Power Tool Batteries: Following the Source

The advent of the cordless power tool has changed the DIYer's tool box from slow, heavy, manual tools to lightweight implements that go anywhere, tackling any job. Rather than dragging a power cord and one or two extension cords behind, the relatively new tools are made for quick and easy use.

Of course, the key to the life of these cordless tools is the power tool battery. From voltage to life cycle to weight power tool batteries are the source to the advantages of getting the job done quickly. Here is a quick primer on finer points of power tool batteries.

Voltage is the amount of power a battery can transmit to power tools. Batteries are manufactured for specific type of tools.

Lower voltage batteries (up to 12 volts) are generally designed for smaller implements like cordless driver drills and electric screwdrivers. Higher voltage batteries (greater than 14.4 volts) are usually manufactured for such larger devices such as circular saws, reciprocating saws and larger power drills.

Life cycle and battery memory

A battery?s life cycle will include the charge and recharge times and how many times a battery can accommodate that cycle. Batteries for power tools generally can take around 30 minutes to recharge, and the length of the charge will vary given the use and power requirements of the project. 

When a battery is discharged to the same approximate level over and over, the capacity of the battery has a tendency to reduce. While the age of the battery figures into the equation, discharging the battery completely will help guard against battery memory.

Other conditions that contribute to battery memory are the age of the battery itself, and whether the battery has been exposed to extreme temperatures. The condition of battery memory, in many cases, explains the unanticipated early demise of many a power supply.

Battery types

Types of power tool batteries include nickel-cadmium (NiCd), nickel-metal hydride (NiMH), and lithium-ion units. Over the years, advances have produced power supplies that continue to make our tasks easier.

Nickel-cadmium batteries are generally the least expensive of the three, are very durable, and have a comparatively long life cycle. However, they are usually much heavier, tend to experience battery memory and, unfortunately, contain cadmium, which makes them toxic and bad for the environment at disposal.

Nickel-metal hydride batteries are lighter than nickel-cadmium and more environmentally friendly; unfortunately, they are more expensive, less durable and don?t hold up as well during extremes in temperature.

Lithium-ion batteries are the current state-of-the-art for power tools. They are lighter, have longer life cycles, have longer run times and are relatively environmentally sound. On the other hand, lithium-ions are the most expensive batteries, generate much more heat and don?t perform as well during warmer temperatures.

Thankfully, during the course of developing power tools for home and construction use, technology continues to advance battery powered tools. As batteries get smaller, lighter and longer lasting, who knows what the next generation of cordless power tools will bring. 

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