Cordless power tools are all the rage but can cost you more in the end

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Do you have a love affair with power tools? If so, I suspect you may have succumbed to the siren songs luring you into the “sea of ​​cordless tools”. Before letting yourself be enchanted by the sweet voices of the nymphs, I suggest you check your course and go full starboard before launching yourself on the rocks.

Luckily, just as I was starting to write this column, an email from Bill arrived in my inbox. He lives in Spokane, Wash., and shared the story of a recent visit to one of the big box stores that was cluttered with pallets of merchandise hidden for months in storage containers anchored to the off Long Beach, California.

“I couldn’t help but notice all the many cordless tools,” Bill wrote. “It seemed like there were hundreds of them, all with little signs that said something like ‘Tool Only’. I couldn’t help but wonder about this trend in tools and compare it to what is apparently also happening in automobiles.

Bill is a few years older than me and still has many power tools that have a six foot 120 volt power cord attached. I have many in my garage in excellent condition and I am delighted with them. If I were invited to lunch with a group of young carpenters, I would be the old goat sitting on an empty, overturned mud bucket who would say, “In my day, we didn’t have cordless tools. We got along very well. »

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The inspiration for this column came from a side discussion on one of my recent livestreams. A viewer asked me to list the pros and cons of cordless tools, then asked me what I thought of the future for traditional corded power tools.

I’m old enough to remember seeing cordless tools hit the market in the 1980s. My best friend was my HVAC contractor. He bought a small cordless Makita drill fitted with a nut driver that allowed him to drive in hundreds of tiny self-tapping screws. I marveled that he didn’t have to trip over a power cord while on a stepladder. This little cordless drill/driver saved him a lot of time.

As a carpenter and plumber, all of my power tools were corded. The biggest concern I remember is making sure I haven’t cut an extension cord. On a new construction site, you’ve just been dealing with mud-covered extension cords. That said, we have always had the power. The tools have always worked. We never had to wait for a battery to recharge. The cold weather didn’t sap my saws of their strength.

I decided to take a step back and do a true and honest comparison between corded and cordless tools. If there ever was a time to do it, it’s now. Inflation is raging and I don’t see it calming down anytime soon. My geology degree also screams at me. The raw materials war for car, truck and tool batteries will intensify. This competition for ingredients will most likely drive the price of cordless tool batteries higher than a rocket headed for the moon.

When I collected myself to respond to the viewer watching the live stream, I said, “You can’t beat cordless tools for convenience. You can use them without having to plug in a cord. I then hesitated to list other positive features of cordless tools. Why? I have this bad habit of always looking at what things are really costing you in the long run.

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A few days ago I decided to do a quick price comparison between two normal 7¼ inch circular saws made by the same manufacturer. One was wired and the other wireless. The new cord saw cost $144. The cordless saw, tool only, was $159. You had to spend an extra $147 to get two batteries, a charger, and a soft bag to carry all the gear. Using just your grade school math, you can see right off the bat that the cordless – jobsite-ready saw cost over $300.

I went to the manufacturer’s website and read that you can expect to charge the battery up to 1000 times. Using a cordless tool all day on a jobsite may require you to charge the battery at least once or twice a day. You may be able to recharge a battery 450 times a year with heavy use.

If you’re using a battery and trying to return it under warranty, don’t try to fool the manufacturer by saying you’ve only charged it about 200 times. I’m reasonably certain that hidden inside all cordless tool batteries are electronic components that not only protect the battery during charge cycles, but also record how you use the battery, how many charging events and full battery status details at the time it charges. I remember saying years ago at a conference of cordless tool editors that batteries were nothing more than spies. The tool reps in the room disagreed and glared at me.

I then looked at the cost of replacement batteries. You’ll spend $100 for one with a decent amp-hour rating. How much will this battery cost you in 2, 5 or 15 years? Keep in mind that I have decades old corded tools that still work. What will you spend over time to keep your power tool running?

Bill ended his email by saying he was going to keep tripping over his rope. I plan to do the same, comforted by the fact that when I purchased my corded tool I paid a one-time fee and will never have to spend more to keep it running as long as I will take care of it. It might be prudent for you to invest in a variety of high quality corded power tools before they are gone.

Subscribe to Tim’s free newsletter at AsktheBuilder.com. Tim streams live video Monday through Friday at 4 p.m. EST at youtube.com/askthebuilder.

©2022 Tim Carter. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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