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Voltage Differences In Cordless Tools

Long-Lasting Power Tool Performance

Dewalt Cordless Tools
You may be a craftsman with questions about the batteries you use every day. You know there are several voltage differences in cordless tools, but may not fully understand the details. Here is a discussion from DEWALT about battery basics. Read about the differences between types of batteries and what to look for when you’re buying new cordless tools.

What Is Voltage?

A battery’s voltage tells you how much power the cell generates in ideal conditions. It signifies the maximum energy potential of a battery and serves as a necessity to produce an electric current.

What Is Current?

This industry calls battery’s power “voltage” and uses the term “current” to define the movement of power through a circuit.

Consider voltage and amp-hours when you research specific batteries and during cordless tool comparisons. Voltage measures the battery’s energy, and amperes measure current. Batteries with higher voltages work with more powerful cordless tools and provide the energy required for most high-torque applications. Some types of batteries lose voltage during discharge while others remain mainly stable.

What does AH Mean?

AH Ratings

Amp-hour (AH) ratings determine how fast a battery discharges. These ratings differ depending on manufacturer and application but work as general indicators when comparing similar products. Check the AH ratings when you need to compare different batteries. More intense applications will benefit from batteries with higher AH ratings, allowing for a longer duration with less often recharging.

For example, consider a cordless grinder that runs on 20V batteries. It runs on the same voltage batteries regardless of whether that battery advertises 3AH or 5AH, but a 20V battery with 5AH will allow you to use the cordless tool for significantly longer before it runs out of juice.

Cordless Tool Comparison

Understanding how battery voltage differences affect cordless tool performance will help you choose the right options. Tools with higher voltages may perform more effectively when used for heavy-duty applications, and they tend to come at a higher cost.

Modern Battery Types

There are three different types of batteries used in the best cordless tools:

Consumer-grade nickel-cadmium (NiCd) batteries

Consumer-grade nickel-cadmium (NiCd) batteries were among the first released into widespread usage. Modern nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries came later. Both of these battery technologies allow you to recharge between uses, and both come with similar benefits.

Some batteries should be discharged deeply before recharging. NiCd and NiMH batteries both allow users to use the full capacity of the battery without damaging future performance. NiCd batteries handle this especially well, and you can store them with no charge without losing efficiency. While many types of batteries lose their voltage as they discharge, NiMH batteries sustain their voltage over long periods of use. They also store energy more efficiently than NiCd batteries.

Lithium-ion (Li-Ion) batteries

Lithium-ion (Li-Ion) batteries came later than both NiCd and NiMH technologies. These batteries rely on a more formidable technology than the other models, and it quickly grew into widespread usage among the best cordless tools. This happened because Li-Ion batteries store energy with greater efficiently than NiCd and NiMH batteries. They don’t require power-cycling to sustain performance over time, and they discharge more slowly during storage.

Li-Ion batteries

Li-Ion batteries, like those used in the DEWALT® cordless combo kits, support the top rated cordless tools because of their efficient energy discharge and their high storage capacity. They don’t require the same maintenance as other batteries, and they can be recharged even after short periods of usage without damaging the cell’s performance.

Battery Voltage in Cordless Tools

Some cordless tools require more power than others. Tasks that use more torque need batteries with a higher voltage to complete the toughest jobs. For this reason, large cordless shears may require 20V batteries while measuring instruments may only require 12V cells for adequate performance. Battery voltage in cordless tools makes sense this way: the simpler the operation, the smaller the necessary energy supply. That’s why many craftsmen choose to use the 20V MAX* instead of the 12V battery for the toughest jobs: higher voltage can generate more torque.

You may notice some cordless rotary hammers and drills with lower voltages than average. The options at the lowest end of the spectrum often come with smaller motors than the tools with more powerful energy requirements. These often serve as household solutions, and may not offer enough power for industrial applications.

Standard Voltages for DEWALT Cordless Tools

20V MAX* Combo-Kits include various types of tools, and these tools can all work with the 20V MAX* battery. Regardless of the cordless tools included with the kit, these sets often come with power supplies that work with your other tools. When you have one DEWALT battery, you can use it to power any of your DEWALT cordless tools that share a voltage requirement. DEWALT’s 12V MAX* batteries work the same way; they just generate less voltage than the 20V MAX* batteries. They also weigh less. While the full-size 12V MAX* battery weighs about 1/2 pound, the compact 20V MAX* battery weighs more than 1-1/2 pounds.

Battery Discharge Rates in Cordless Tools

Dewalt Cordless Tools

Depending on the type of battery you use, you may notice a difference in discharge rate. Voltage differences in cordless tools don’t provide the only factor in performance time. While two different batteries may both have the same voltage description, one may discharge more slowly than the other. This primarily occurs because of variations in capacity, but it the age of the battery may also play a role.

