A few weeks ago we wrote about how Kevin helped a customer at the Home Depot find the right bit to drill a hole in ceramic tile. As often happens, the answer raised another question from one of our readers, Dave, who wrote:
"Since you mentioned drill-buying in this week’s column, do you think a Makita 12-volt cordless drill would handle most small to medium home projects? Is going up to 14.4 volts excessive for occasional use?"
With Father’s Day on the horizon, Dave’s question led us to consider the place the cordless drill might have in Dad’s home toolbox. From our perspective, there are certain tools that every homeowner should have. A medium-weight hammer (16 ounces), a combination screwdriver with Phillips and flat-head bits, a crescent wrench, a pipe wrench and a tape measure are all must-haves.
As for power tools, if we were limited to just one, the choice would be a cordless drill.
The cordless drill motor is the quintessential multitasker. Depending on the attachment, it can be a screwdriver, a drill or a paint mixer. Cordless drills are convenient and simple to operate. They are also relatively inexpensive.
To answer Dave’s question, the 12-volt Makita will do just fine for most small to medium projects. Although 14.4 volts is not excessive, it’s likely to cost more and be a bit heavier. Whichever way Dave goes, the drill he chooses should be equipped with variable speeds and a keyless chuck.
Bill recently purchased a cordless drill. Our brother, Bryan did, too, and Kevin’s been thinking about it. In choosing which one to buy, consider the intended use, the frequency of use, the weight of the tool and the cost. Bill found a 14.4-volt Craftsman that came with two batteries and a charger on sale for about $50. Bryan went for a 12-volt DeWalt, also with a spare battery and charger. He paid around $130. Who got the best deal? Only time will tell. Kevin will probably just get a new battery for his 9.6-volt Makita. It’s served him well over the years and has enough power for what he wants to do. And that’s the bottom line.
Most professionals go for more power. That usually means a minimum of 18 volts. Pros use their tools daily and demand performance and consistency. The price tag for the professional models is upward of $180 — a bit pricey for home use, in our view. The weekend warrior doesn’t require that much horsepower; 10 to 14.4 volts should do just fine.
As a general rule, the more volts in the battery, the heavier the tool. A little weight may not seem like much, but if you heft it about for any length of time, it can tire you out. The best way to choose a cordless drill is to test-drive several. Go to the home center and hold them. Try to imagine working overhead or in a tight place. Will it be comfortable?
Also, consider the new, lightweight batteries. Drills with lithium ion batteries are much lighter than drills equipped with their nickel cadmium cousins. Kevin recently test-drove the 10.8-volt Pocket Driver by Bosch. Its lightness and short profile make it easy to manipulate in tight spaces. The drill, with two batteries and a charger, retails for around $130.
The Pocket Driver seemed a tad underpowered, although it drove a 3-inch deck screw.
Bottom line: When shopping for a cordless drill, consider the frequency and the ease of use and weigh that against the cost. Variable speed, a keyless chuck and an extra battery are musts.
On a different note, last week we answered a question from a reader who replaced the fluorescent lighting in her kitchen with three recessed cans. She complained of not enough light after the remodel. We suggested that she consider more cans and/or track lighting for general and task lighting to make her kitchen more comfortable.
While, as one reader put it, Kevin can do anything he wants to at his home in Idaho, it’s a different story in well-regulated California. This type of remodel is governed by Title 24, Part 6 of the California Code of Regulations, which allows the California Energy Commission to promulgate energy-efficiency standards. For kitchens, Title 24 mandates that at least half of the installed wattage in kitchen lighting fixtures must be high-efficiency, and the ones that are not must be switched separately.
For a more detailed overview, look at an excerpt from the "2005 Residential Compliance Manual" available at: www.energy.ca.gov/2005publications/CEC-400-2005-005/chapters_4q/6_Lighting.pdf.
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