powered tool systems, shop around.
If you plan on doing more than just a little bit of drilling and putting screws into boards, you’ll want to explore the additional tools that work with the same battery system. The variety is endless these days, from basic flashlights and sanders to battery-powered finish-nailers, impact drivers and even small circular saws. Some systems offer an additional complement of yard tools like string trimmers, too!
You absolutely can buy different systems and mix and match, but it’s a lot easier to keep track of just one set of batteries, one set of chargers and use all those extra batteries interchangeably when you need to push your tools through a long day of work. Waiting for a battery to charge, even just a few hours, can make a project feel like it’s taking forever to complete.
How Much Power Do You Need?
A lot of battery tools still come with a variety of power ratings, typically from about 12-volt to 20-volt or more. These battery ratings tell you two things at once: how much power this battery can hold and how quickly it can feed it back out. The bigger the battery, the better the tool will perform, within reason. You’ll get more working hours and be able to use that tool for tougher jobs since it has the oomph to see the job through.
There is a place for those lower power tools, but you’ll want to make sure you treat them with the care they need. Simple jobs, like hanging pictures or drilling a couple of holes, can be performed with most battery tools. However, you’ll need to charge more frequently and need to really listen to the tool if it starts to bog down on a job that it’s not really rated for. If you need to torture test your tools, look for contractor-grade battery tools. There are lots of them out there. You’ll pay a little more, but they’ll also outperform the homeowner grade tools with more advanced tasks.
Don’t buy construction-grade just because it seems like the thing to do, though. You want to understand the settings on these tools and how they’re different from lower grade tools. For example, power drills have two settings, one is for driving and one is for drilling. On a contractor tool, that drilling setting may be a lot more powerful and can become a major danger if you were expecting something less. If you can find the RPM ratings for the tools you’re considering this will help you better compare tools head to head.
What kind of battery tools do you own? Would you recommend them to a friend?