Blistering hot. Severe headache. Loud generator with extension cords laying all over the place just waiting to be tripped over. That was my existence one afternoon as I helped my dad build a box stand at our deer lease. We had a generator, two circular saws, a drill, an air compressor, a framing nailer, and plenty of gas. While we were busy tripping over our extension cords and swapping them between tools, the other guys that were with us were chugging along with their cordless toolset.
Their set consisted of a drill, impact driver, reciprocating saw, and a circular saw. All of the tools used the same batteries, and they worked all day. That is pretty impressive considering those tools took over most of the work after we saw how capable they were. With those tools on the job, the only thing that needed generator power was the air compressor for the nailer. The rest of our corded tools sat on the trailer gathering sawdust. Cordless tools made our work area safer, more efficient, and still provided plenty of power to get the job done.
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I have to admit that up until that point I was ignorant of how impressive cordless tools had become. I thought that they were wimpy tools that were only good for small jobs, like hanging pictures. It turns out, the other guys’ cordless tools were keeping up with our corded tools just fine. Their saws cut through paneling and 2×4’s just as well as our corded saws, and their cordless drills absolutely blew ours out of the water. I was amazed as I watched the impact driver mercilessly pound screws into boards with seemingly no effort. I became a believer in cordless tools that afternoon, and in the days that followed, I began to do research to help me decide which toolset would fit my needs.
Changes in Technology
The first thing that I learned was that cordless tool technology has progressed. A lot. I am not a tradesman, so I was not familiar with all of the changes in the tool market. As it turns out, many cordless tools have become comparable in power to their corded counterparts. One reason for this is the use of lithium-ion batteries. Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries have a much higher energy density than previous battery technologies, allowing them to store more energy. Also, Li-ion batteries self-discharge at a much slower rate, meaning that batteries stay charged longer when not in use. In addition, the development of brushless motors has allowed power tools to operate with greater energy efficiency and longevity. These innovations in battery and motor technology have helped manufacturers produce powerful and reliable cordless tools that rival the power of their corded counterparts.
Cordless Tools and Prepping
So what is the point of all of this from a preparedness standpoint? In a situation where wall outlet power is unavailable, cordless tools can be a game-changer. Imagine that you needed to make an emergency repair when you had no power. Corded tools are great, but even the best are useless when the power is out. A cordless tool will still be rolling after the lights go out, as long as you had the foresight to keep your batteries charged. This could allow you to make emergency repairs to a damaged fence and even cut and secure plywood to a shattered window.
In addition to drills and saws, many companies produce lights and even fans that run off the same batteries as their other tools. Many of the lights are incredibly energy efficient and are much safer options than attempting to light a house with candles or oil lamps. During power outages, especially prolonged ones, house fires increase due to people using flame-based light sources. In today’s electrical world, people simply don’t know how to use more old school lighting methods safely. Candles and lamps also increase the temperature inside a dwelling, making summer power outages even more muggy and miserable. The LED light sources that many power tool companies use in their lights don’t produce much heat but still give off a ton of light.
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Keeping Your Work Area Safe
Another reason to consider cordless tools is that they can make your work area safer by reducing trip hazards. While hanging a cabinet in my garage, my extension cord got wrapped around my legs and almost made me fall off my step ladder. In an emergency situation, the last thing that you need is to suffer a fall that could have been prevented.
Which Tools are Right for You?
When choosing which cordless tools to invest in, you need to look at the various companies’ lines as a whole. Go with the company whose line will meet as many of your needs as possible, and stick with it. Tools and batteries are not compatible between companies. For example, you cannot put a Dewalt battery on a Makita drill. You will save money by standardizing on one lineup due to battery and charger compatibility.
After doing a couple of months of research, I determined that Milwaukee’s M18 lineup would best meet my needs. Their drills and saws are of high quality and frequently win performance tests against other brands. The M18 line has what I call “idiot proof” compatibility. All M18 tools will work with any M18 battery. The batteries that came with my drill will work with my circular saw and vice versa. They also offer a variety of LED lighting products that can light everything from a small room all the way to an entire backyard.
One of my favorite lights is their M18 lantern which has an adjustable beam (180-360 degrees) and the ability to charge cell phones and other devices. In a power outage, this one device will allow me to safely light any room in my house and charge my cell phone. It also runs off of the same batteries as my drill. This greatly reduces the amount of D Cell batteries I would need to store than if I was solely using my other LED lantern. Click here to see my full review of the M18 Lantern and Floodlight. I also have the M18 fan that uses the same batteries and can run for hours on one charge. It was designed to provide air circulation on the job site, but it works equally well cooling a tent while camping or a bedroom during a power outage.
While I have chosen to invest in Milwaukee’s M18 lineup, other companies such as Makita and Dewalt offer large professional-grade lineups as well. Regardless of which lineup you choose, try to stay with a brand that caters to professional users. Professional quality tools are easier to use and last longer. They also tend to have better warranties, and the companies that make them usually have larger lineups. A larger lineup gives you more options, and versatility is always a plus when you are considering purchases from a preparedness standpoint.
Since I have jumped into the world of cordless tools, I have started to really enjoy building things. Their ease of use has turned frustrating tasks into easy ones. Within a year of purchasing my first cordless set, I built a farmhouse table and benches for my wife, a four-story rabbit condo, a laundry folding table with basket storage, and completed a few other small projects as well. The right cordless tools can make any building or repair project much easier, and as a bonus, they can even bolster your emergency preparedness.