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Battery powered tools 2022—your opinion on the best brands

 
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This is a thread I have been thinking about for a while now.  There have been similar threads in the past so if anyone wants to link those, please feel free to do so.

I thought we could have an updated discussion about battery powered tools for the homestead.  In particular I am thinking about which brands or lines of tools are most optimal for homestead use.  In recent years the number of available battery powered tools has really increased dramatically, especially in the category of Outdoor Powered Equipment (OPE).  And fortunately for many of us, the same batteries that power our construction tools also power these OPE tools.  

But not every brand.  Ryobi, Milwaukee and DeWalt (just to name 3 brands) have a dizzying array of both 18/20 volt construction tools and OPE tools (like chainsaws).  I especially like the idea of powering my OPE tools with the same batteries as my construction tools as OPE tools get better and better.  In particular I am thinking of a leaf blower.  I used to think that firing up a noisy gas engine just to blow leaves around was about the worst example of waste I could imagine.  But now I think that grabbing my battery leaf blower and squeezing the trigger for a few seconds to clear out a few leaves or clear out the garage is extremely handy.  I just wish that my construction and OPE tools used the same batteries.

Personally I am in the Ridgid line which I used to think was a very good quality (Prosumer) line at an affordable price.  I knew of contractors who used Ridgid tools.  But their line has gotten more expensive and their tool offering is actually shrinking!  And it offers nothing in the OPE range.  I contrast this to Ryobi which offers a vast array of tools, both construction and OPE, and even offers other odd battery goodies (they actually offer a battery powered floating Bluetooth connected pool speaker if you really need one).  If I were just now getting into a new line of tools, I would seriously consider either the Milwaukee or Ryobi lines.

So what do you think?  What brands do you use?  Does anyone have both construction and OPE tools that use the same batteries?  I would love to hear your thoughts.

Eric
 
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each brand has its own quirks I think
if your not including stuff at harbor freight , for general purpose cordless power tools ryobi is a good brand if for no other reason they have used the same battery design for a long long time. whereas other brands, dewalt, Milwaukee, Hitachi, Bosch have all gone through battery design changes through the years and new batteries dont fit the older tools.
for yard and gardening and lawn mowing cordless electric power tools seems there are new and changing options almost continuously.
 
Eric Hanson
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Bruce,

Yeah, most brands switched battery styles when they changed to LION batteries.  But not Ryobi.  But if one were to enter now, would that be an issue?  I honestly don't know.  It you were already in a line, that would be annoying (Ridgid never switched styles either--I loved that!  It always had the slide-in style battery instead of the post-style).  

Eric
 
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I'm not in a position to compare brands. I started buying DeWalt tools two decades or so ago and since they continue to seem good, I've stuck with them. I've been told that since their merger with Black and Decker (I think), their quality has dropped, but I've bought tools since then and they still seem hardy to me.

I was originally in the now discontinued 18V line, so I have batteries, chargers and a few tools that use that, but I'm now using the 20/60V line with: hammer drill, oscillating saw (which also works as a small 'mouse' sander), sawsall-style reciprocating saw (which I almost never use), weed whacker, and chainsaw. I also like having one line of batteries that fits the tools I use most.
 
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I have a number of DeWalt tools.  Like others have experienced, the chuck on my DeWalt drill went bad.  I replaced it with a Makita.  I also have a Makita chain saw.  That seems to be the direction I am heading in.   I keep an old set of B&D Firestorms around for when I am working somewhere a tool might be damaged.  I would rather drop a zB&D off a 20 ft ladder than a Makita.  I have always accepted that Milwaukee was the best …but the only thing I have owned with the Milwaukee name on it was a pair of work gloves and a cold bottle of beer.  Both were good.
 
Eric Hanson
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Which was better?  The gloves or the cold bottle?
 
John F Dean
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The beer is gone, but I still have one glove.  Of course, this reply is intentionally cryptic.  Interpret it as you will.
 
pollinator
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I was kindly gifted a DeWalt tool set by a friend when he upgraded to a new model. I have no reference to compare it to other brands, but it uses brushless DC motors and lithium ion batteries like other modern tools, and they are very robust and powerful. With regards to the battery packs - there is no way on earth I would ever pay full DeWalt price for their batteries. I personally wouldn't buy any new name brand battery packs at full price, but I have gotten into building my own packs which I realize is not for everyone.

