Thanks to battery technology advancements, cordless tools pack more power, and new improvements are driving them to become more compact, as well. “The actual motor performance is getting better, and we have the ability to deliver more power out of a smaller motor,” says Shane Moll, Milwaukee's vice president of marketing for tools and equipment.

DeWalt's 18-volt hammer-drill runs on nickel cadmium.
DeWalt's 18-volt hammer-drill runs on nickel cadmium.

As well as freeing users from the limitations of cords, compact tools can be slipped conveniently into a toolbelt, freeing users' hands. Lighter weight also means workers exert less energy. “People are looking to get as much work done as easily as possible with little fatigue,” says Steve Jenson, a product manager for DeWalt. The maker's new 12-volt cordless nickel-cadmium impact driver weighs just 3.6 pounds and measures 5¾ inches long, but delivers 1,150 inch-pounds of torque. That's compared with the previous longer, heavier model, which provided 1,000 inch-pounds of torque.

Many compact tools are coming out on the 18-volt platform — the so-called “sweet spot” for professionals. Ridgid's compact cordless 18-volt lithium-ion drill/driver weighs 4¼ pounds and offers 455 inch-pounds of torque. This is just 5 inch-pounds less torque than the older nicad version, which weighed about a pound more. Makita's cordless lithium-ion drill/driver is lighter (3½ pounds), but still delivers 450 inch-pounds of torque. Makita's previous lithium-ion model was bigger and heavier, but it delivered 110 inch-pounds more torque.

Makita offers new drill/drivers powered by lithium-ion batteries.
Makita offers new drill/drivers powered by lithium-ion batteries.

Cordless impact drivers are also gaining popularity. With constant high-speed taps, they drive screws in without stripping the heads. “A lot of contractors have never used them before,” says Mike Sheriff, cordless product manager for TTI Professional Power Tools. “They're great for heavy screw-driving tasks.”

Bosch's impact drivers also show manufacturers trying out new voltages. Its 10.8-volt Litheon Impactor Fastening Driver, a lithium-ion tool that measures 6 inches tall and 6½ inches long, weighs 2.2 pounds and delivers 800 inch-pounds of torque. Nickel-cadmium impact drivers weigh almost twice as much, the maker says, adding that standard 18-volt drill/drivers are about 60% less powerful. Knowing that, and as technologies continue to advance, remodelers may find that a physically smaller tool arsenal could actually boost their power and productivity.

—Victoria Markovitz. This article originally ran in PROSALES magazine.