When selecting Your Next Cordless Drill, as suggested by Chuck Cage in his excellent article on how to select a cordles drill, some of the information manufacturers give you about their drills that you may have to consider include:
Clearly this is one of the manufacturers’ biggest selling points for many cordless drills as it’s usually printed in large letters on the drill and box and it’s almost always the first piece of information provided in the name.
With everything else equal, higher voltage should run the motor faster and provide more torque. Of course, everything else is not equal. The 18v drill you’re looking at likely has a different motor than the 14.4v and 19.2v drills you’re comparing it to, and different battery systems offer different current-draw limitations. So, your mileage may vary.
The most common voltages seen on the market today are the 9.6v, 14.4v, 18v, and 19.2v, though Hitachi now offers 24v tools, Milwaukee offers 28v tools, and DeWalt even offers 36 volt (!) tools. While an 18v or 19.2v drill will potentially offer more speed/torque, it’s possible that a 14.4v drill with a more efficient motor and a more current-friendly battery will outperform it. Luckily, most manufacturers also provide no-load speed and maximum torque specs for their products, so you really don’t have to bet on potential alone.
There are three types of rechargeable batteries commonly used in today’s cordless drills: Nickel Cadmium (NiCd), Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH), and Lithium Ion (Li-Ion). Each type has its advantages and disadvantages.
Nickel Cadmium batteries are the “original” rechargeable, and they’ve been around long enough for pretty much everyone to have run into their disadvantages. Specifically, they provide good current flow on demand and they’re inexpensive. Most NiCds can provide up to 1000 charging cycles in their lifetime, but they’re somewhat sensitive to patterns of use. NiCds should never be completely drained, and they can’t be charged immediately after discharge; they require time to cool first. Short use is also counterindicated.
In a perfect world, NiCds should be drained 70% each time. It’s probably also worth noting that Cadmium is extremely dangerous to the environment.
Nickel Metal Hydride batteries are said to be less sensitive to charge/discharge cycle patterns, but the real drive behind the development of NiMH batteries started in Europe where they were mandated to limit release of Cadmium into the environment. You’ll note that the biggest manufacturers of NiMH-powered drills (Hitachi and Makita) depend on Europe for a large portion of their sales. One concern we’ve seen expressed about NiMH batteries is their short life. They’re often good for less than 1000 charges, and based on your cycle habits and use duty, sometimes much fewer.
While Li-Ion batteries found their way into cell phones and other portable electronics years ago, they are now also becoming the “standard battery of choice” in hand held power tools. Li-Ion batteries offer higher power density as well as less sensitivity to charge cycle patterns and temperature during charging.
3. Battery Systems
Many manufacturers offer a variety of cordless tools that can be powered by the same, interchangable batteries. Why does it matter? If you’re planning on buying other cordless power tools, selecting tools with compatibe batteries can save you money, time, and shelf space. You’ll only need one charger, and sometimes you can even score package deals for hundreds of dollars less than individual purchases.
While some of these battery systems do offer unique features, we feel that the question you should ask — if you’re considering this as a deciding factor anyway — should be, “What other tools do they offer?” Most ”systems” consist of at least a drill, circular saw, reciprocating saw, and shop light, but it’s worth checking.
Additional Features .
There are a few other features you’ll want to consider when selecting your next drill: Variable Speed/Speed Range Settings While you’ll probably pass on drills without variable speed triggers, you’ll notice that many modern drills offer more than one “speed range.” It’s currently common for drills to offer a low-speed range (0-400 RPM or so) for screw driving and a high-speed range (0-1200 RPM or so) for drilling. Some high-end drills offer three speed range settings. Chuck Size and Type 3/8″ drills are best for use around the house while 1/2″ drills serve well in the shop or house.
While most cordless drills offer a clutch that allows you to limit the drill’s torque for different applications, some offer more settings than others. If you use your drill in a torque-sensitive environment, this may be a concern.
This is a simple feature that allows you to lock the drill’s spindle in place to simplify changing drill bits. This appears to be a feature that’s more used in larger drills, and it’s only offered on a few of our 113 featured drills. Honestly, unless you have a very specific use for a small drill, give the mini-drills a pass. If you do have a use, we recommend seeking one of the new high-end Li-Ion-powered drills as most of the low-end drills we saw lacked critical features such as variable speed.
This is where 99% of drill buyers shop. These drills fall into two categories: drills designed for shop use (and home use), and drills designed solely for light-duty home use. 3/8″ chuck drills are best suited for home use only, while 1/2″ drills serve well in either environment.
Expect to receive at least 300 in-lbs. of torque, two speed ranges, and 16-24 clutch settings. One factor to consider is weight. If your drill will spend a significant portion of its time in small hands, or just drilling holes in the drywall, you might consider a lighter, less powerful drill. For shop use, you’ll want one of the 1/2″ chuck units with all the torque you can afford.
The following basic process of considering a cordless drill is recommended:
1. Ask yourself where and how the drill will be used. Will you use it for production work in the shop? On the jobsite? Or just around the house and garage? This will help you narrow the list down by quickly eliminating drills that are way above or way below your needs.
2. Next, ask yourself how much you’re willing to spend. You can eliminate another large set of drills by culling those that are beyond your means.
3. Finally, review the specs to find the best match. You’ll want as much torque as you can find, but be sure to consider weight and battery type.
Her’s a short video from Lowe’s which might help you further in deciding your next cordless drill.
Hope the above has been helpful. Happy drilling
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