What's a practical way of managing batteries for cordless tools?
November 7, 2018 9:54 AM   Subscribe

I'm in the market for a basic, battery powered drill/impact driver combo but it seems that every manufacturer has their own battery system. I have a 20 year old Makita drill that functionally fine, but the batteries no longer hold the charge. I also have a battery powered Hoover vacuum. I already have 2 chargers, and I'm reluctant to introduce another battery system (like DeWalt, maybe). Is anyone making adapters or something or should I just bite the bullet and deal with 5 chargers?
posted by aeighty to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've never heard of adapters, no. This is really the problem with cordless tools; the batteries are all proprietary, and they only last for so long, and sometimes the manufacturers change their battery systems entirely and leave users out in the cold. It's kind of a racket, which is why I typically suggest that most homeowners should just get corded tools for most things since they're cheaper, more powerful, lighter weight, and last longer.

However with a drill and driver it's probably worth it to go cordless—just maybe don't plan on buying the entire system, just get your drill/driver and then stick with corded tools for the rest of your kit. Which brand you go with is kinda irrelevant since you aren't already tied to a system. If you're only planning to use this stuff for occasional light-duty purposes (rather than beating the shit out of it 40 hours/week) you might find that Ryobi offers the best value; otherwise I recommend holding out until Black Friday and buying whatever higher-end stuff is on sale at the time. DeWalt, Makita, Milwaukee, and Ridgid all make perfectly good drill/driver combos. My work provides Milwaukee tools and that's also what I have in my personal kit, but I don't think they're markedly better than other brands.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:15 AM on November 7 [5 favorites]

The Ryobi One+ system uses the same battery for about 100 power tools. Also you have the option to buy their tools without a battery pack and use 3rd party ones instead which seem to be just as good.
posted by KateViolet at 10:24 AM on November 7

If you're comfortable hacking and reworking a product you bought, you may be able to open the battery pack for your Makita and replacing the cells with new ones. Often those packs are just arrays of smaller cells, eg 18650, which can be bought and swapped in.

The caveat with adapters is some brands build the protection circuits into the tool and others into the battery, plus there are so many 'standards'. It might be worth seeing if there's a third-party aftermarket battery available for your tool as well.
posted by a halcyon day at 10:54 AM on November 7 [2 favorites]

You should probably also be able to just get new aftermarket third-party batteries for any system you end up buying, and despite the above commenter, you can get adapters between some battery systems. Dewalt has an official 18V to 20V adapter, for example, and I believe there are even third party ones, though past a certain point it's usually cheaper to just buy a different system.

I have most of my tools on the Ryobi One platform and confirm that it's pretty nifty, although some products (drills) work much better than others (dinky 5 inch saws). The newer brushless appliances suck down less power, but the newest lithium-ion batteries still work regardless with the stuff I bought 12 years ago that was originally built to work with NiCad batteries.

I think the form factor of the battery is going to be a bigger issue for your vacuum/power tool integration product. My cursory googling suggests that you're looking at the same sort of 18V-20V continuum, but with nice slimline batteries for the vacuums, and big lump connection prongs on the power tool batteries.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 11:04 AM on November 7

Be VERY VERY AWARE that current (no pun intended) battery tech for these tools will punish you harshly if you let the batteries sit enough to die completely. You basically have to keep them charged, and the shelf life isn't forever.

I got a nice Porter Cable drill/driver for my birthday 2 years ago, and it's not dead, because 7 months went by without me touching it and both batteries are now considered irrevocably dead -- and, obviously, this battery is no longer made.

I am looking hard at Home Depot's Rigid line, because they have lifetime battery replacement as part of the policy. Rigid is also one of the systems that has interchangable batteries among their tools, which is nice.

I think it's unrealistic to expect one battery platform to work with your drill and your vacuum, etc., though at this point you COULD get a system that would power, say, a traditional set of power tools (drill, saw, sander, etc.).
posted by uberchet at 11:07 AM on November 7 [1 favorite]

There is an adapter from rigid that do this for some of their tools, but they have precious few reviews. They’re not regularly stocked in retail stores.

I have had phenomenally good luck taking old battery powered stuff to sketchy “batteries plus” and “fix iPhone cheap fast now” strip mall places. These are the new radio shacks, and they’ll crack open the case and install new cells in an afternoon. It’s usually cheaper, barely, than sourcing new batteries if they’re available, and always cheaper than binning the stuff and replacing it. Our lawnmower was one of the first battery powered models out there in wide circulation and I’ve had the batteries replaced twice now, extending it’s usable life cycle.

Milwaukee m18 and Dewalt 20v max batteries seem to be the most ubiquitous. Fortunately they also have reputations for designing good tools. I roll the milwaukee ecosystem myself.

Los Gatos tools also makes corded adapters for cordless drills. They’re expensive, but if your shits in good shape it’s an option. This is a niche solution if you’ve got a lightly used, expensive piece of tool that you want to keep running indefinitely; but the power supply needed turns this into a “bench” tool and not an around the house tool.
posted by furnace.heart at 1:16 PM on November 7 [3 favorites]

I gave up and gave in on this. I have a Craftsman 19.2V C3 battery for a bunch of cordless tools and now I have some semi-noname garden tool system with a 40V battery. Get a bench in your garage or workspace, plug in the battery chargers, leave the batteries in there 24/7 trickle charging. Decide which big-name product line you're going to buy and just stick with that. Ryobi, Ridgid, Craftsman, whatever. Just get one and stick with it. Don't get whatever is on sale for exactly this reason - you want some longevity. I've had the Craftsman tools for 5+ years and even bought a replacement upgraded battery (nicad -> li-ion)

Basically treat the battery well and you'll get your money's worth.
posted by GuyZero at 4:15 PM on November 7

Just as an aside, DeWalt 20v tools are actually 18v tools, just like the other brands. Their marketers just decided to use the batteries' maximum voltage rather than the nominal voltage, so that their packaging could have two more megapixels blades megahertz volts than the competition's.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:33 PM on November 7

I have bought no-name replacement batteries and been satisfied.

Rechargeable batteries are toxic and should not go to landfills or incinerators or otherwise tossed. Home Depot has a waste program. At this time, lithium batteries don't have a recycling path, but that might change. Put the battery in a plastic bag for safety.
posted by theora55 at 12:20 PM on November 8

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