Next time you’re in the market for a new power tool, be sure to check out brands that offer a range of tool options designed to use the same standard battery and charger. This way, you save money and don’t end up with 50 jillion different batteries and chargers and lose track of which charger fits which battery. Plus, in the end, you’ve consumed fewer resources.
For example, Black & Decker has a line of 26 different woodworking, yard and garden tools that all run off the same 18-volt system using FSXtreme nickel cadmium (ni-cad) batteries. We tested the circular saw ($69 without a battery), jigsaw ($49 without a battery) and drill ($99, including two batteries and a charger) and were impressed. To test the battery power, we tried to run down the drill, but after we completely filled our piece of quarter-inch plywood with quarter-inch holes (285!), it was clear that these tools deliver a nice amount of power.
We also tested Black & Decker’s CCS818 battery powered chain saw. This lightweight little saw has an 8-inch bar and could only cut about a dozen 2- to 4-inch logs before the battery was drained. It could work for light pruning work or cutting up an occasional fallen branch, but that’s about it.
The FSXtreme 18-volt ni-cad batteries weigh 1.8 pounds, and a battery with a 6-hour charger costs $25. If you need lightweight tools, consider lithium ion batteries. Black and Decker’s VPX tools run on one or two 7-volt lithium batteries that weigh less than 4.5 ounces each. Lithium is usually pricier than ni-cad, but a set of two lithium batteries and charger for the VPX system costs about $30.
Standard power tools, including drills and a saw, are available in the VPX line. In addition to the power screwdriver ($59.99 including one battery), two drill/driver models are available. The smaller unit ($34.99 without a battery or charger) runs up to 625 rotations per minute (RPM) on one 7-volt battery. The larger drill/driver ($99.99 including two batteries) spins up to 1,200 rpm and is powered by two batteries for a total of 14 volts.
Lithium batteries are included with the large drill/driver, “cutsaw” and screwdriver, but the other tools come without.
With the VPX power source ($19.99 without a battery), you can even power your cell phone, a camera or MP3 player via a 115-volt alternating current (AC) outlet or universal serial bus (USB) connection. Also available are an inflator ($29.99 without a battery) that produces up to 75 pounds per square inch (PSI) of air pressure to inflate bike tires and sports equipment and a 14-volt vacuum ($39.99 without batteries).