This year sixtyfiveford on YouTube has been doing a bunch of videos in this space. He is usually extremely good at explaining what he is doing, why, reasons someone else may not want to do things the way he does, and most importantly to me he doesn't just repeat random safety 'rules' without details. I know that building new battery packs or repairing old ones may be a bridge too far for some people, and there are options for buying simple adapters so you can make the most use out of the tools and batteries you have. You don't have to be locked down to one ecosystem, so if one brand has a tool you like, or the brand you like has overpriced batteries, you aren't forced to choose just one and suffer with that decision. He put in a lot of effort making all of the links in the description, so this video is certain worth a look:



I'm assuming people buying into a cordless tool ecosystem is at least on some level DIY minded, and depending on how comfortable you are with electricity, there are a few options beyond the adapters above. If you can't find the adapter you want and don't want the bulk of stacking adapters, you could buy one adapter, or maybe cut off the bottom of a flashlight you don't use, and make your own adapter. There are certain places online, or perhaps local to you, where you might be able to get something 3D printed if that is a route that makes sense for your situation. With some knowledge and imagination you can take some of these ideas and make all sorts of useful combinations. Here's an older video where he converts a NiCad drill to Lithium Ion:



You will hear a lot of people say that you can't solder cells which isn't true. Sure you could mess it up, but humans are experts at messing things up if they aren't careful and I've certainly been down that road. It's probably wise to use a spot welder if you are getting into this more seriously, and I have recently invested in the tools and supplies to do that, but I also have a couple of packs I soldered and they work well. I have bought used cells from surplus battery resellers with good luck. There was certainly a learning curve to it, especially for larger packs like I have made for electric bikes. If you are already skilled at soldering and have the tools and supplies on hand, it's certainly a viable option.

I haven't been able to get around the past few months, but when I am able to move around better I am going to try what he mentions at the end of this next video. A lot of big box hardware stores take batteries for recycling and you might be able to use that as a resource. Battery packs will shut down if only one or two cells die, or if you run it low and leave it for months to discharge below the safe voltage limit of the Battery Management System. You can often revive those cells or take out bad cells and reuse the rest. This can also be a source of components for making your own custom tool adapters:



You can also make larger capacity packs, or smaller ones for different uses. I have been doing stuff with 4S packs (4 cells in series, sometimes 3S or 4S will be called 12V which is confusing) and certain 12V nominal devices like you would use in a car and have had a lot of success.. I've seen a number of people using large sets of power tool batteries to run small electric vehicles and power large inverters. With the right charge controller you could also use solar, as well as add in USB chargers and open up an entire world of off grid power.

In the end, buying into one brand because they needlessly made their stuff have different connectors is not something I am willing to take lying down.
 
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I have started to switch to Milwaukee tools My wife finds the m12 lighter than other brands and my m18 chargers have a location for the m12 battery as well.  
 
pollinator
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I have been busted a few times for going off topic, so I have shifted this discussion, from https://permies.com/t/178484/designing-homestead-battle-inflation

And then I spotted this topic, so I shifted it.

John, I agree with your basic assessment, particularly with the building tools.  I guess I would add to those tools a reciprocating saw and an impact driver.  I particularly love having an impact driver as so often a cordless drill is really used simply to fasten screws and an impact driver is very quick and efficient at the job.  It also frees up the drill for a secondary task.

But these are adding costs to the list and one will have to decide for themselves whether these extra tools are worth the money.  For my purposes, I find them invaluable and really not all that expensive, but then I bought my impact driver as a factory refurbished item on eBay.  I saved a boatload!

John, it’s slightly OT, but since we are talking about batteries, how do you like the Ryobi line?  They certainly have every tool under the sun you could want and then some (floating Bluetooth battery powered pool speaker anyone?  Not Joking!).  Their reputation is that they are a cheap/budget brand but I am not so convinced.  I am in the Ridgid line which I used to think was a great bang-for-your-buck line that had really good quality at affordable prices.  But their prices are going up and the product listing is going down.  And Milwaukee has everything but is very pricey.  I am thinking about switching brands and wouldn’t mind input.
Eric


I think you are spot on with this thought "Their reputation is that they are a cheap/budget brand but I am not so convinced."
In Australia they are certainly not considered cheap / budget. They do not claim to be a trade tool, but I see them on Tradies sites everywhere.
My neighbour is a concretor and has them and in 5 years has not replaced one.

A warning, I had an 18V Metabo and ruined a few drills driving screws etc, burnt the electronics, then I was told the Impact driver will not burn out as they are designed for it.
They were right"
 
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I am using battery-powered tools (as electrician, gardener, carpentry) for over 35 years and I found the best by far is the Makita brand (USA made, https://www.makitatools.com/), I have the original batteries from 2006 (the same battery fits all tools, they are interchangeable, just ONE battery type). I used most of the other brands, but they are far behind Makita’s. I am not advertising Makita here, it is from personal home and work use.
One note: When you have Makita tools, please use the original Makita batteries, all imitations are worthless.
“Build dirt cheap” means just that, they are dirt cheap and waste of environmental resources, lasting only a few years at best!
 
