Tech Talk: Drilling Down Into Power Tools

Advancing technology is not limited to the security systems being installed today; it also extends to the tools used to accomplish such tasks. Find out how superior cordless power tools are making life easier and more productive for installers, and gain shopping advice.

Tired of filling up your truck real estate with a generator? Are you looking for the tool to increase installation efficiency? Well look no further and get on the power drill and driver wagon. Yes, I know you may have had mixed results in the past with cordless power tools. Maybe it was battery memory or hardware quality. A lot has changed the past couple of years and we have now reached the “sweet spot” in cordless power tool technology.

Cordless drills sound interesting, but what is all the fuss lately about cordless drivers? You may have seen and heard them first in your local auto garage. They are noisy and very effective, and for many years worked off of air pressure. The exciting thing about these high torque devices is that they are now compact and electrical, and have made their way to the residential and commercial building site.

With these tools, you can now drive screws like you are in butter. They are excellent for getting that extra leverage when working on difficult material such as getting a quick bite in metal studs. Installers are raving about how much easier they make installation work. Let’s take a closer look.

Know Your Power Source

What makes today’s cordless drills/drivers especially exciting is the application of lithium-ion battery packs. These batteries provide strong but lightweight power, which makes for an enjoyable power tool for the tech.

Actually, pioneering work on the lithium battery began in 1912, but it was not until the early 1970s when the first nonrechargeable lithium batteries became commercially available. Today we are reaping the rewards of this early R&D.

As we have learned in the past, the only way you can truly realize the benefits of a new battery technology – in this case maximizing the performance of lithium-ion — is to fully understand how it works. So let’s take a moment to explore some of the particulars and peculiarities of this battery.

Listed below are some of the advantages and disadvantages of lithium-ion batteries, according to Battery University (


  • High energy density — potential for yet higher capacities
  • Does not need prolonged priming when new; one regular charge is all     that’s needed
  • Relatively low self-discharge, less than half     that of nickel-based batteries
  • Low maintenance — no periodic discharge is     needed; there is no memory
  • Specialty cells can provide very high current to applications such as     power tools


  • Requires protection circuit to maintain voltage and current within     safe limits
  • Subject to aging, even if not in use — storage in a cool place at     40-percent charge reduces the aging effect
  • Expensive to manufacture — about 40-percent higher in cost than     nickel-cadmium
  • Not fully mature — metals and chemicals are changing on a continuing     basis

Look for These Features

The most important qualities to look for in a drill/driver are professional power, proper balance and a comfortable feel in-use. Today’s latest trend is cordless drill/driver combination tools.

When looking for such a tool you should consider the following:

Drill / driver mode selector — should be conveniently located on the drill and have automatic clutch control when switching modes

Motor speed selector — should allow for the changing of motor speed but not change the torque produced by the motor

Forward / reverse selector — should be easy to access

Electronically controlled clutch — superior to a mechanical clutch, it will reduce wear on motor and other movable parts

Soft, ergonomic grip — very important for operation over extended periods of time

Good ventilation — will help reduce premature battery and mechanical wear due to overheating

Intelligent electronics — will help with the monitoring of overheating, optimum lithium battery charging and discharging

Bit storage — look for slots that provide convenient access to your favorite driver bits

Don’t Go Cheap; What Experts Say

Be careful with the temptation of picking the cheapest drill on sale at your local tool supplier. Your drill will take a lot of punishment, especially when meeting the sometimes harsh demands of impact driver/drill action, so select carefully. Check warranties as many now provide three-year battery and normal wear coverage. With proper maintenance, dealers are reporting getting a good three years from lithium-ion batteries.

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About the Author


Bob is currently a Security Sales & Integration "Tech Talk" columnist and a contributing technical writer. Bob installed his first DIY home intercom system at the age of 13, and formally started his technology career as a Navy communication electronics technician during the Vietnam War. He then attended the Milwaukee School of Engineering and went on to complete a Security Management program at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Since 1976, Bob has served in a variety of technical, training and project management positions with organizations such ADT, Rollins, National Guardian, Lockheed Martin, American Alarm Supply, Sonitrol and Ingersoll Rand. Early in his career, Bob started and operated his own alarm dealership. He has also served as treasurer of the Wisconsin Burglar and Fire Alarm Association and on Security Industry Association (SIA) standards committees. Bob also provides media and training consulting to the security industry.

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