Cordless drills are the most popular power tools on the market. They come in a variety of sizes and power output depending on what type of job you are doing. They are available in homeowner and professional grade. These tools are popular because most materials are held together with fasteners and drills can install and remove them much faster than by hand. Drills also make holes in materials such as wood, plastic, metal, and concrete. Cordless technology has improved greatly over the last few years and cordless drills can run signifant amounts of time before needing a charge. Battery technologies like Lithium-ion can power tools for longer periods of time and have a longer overal lifespan. Recently, other new technologies have been added to drills including L.E.D. worklights, and rapid battery chargers. The guide breaks down the types of drills, important terms, and other things to consider when shopping for your new cordless drill.
Cordless Drill Buyer's Guide
A cordless drill is a drill that is powered by a rechargeable battery. They are one of the most common power tools, and are used for a variety of drilling and fastening applications in wood, plastic, and metal. Understanding the options regarding power, speed, and battery technology can help you pick the right drill for professional or household applications.
Types Of Cordless Drills
Cordless screwdrivers are a great starter tool for tasks around the house. These lower voltage tools can install and remove screws in low torque situations, such as removing cabinet doors and assembling furniture.
Cordless drill drivers are the most popular drill on the market. This type of drill has the ability to drive fasteners and drill through a variety of materials. A tool-free chuck allows the user to switch between bits quickly. The traditional drill driver is large in size and not ideal for tight spaces.
Impact drivers have significantly higher torque than standard drill drivers, and are great for installing and removing nuts, bolts, and fasteners. More compact than a traditional drill, this tool can get into tight spaces. This tool will only accept bits & accessories with a hex shaft. Due to their aggressive nature, impact drivers are not ideal for drilling holes. These power tools are great for automotive and rough carpentry work.
Cordless hammer drills generate forward thrust as well as rotation. This hammering action lets them drill through masonry materials in addition to driving fasteners. They also weigh more and require more power than traditional drill drivers. These drills are ideal for professionals and those who work with concrete, wood, and metal regularly.
Rotary hammer drills are larger, high-power versions of hammer drills. They are designed to drill and chisel through masonry materials. They are a job-specific tool and are more effective than combination hammer drill/drivers at material removal. Cordless rotary hammers offer great portability versus their electric counterpart but can weigh more than 10 pounds. This tool is for professionals who need to drill and chisel through masonry surfaces regularly
Any homeowner needing a cordless screwdriver should consider the Hitachi DB3DL2. A 1.5Ah Lithium-Ion battery offers triple the battery life of a traditional battery. Overload protection prevents damage to the battery when plugged in for long durations. The handle can be converted from straight to pistol grip and the tool weighs less than one pound. The 1/4" hex chuck features a quick change collar for convenient bit changes.
For those needing a powerful drill on the jobsite or at home look no further than the Dewalt DC720KA. This 18 volt drill/driver features a compact design that weighs only 4.8 pounds. A two speed gear box, 17 Clutch Settings, and a variable speed trigger provide complete control over the unit. The 1/2" keyless chuck makes changing bits a breeze.
Makita's LXDT01 18 volt impact driver features the latest in power tool innovation and technology. This tool features a brushless motor that is quieter and more powerful. The LXT lithium-ion batteries further reduce weight while increasing time between charges. This impact driver weighs less than 3.3 pounds yet delivers more then 1400 inch pounds of torque. A 1/4" hex chuck makes switching out bits convenient and an L.E.D. light illuminates the work surface. You will never have to wait for batteries to charge thanks to the 30 minute Rapid Optimum Charger.
A cordless hammer drill gives you the power and versatility to drill through almost anything. Our top pick in this category is the Milwaukee 2604-22. This powerful tool has over 725 inch pounds of torque and a brushless motor. An enhanced grip and durable case are ideal for those who need to use this drill regularly. The M18 Fuel battery technology provides up to 50% more run time than the competition and increases battery life. An all-metal chuck is very durable and provides maximum bit retention.
Milwaukee's M18 Cordless Rotary Hammer offers the longest run time on one battery and great versatility. This tool can be used in rotary hammer, hammer, or rotation-only mode via a convenient 3-position switch. The anti-vibration and mechanical clutch features make this tool much easier to use for extended periods. The 18 volt M18 batteries offer superior run time and life cycle versus other brands. This product is ideal for any professional who needs to drill or chisel masonry surfaces.
Nickel Cadmium battery. It’s an inexpensive cell technology and has a very low temperature sensitivity. A high number of charge cycles is possible. Stored Ni-Cad batteries quickly lose charge and can develop a sort of “memory effect” if they are not regularly drained and fully charged (known as “conditioning”). Cadmium is a heavy metal and is considered an environmental hazard.
