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Choosing the right power tools

Date posted: 3 August 2015

Most power tools offer a less labour-intensive and more efficient means of carrying out practical tasks at home or in a trade environment – but with such a vast choice on the market, how do you know which products to hire or buy?

Most manual tools have a powered equivalent that is designed to do the same job as – if not more – effectively, as well as more quickly and demanding less physical exertion.

If you do not have the knowledge of an experienced trade professional who works with power tools every day, this list of some key considerations offers a good starting point for choosing appropriate equipment – helping you to work safely and achieve the results you are hoping for.

Using the right tools for the job

Perhaps the most important consideration is whether the power tool is it fit for purpose. Whether you are a DIY enthusiast at home, a self-builder or a construction site manager, you will need a range of quality, all-purpose tools, some of which may need to be powered. If you are carrying out a one-off or infrequent task, however, you will need to think carefully about investing in tools – and often it may be more financially viable to hire rather than buy. The majority of injuries relating to power tool use are caused by people using them to carry out tasks for which they were not designed. Whether you hire or buy, make sure that you choose tools that are suitable for the job, and always follow the manufacturer's safety guidance.

Putting in place a practical power source

Tools can be powered in many different ways, including by mains electricity, battery, petrol, gas, and compressed air. Most self-builders employ a combination of corded and battery-operated power tools – with corded tools traditionally offering superior power, and cordless battery tools offering greater versatility thanks to their portability.

If your site has no mains electricity you will need to get a generator or look at alternatives such as battery or petrol-drive equipment. Remember that the greater the power of a tool the heavier it is likely to be, and sometimes this weight can cause operator fatigue. And if you do decide to hire or buy a generator, check how many and what type of tools you will be able to run off it simultaneously.

Understanding batteries

When you are choosing battery-powered tools it is well worth understanding the pros and cons of each type.

  • Nickel Cadmium (NiCad) is considered the original battery choice, but they lose their charge if they are not used. Compared with more modern equivalents they also tend to be big and heavy. On the other hand, they can be comparatively cheap, can be used in even extreme temperatures, and can be recharged many, many times.
  • Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) is lighter than NiCad and offers two to three times the capacity – delivering longer running times before requiring a recharge. On the other hand they are very temperature sensitive so are not well-suited to work in extremes, and have a far shorter recharge life than NiCad.
  • Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) has become the standard choice for most portable power tools today. These batteries are smaller, lighter and more compact than the others, yet are more powerful and hold their charge for longer – with no battery memory, and no self-discharge. Electronic Cell Protection (ECP) provides longer service life.  

DIY versus professional level tools

Think about what you are going to use the tool for, and how much you will be using it. Many well-known brands target both DIY amateurs and professionals with two ranges. DIY tools will probably suffice for light, occasional use at home or on projects. Professional tools, however, are far more robust thanks to higher specifications and a higher quality build. They aim to offer  a longer life because they are specifically designed for continuous use, and if you are tackling heavy duty jobs or will be using them a lot they are well worth the investment.

Choosing a brand

For site work it will rarely be cost-effective in the long term to buy a cheap product rather than invest in a well-known brand. Do some research, read customer reviews and, if you can afford it, opt for major brands such as Bosch which continuously invest a great deal in research and development.

You may find that the cheap and big brand tools sit side by side in a store – and it's tempting to think there is little difference. Often the more expensive version will have a higher build quality, however, and will offer greater user comfort and control; save you more labour time; have a longer life; and achieve more professional results. Motors are particularly prone to failing in cheaper tools.

Should you hire or buy?

When you are deciding whether to hire or buy equipment, think about how often you will use the tool, and whether it is for a heavy duty or light duty application.

If you need a heavy duty tool for a one-off task, for example, you are going to need something of a professional standard – yet you are unlikely to get your money's worth if you buy a tool designed for such purposes, so it is worth looking into the costs of hiring instead. Remember that if you hire you will not need to worry about ongoing maintenance demands or storage overheads in between jobs, and that you will probably have access to the latest products every time.

If you choose to hire your power tools Best at hire have a huge range from popular brands including Makita, Ryobi and Bosch. Call our team today for free expert advice.

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