Early Christmas Present

by Josh on December 14, 2007 · 8 comments

in Journal

I know I’m supposed to wait to buy things for myself for a couple more weeks– especially when they’re things I told people I wanted as a Christmas gift. But I couldn’t resist.

I need a new cordless drill. I have outgrown my old 9.6v firestorm drill, and passed the dependable life of it’s ni-cad battery packs. For a few months I’ve watched as more and more cordless drills come to market with the new lithium-ion battery technology. From what I’ve heard and read, these new batteries are a pretty compelling reason to upgrade.

Here’s why lithium-ion cordless tools are so great for homeowners:

  • Long shelf life– Unlike older rechargeable battery technology, lithium-ion batteries don’t lose their charge just sitting in your toolbox. Even if you only use your cordless drill every few months, a lithium-ion battery will help ensure the tool is ready to go when you’re ready to use it.
  • Quick recharge– An 18-volt lithium-ion tool battery can recharge in 30 minutes. That means that the tool can fully charge in the time it takes me to eat lunch or run to the hardware store.
  • More power/less weight– Popeye forearms are optional for wielding lithium-ion tools because volt-for-volt they are smaller and lighter than older nickel-based batteries.

The biggest drawback of lithium-ion tools has been their cost, but that is changing quickly. Virtually every manufacturer of cordless tools now has a lithium-ion line, and they’re available in places like Target and Walmart, too.

Enough with the background.

R86006 After months of looking, I found the drill deal that works for me. The Ridgid 18-volt compact lithium-ion cordless drill. This drill is usually sold with two battery packs, a charger, and a case or bag. That package costs $180, and other top brands with similar products are in that $200-range also. So when I saw that Home Depot was offering this drill without the carrying bag and second battery for only $99, I was sold.

I would never have considered having only one battery for my old drill because the batteries took a long time to charge up and then lost charge in storage. But as I discussed above, both of those limitations are basically eliminated by the lithium-ion technology. Consequently, I think most homeowners would do just fine with a single lithium-ion battery, plus the savings puts this drill in the sub-$100 sweet spot for people who don’t use their tools to make a living.

Like all the drills in the 18v class, the Ridgid has a 2-speed transmission, a beefy 1/2″ chuck, a variable clutch and a handy LED work light. It is a bit heavier and longer than the comparable Makitaor Milwaukee, but I thought it felt more durable and substantial than either of them, particularly at the transmission switch. Ryobi’s new lithium-ion drill was even a bit bigger and it felt cheaper, too. However, both Ryobi and Ridgid (I don’t know about the others) are making their 18v lithium-ion battery packs compatible with older 18v tools. This means I’ll have the option to pick up a used Ridgid cordless cut-off saw, for example, and power it with my drill battery. Very cool.

If Santa or one of his helpers has a drill for me under the Christmas tree, I hope the gift receipt is wrapped up, too. This drill is a keeper.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Sandy December 14, 2007 at 4:50 pm

Lithium-ion…. makes me drool just thinking about a tool that doesn’t die a slow death in the tool box….

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Jennifer December 14, 2007 at 4:50 pm

Nice! I’m almost positive there will be an 18 volt cordless drill under OUR tree this year, too… my father-in-law all but told us he was getting us one. Here’s hoping it’s as good as that one!

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Josh December 14, 2007 at 7:31 pm

@Sandy – You’re right about the “slow death.” With my old drill I have just come to assume that if the battery isn’t in the charger it’s dead.

@Jennifer – I hope you get a good one, too! I don’t think I got the absolute best drill– just the best value for my needs and price range. If you’re concerned about your father-in-law’s taste in tools, you could tell him about a certain awesome blog post you read recently…

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Mack March 20, 2008 at 2:31 pm

I love my lithium tools as well. I have a question for you though, from what I read Lithium cells do degrade over time, and a large part of it is temperature. I have my cells in the house as opposed to the garage for this reason- are you saying the technology has advanced to the point this isn’t an issue anymore?

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Josh March 20, 2008 at 3:36 pm

That’s a great question, Mack. The only temperature issue I’ve heard raised with lithium batteries is that they need to be cool to charge best, so they can’t be recharged immediately after an intense drain cycle.

Cold and time negatively affect all batteries, so it would be good advice to keep your battery-powered tools in the house regardless of what battery tech they use.

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Mack March 20, 2008 at 6:09 pm

Well I’m not sure if it’s the constant temperature or the Lithium Ion cells themselves, but they’re definitely a lot longer lived than my other batteries. Thanks for confirming my info.

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