Cordless drills make home improvement work easier by eliminating cords and the constant search for outlets. However, the efficiency of these tools depends on their ability to retain a charge and the battery’s lifecycle.
A fully charged battery on a cordless drill lasts eight hours with a lifecycle of two to five years. According to manufacturers, these batteries should complete at least 1,000 charging cycles in their lifespan.
In the rest of this article, I’ll discuss the factors that affect the lifespan of cordless drill batteries. I’ll also cover the best practices to improve a cordless drill battery life. Let’s begin!
Factors That Affect the Lifespan of Cordless Drill Batteries
Why do you think the lifecycle of cordless drill batteries varies from two to five years?
Well, it narrows down to the following factors:
1. Battery Brand
Cordless drills use two main types of batteries:
- Nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd)
- Lithium-ion (Li-ion)
Let’s take a look at each type of battery and its lifespan.
2. Nickel-Cadmium (Ni-Cd) Batteries
Ni-Cd batteries were the first type of battery used in cordless drills.
They use nickel oxide hydroxide and metallic cadmium as electrodes.
The following are some facts that impact the lifespan of Ni-Cd batteries:
- According to Science Direct, Ni-Cd batteries self-discharge even when not in use. This means they gradually lose their charge even when stored in a cool, dry place.
- They have a high discharge rate in hot and low temperatures.
- Ni-Cd batteries are also susceptible to what is known as the memory effect. Thus, if you frequently use only part of the battery’s capacity, it “remembers” this reduced capacity and drains faster.
- Over time, Ni-Cd batteries develop dendrites. These are hair-like growths that form on the battery’s internal electrodes. Dendrites can cause a short circuit, which leads to reduced capacity and shortened lifespan.
However, Ni-Cd batteries have a longer lifespan due to their high energy density ranging between 50 and 75 WH/kg.
3. Lithium-Ion (Li-ion) Batteries
Li-ion batteries are the most common type of battery used in cordless drills.
They use lithium cobalt oxide and lithium manganese oxide as electrodes.
Li-ion batteries are more expensive than their Ni-Cd counterparts due to their ability to hold power longer.
Here are some facts about Li-ion batteries that impact their lifespan:
- Are not affected by the memory effect: Unlike their Ni-Cd counterparts, Li-ion batteries can retain their full capacity even after hundreds of charges as they are not affected by the memory effect.
- Do not self-discharge as quickly as Ni-Cd batteries: These batteries can stay for long without being used because they have a slow discharge rate.
- Are unsuitable in extreme temperatures: Li-ion batteries have a high discharge rate in extreme temperatures.
Although they have a shorter lifespan than Ni-Cd batteries, Li-ion batteries are a better choice for cordless drills because they hold their charge for longer and are not affected by the memory effect.
4. Usage Duration
The lifespan of a cordless drill battery is also affected by how long it’s used.
The following are some facts about usage duration and its impact on the lifespan of a cordless drill battery:
- If you consecutively use your cordless drill for more than five hours a day, the battery will have a shorter lifespan.
- Batteries that are frequently used tend to have a shorter lifespan than those used infrequently due to constant power discharge.
- Batteries that are not used at all will also have a shorter lifespan as they self-discharge over time.
5. Operating Temperature
Operating temperature refers to the temperature of the environment where the cordless drill is used.
The optimal operating temperature for most batteries is between 10 and 55°C (50 and 131°F).
Using your drill in temperatures within this range will help prolong its battery life.
Extremely cold temperatures slows the electrochemical reaction that sends power signals to the battery’s terminal end.
Consequently, the battery will not work as efficiently in the cold and will have a shorter lifespan.
On the other hand, extremely hot temperatures accelerate the chemical reactions inside the battery, causing it to degrade faster.
How To Improve Cordless Drill Battery Life
Improving your cordless drill’s battery lifecycle means you’ll be able to get the most out of your purchase.
Here are some tips to help you do that:
1. Keep the Battery Charged
Discharging your battery before storing reduces its capacity. This is due to the battery’s self-discharge rate.
It’s also not advisable to fully charge the battery when storing.
A fully charged battery stored for long enough will have a reduced capacity due to self-discharging.
Therefore, charging a battery to between 40 and 50% capacity is advisable before storing.
2. Practice Safe Battery Storage
Battery storage is an essential consideration if you want to extend its lifecycle.
Some safe battery storage practices include:
- Removing the battery: It’s advisable to remove the battery from the drill before storing it. This prevents damage to the battery terminals and self-discharging.
- Storing in a cool and dry place: Batteries should be stored in a cool and dry place to prevent degradation.
- Avoiding extreme temperatures: As discussed earlier, batteries should not be exposed to extreme temperatures as this accelerates degradation.
- Remove metals from the storage location: A metal can bridge the battery contacts and cause a short circuit. When this happens, it will lead to battery degradation, or worse, cause it to burst.
3. Do Not Overcharge
Overcharging a battery causes excessive gassing. In this case, oxygen and hydrogen are generated as the electrodes get hot.
The hydrogen gas is explosive, and if it builds up in the batteries, it can cause the battery to explode.
In other batteries, the electrodes cooks away, exposing the plates, which then causes the battery to swell.
A swollen battery will not work correctly and has a shorter lifespan.
4. Do Not Discharge the Battery Fully
According to Science ABC, discharging a battery from 100 to 0 percent reduces its capacity by 70 percent within a short time.
When a battery is fully discharged, it also sulfates.
Sulfation is the formation of lead sulfate on the battery’s lead plates.
The lead sulfate crystals are large and prevent the flow of electrons in the battery.
As a result, the battery will not work efficiently, reducing its lifespan.
A rule of thumb is to operate it within a range of 20 and 80% capacity. Such a range ensures that the battery is not overcharged or discharged fully.
The result will be a longer battery lifespan.
Cordless drill batteries can serve you well if you take care of them.
You should charge and discharge them within the recommended range, store them in a cool and dry place, and avoid extreme temperatures.
Cheers, tools owners!