Tom Lohr lived in the Schleswig-Holstein region of Germany for 4 years while participating in a military exchange program.
Welcome to the Future
Whether you are an avid Do-It-Yourself fan or a homeowner who prefers to hire out big projects, you will eventually need some sort of tool. In the 21st century, advanced battery technology has rendered corded tools a relic of the past. While your plug-in arsenal of tools can still tackle the tasks they were designed for, their cords, and the extension cord you will inevitably need, are extremely inconvenient. Not to mention that they are connected to a power source that, not properly used, could kill you.
If you have not already made the switch to owning strictly cordless tools, you will be pleasantly surprised by how far they have advanced. Lithium batteries have replaced the Nickel-Cadmium version that was prone to failure and lacked in staying power. Lithium provides the power and endurance that Ni-Cad lacked. The current crop of cordless implements is also lighter and quieter.
You Don't Need Your Own TV Show to Do Have Awesome Tools
Regardless of your DIY skill level, there are three battery-powered tools that will make your life easier and more efficient. The good news is there are a slew of manufacturers and types of tools to choose from. In fact, there are so many it can become confusing on which to buy. You don't have to have your own workshop to enjoy the benefits that cordless tools can afford you. There are three that should be at least in your closet.
Of the manufacturers of cordless power tools, and there are many, for the average Joe to boils down to two brands: Kolbat and Ryobi, each is carried in a big box home improvement store. Kobalt is the brand carried by Lowes and Ryobi calls Home Depot home. There are higher rated, sturdier, and more professional brands, but either Kobalt or Ryobi will serve the typical homeowner well. Personally, I use Ryobi for four reasons.
- Ryobi and Kolbat are the most affordable cordless tools. They often undeservedly receive disdain from contractors and other professional builders and craftsmen. If you make a living using cordless tools, then by all means choose a brand you feel meets your standards.
- Selection. Ryobi has the largest array of cordless tools available. And they keep adding new ones. Their selection is so vast they sell some cordless tools that I have no idea what they are used for.
- Availability. There is a Home Depot close to you. Trust me on this. They are everywhere.
- Color. That might seem trivial, but with each home project I will, without fail, misplace the tool I am using. The primary color for Ryobi tools is neon green, making them easy to spot.
The Holy Trinity of Cordless Tools
Regardless of the brand you pick, once you have chosen stick with that brand as long as you are satisfied with it. Batteries are not compatible between brands. Having two or more battery systems will be confusing and expensive. Here are the cordless tools every home needs for general use:
This might seem like a no-brainer, but if are going to have only one power tool in your house, a cordless drill will be the most useful. Not only can you drill holes with it, using different attachments, but you can also drive screws and bolts. When you buy something that says “some assembly required” you will be glad to have one.
Dual Function Inflator
Back in the day, nearly every gas station had an air hose for motorists to use to inflate their tires. That was back when they were called service stations. Now, if you are lucky enough to find an air hose at a gas station, you will have to put quarters in it to use it, if it is working at all, which usually it is not. Even if you bought your tires at a dealer that offers free inflation, you will still have to drive it to their shop and wait until they can get around to servicing your vehicle. On the first cold day of fall, everyone who didn't maintain their tire pressure during the summer (which is nearly everyone) will have the low tire pressure light illuminate on their dashboard. If your tire dealer is slow getting around to inflating your tires, imagine how long it will take if he gets swamped by everyone else that got that warning light.
The Ryobi inflator allows you to easily inflate your own tires and get rid of that pesky yellow light you have been worrying about. It has an easy attachment for hookup to the tire valve, and a digital pressure readout. After hookup, if that tire is low, you can enter the desired pressure on the inflator's keypad and it will begin pumping air into the needy tire. When it reaches the target pressure, it automatically shuts off. Not only is it a huge time saver, it would be wise to carry it in your car; flat tires can happen anywhere.
Another function of the inflator is it has a hose that can be used to inflate air beds, pool floats, exercise balls, and anything else that needs to be inflated manually.
Even if you don't have a workshop, a wet/dry vac will clean up messes that your normal vacuum can't handle. It is made for large volumes of debris, and if you have ever swept your own chimney, it can make a messy job bearable. The real beauty of a wet/dry is that it can also be used to suck up water. If you have a leaky basement, this vacuum is a must. It can also be used to suck out the water of a clogged sink or take care of any other standing water issues.
The downside of wet/dry is their size. Most are big and take up a lot of storage space. They are also ungainly to handle. Add that to it being tethered to a power cord and using one can be an unpleasant experience. Plus, I always feel a little uneasy sucking up water with a device that is plugged into a power outlet.
Ryobi makes two cordless wet/dry vacs. They offer a six-gallon and a three-gallon version. While the six-gallon version is fine, the three-gallon type is easy to carry around. Its portability makes it a must-have in your cordless arsenal because it is only a matter of time before you have a water issue in your home. Being able to quickly remove the water can limit the damage.
I own all three of the above tools (and many more), but this trio will satisfy the majority of your power tool needs. If you are still not sure about trading in your corded tools for battery-powered versions, just remember how transformative it was to switch from a telephone that had to be connected to the wall versus your wireless device. While cordless power tools won't have as much of an impact on your life as a cellphone, they will make it more convenient. Plus, tools with cords are so last century.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
John Dove on September 16, 2019:
I too am a satisfied user of Ryobi. My go-to too is the tire inflator, there in my trunk whenever needed.
All the best.
Larry Slawson from North Carolina on March 16, 2019:
Totally agree with your three choices! I have used each of these tools on numerous occasions at my house!