Eric Hanson
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Daniel,

Awesome post about building battery packs!!  Yes, for far too long the most difficult part about buying a cordless tool is the dual problem about being locked into a battery format and then being forced to buy overpriced extra batteries.  I don’t know about you, but the minimum number of batteries I need for a tool kit is 3 4-amp hour batteries so that I can use two tools (a drill and saw for instance) and have at least one charging.

I plan on doing a major deck renovation soon (some parts are borderline dangerous now) and I will probably be using a drill, impact driver and circular saw and as I have a dual charger, I will have at least two batteries on standby.  But those batteries did not come cheap.  I acquired them over years.  I have had one fail and I got it repaired.  But what you are doing is better.

Building your packs from scratch is great,  I do actually have plans on making a 12v, 80 amp hour battery for a battery generator, a topic day different post, but you touched on great way to make tools more “Permie.”  

Nice post!

Eric
 
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Coincidental timing - my father just found and bought an adaptor to convert between two brands of batteries. He was able to resurrect some old tools for which we had lost a charger, and we now have multiple interchangeable batteries for our different devices. Cheap and convenient solution for us at least.
 
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Milwaukee
(ok price, durable, wide selection of tools, high-end/contractor grade)

Bosch
(expensive, durable, wide selection of tools, high-end/contractor grade, 38V option)

Makita
(expensive, durable, wide selection of tools, high-end/contractor grade, 38V option)

Dewalt
(more expensive, durable, huge selection of tools, high-end/contractor-grade, 60V option)

BLACK + DECKER
(Inexpensive, not durable, limited selection of tools, low-end/home-owner)

Porter Cable
(ok price, ok quality, limited selection of tools, mid-tier/DIY-er)

Hitachi
(expensiver for a mid-tier, ok quality, ok selection of tools, mid-tier/DIY-er)

Ryobi
(ok price, ok quality, ok selection of tools, mid-tier/DIY-er)

RIGID
(ok price, ok quality, limited selection of tools, mid-tier/DIY-er)

Kobalt
(ok price, ok quality, limited selection of tools, mid-tier/DIY-er)







 
Eric Hanson
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John C Daley,

Good to know about the Ryobi tools.  I can tell you that my tools probably land in the prosumer category.  I certainly don’t make a living with my tools, but there are times when they get furious use, followed by long periods of disuse.  As I am thinking about a different tool platform, especially for more “peripheral” items like some outdoor power equipment and such, Ryobi may be the way to go.

I can tell you right now that I have one tool in mind that I would like to acquire soon—a backpack sprayer.  No, I don’t plan on spraying anything nasty on my plants, but I do a yearly burn around my pond and I wouldn’t mind a backpack sprayer to use as a way of controlling the edges of the bun (the edges are closely mowed).  The Ryobi model, complete with a battery and charger comes in at around $180, an amount I can handle. I am aware of no Ridgid model.  The Milwaukee version is $400 plus the battery and charger!!  The Milwaukee is supposed to spray further, but for the money, who cares?!

Excellent points John,

Eric
 
Eric Hanson
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Vaios,

Good to know about Makita tools.  I know they have a large, expanding tool line, but an otherwise unfamiliar.

Eric
 
Eric Hanson
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Robert,

I was seriously thinking about Milwaukee because of their combination of high quality, general durability and light, ergonomic construction, especially their drills.  I like that they have a full line of 12v tools as well as 18v tools.

Eric
 
Daniel Schmidt
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I saw a really good video testing battery adapters and figured it would be good to share it here. The Torque Test Channel on YouTube has been doing tons of tests on battery powered tools and various battery packs, and this along with all of the other data they have gathered is extremely informative.

I figured that all of the cheap adapters would be made of cheap parts, and even some of the more expensive ones might be made just as cheap. The end where they used adapters from Etsy was pretty interesting. They used higher voltage packs (6S or 24V advertised vs 5S or 20V advertised) in the adapters, and even with the large bump in power consumption the adapters had no issues. They also made mention that certain DeWalt batteries work by having the power management in the tool (?) and using it on other tools with an adapter bypasses this. I may have to dig deeper into that. I'd imagine they must have some sort of safety in the pack (perhaps cell level fusing and/or cell balancing) so the tool can 'choose' the voltage by having the BMS inside the tool. But that's just a guess. Non-standard setups like this are both interesting and slightly scary. In any event, here's the video:

 
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