Nickel Metal Hydride battery. Much higher potential capacity than Ni-Cad batteries and require less conditioning. Considered less toxic than Ni-Cad batteries, but they shouldn’t be tossed in the garbage when they are no longer viable, as they can still be somewhat toxic. They are more sensitive to temperature than Ni-Cad, and they they can start to degrade if exposed to extreme cold or heat. They lose their charge faster than Ni-Cad batteries. Some NiMH batteries perform less reliably after repeated empty-to-full charges.
Lithium-Ion battery. Has a much higher capacity than other battery technologies, and has no memory effect at all, so there’s no need for periodic conditioning. Its charge loss during storage is less than half that of NiCad batteries. They are often more expensive than other battery technologies
Determines what size of bit the drill can hold. There are two standard bit sizes: ⅜” and ½”. ⅜” chucks are ideal for everyday applications, while ½” chucks are better for heavy duty tasks.
Maximum No Load RPM (Rotations Per Minute):
Measures drill speed. RPM means rotations per minute. Drills with multiple speed settings enable you to take on a variety of applications.
The largest diameter bits that can be used with a particular drill. The maximum capacity will differ depending on the material (wood, plastic, metal).
Protects drill motor if the screw it’s drilling meets resistance. Typically the clutch can be adjusted to limit torque applied to the fastener to prevent stripping.
Variable Speed Trigger:
How tightly you squeeze the trigger determines how fast your cordless drill bit rotates. The tighter you squeeze, the faster the bit rotates.
Before You Buy
When you purchase a cordless drill, use technical specifications and design features to help narrow your selection. Whether you need a drill for simple household repairs or professional remodeling jobs, understanding key specifications can help you find what you’re looking for.
A cordless drill’s power is measured in volts. Available models range from compact 3.6 volt pocket drivers to powerful 28 volt drills. If you only need a cordless drill for light tasks, stick with one in the 3.6- to 15.6-volt range. Drills with that kind of voltage should give you the power you need to do minor tasks like hang curtain rods, attach cabinet handles and mount wall hangings. Heavy-duty projects, like remodeling a room or building a deck, would probably require a drill in the 18 to 28 volt range. Those more powerful types of drills can be expensive because of the higher voltage, torque, and speed they offer. Higher voltage drills also require larger batteries and tend to weigh more than small, cordless drivers.
RPM (Rotations Per Minute)
Speed in drills is measured in rotations per minute (RPM). Cordless drills with multiple speed settings are suitable for a wider range of tasks. If you want to tackle several different types of repairs and projects, choose a drill with more than one speed setting. There are many affordable cordless drills that have speed settings that go from 0-200 RPM to 0-600 RPM, perfect for a variety of light-duty tasks and projects. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need a cordless drill that reaches speeds surpassing 1,500 RPM—that is probably a bit excessive for simple tasks like replacing door hinges or putting up closet racks. Lots of smaller, more compact cordless drills offer one or two speed settings, perfect for lighter tasks.
Keep in mind that speed does not equate power. A little drill with a high RPM can swiftly drive fasteners into pre-drilled holes, and is perfect for quickly assembling furniture or handling minor repairs around the house. However, it will be useless at driving large screws into lumber. If you want to tackle more ambitious projects, ignore the drill’s speed and pick a model with high torque and power.
Grip is an important component of a cordless drill. Finding one with a comfortable grip makes all the difference when you’re working with it for a few hours. So before you purchase one, hold it if you can. Observe how your palm and fingers fit around it and pay attention to how it feels. Think about how you would feel after holding it an hour or longer working on a project.
With new design advances, several drill brands have created more comfortable, ergonomic grips to make holding them more comfortable. Some even have rubberized grips. Several manufacturers offer lines of ultra-compact drills. These tools are much smaller and lighter, making them even easier to use. Look for one with a good grip design. And if you are prone to wrist, elbow, or shoulder problems, opt for an ultra-compact model.
What are the benefits of a multiple speed drill?
A multiple speed drill has a switch located on the body of the drill which allows the user to switch between low speed (high torque) and high speed (low torque) depending on the application. When drilling through materials, the high speed setting is ideal. The low speed setting works best when driving in fasteners because of higher torque output. The multiple speed feature can be used in conjunction with an adjustable clutch to prevent stripping of fasteners.
What is the difference between a brushless motor and a brush motor on cordless drills?
Brushless motor technology is becoming more popular on high end-drills and impact drivers in recent years. Brushes are components inside a conventional electric motor that wear down over time and must be replaced. Cordless drills with brushless motors are more expensive than a traditional motor but have several benefits. Brushless drills are quieter, more powerful, and produce less heat. This technology eliminates the need to replace brushes every couple of years as well.
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