Battery Storage Capacity Vs. Discharge Rate

While you can check the battery’s AH to compare batteries with similar voltages, the performance of your cordless tool depends on a number of other factors. A new cordless drill may operate with more vigor than one you have carried in your toolbox for years. While both drills share the same general specifications, the age of the older unit may affect the rate it discharges. The age of the battery matters as much as the place where you store your tools. Most battery technology does not account for extreme heat or cold without affecting performance, and different types of batteries require different methods of storage.

Both NiMH and NiCd batteries should be stored without any remaining charge on the battery. These types of battery use a memory system during their charge cycles, and they need a full charge from time to time. Li-Ion batteries don’t require a full discharge before you stow them. Instead, they work most effectively with more frequent charges. You can store them with a half-charge for best results. When you pull Li-Ion batteries out of storage, any top rated cordless tools should be able to use them again right away.

DEWALT Batteries

DEWALT MAX* Battery Packs

These battery packs use Li-Ion technology to store more energy without adding extra weight to cordless tools. They don’t discharge as quickly as other models and produce consistent levels of power even while you use them. These packs make a reliable option for those working in all sorts of conditions, including extreme cold. They come in several varieties, including all the most popular voltages differences in cordless tools.

DEWALT Battery Chargers

Single-Dock Charger

A single-dock battery charger acts as a simple solution for everyday tasks. If you have two batteries, you can leave one on the charger while the other powers your cordless tools. General charging stations often accept specific voltages of battery, so check for compatibility before making a purchase. Some DEWALT MAX* chargers accept various voltages, and you don’t need multiple chargers to accommodate voltage difference when you use them for your cordless tools.

Dual-Dock Charger

Similar to single-dock chargers, dual-dock battery chargers can charge batteries quickly. Instead of a single station for your backup battery, these chargers come with two docking stations. This design allows you to charge two cordless tools at once. This solution cuts down the time you need to charge multiple batteries, as you don’t need to wait for one battery to finish before you start charging the next.

Other Chargers

Dewalt Cordless Tools

Versatile battery chargers, including the DC9310 7.2V-18V NiCd/NiMH/Li-Ion Fast Charger, handle more than one type of battery. These chargers include all the technology you need when working with different batteries, so you don’t need to carry multiple chargers everywhere you go.

Cordless Tool Battery Care and FAQ

Do I charge a battery every night after work, or must I drain the energy entirely to ensure long-lasting battery performance?

Whether to drain a battery entirely depends on the type of battery technology you use. Older NiMH and NiCd batteries rely on a sort of memory to hold their charges. For these batteries, deeper discharges allow the batteries to sustain a larger energy capacity for longer periods of time. Modern Li-Ion batteries don’t have this sort of requirement. When you use a Lithium-ion battery to power your cordless tools, a shorter discharge time keeps the battery working as long as possible. You can charge these batteries after every session without damaging the unit’s performance. It should be noted that Li-Ion batteries should not be run until completely empty. These batteries should be recharged after you finish using them, regardless of how little energy discharged during the task.

Why should I use DEWALT batteries with my cordless tools?

DEWALT engineered top-quality batteries for use with all of their cordless tools. When you use these specially designed batteries, you get a reliable supply of energy that stores more energy on every charge.

Which type of battery works best?

Different situations call for different technologies. While NiCd batteries served as a preferable alternative to alkaline batteries for years, NiMH batteries surpassed their energy storage capacity. Li-Ion batteries provide higher storage capacities as well, and all three work as common solutions for those working with top rated cordless tools.

What are the benefits of lower voltages in cordless tools?

While a lower voltage means less overall power, it can also mean a lighter battery. Many home repair jobs don’t require the same amount of power as industrial projects, and some craftsmen may prefer these lightweight designs for everyday tasks. Higher voltages in a drill may provide more torque, but it also adds weight to the base of the tool. Those who want a lightweight solution may choose a lower voltage to reduce the weight of their cordless tools.

No matter which type of batteries you work with, voltage differences in cordless tools play a major role in overall performance. Higher voltages work in conjunction with more powerful motors to produce greater torque. As you shop for the best cordless tools, consider the battery voltage and AH to ensure optimum performance.


  • Vincent Keane

    June 3, 2017 at 12:05 pm

    I own a number of cordless battery de Walt tools, drills etc. I travel between the US and Australia. Australia has a 240 volt mains system while the US has 110 volt – it is OK to recharge US batteries on a 240 volt system?
    Many thanks,


    • Acme Tools

      June 5, 2017 at 7:50 am

      Hi Vincent, Thank you for your question. The input voltage to the charger will not affect your battery or their performance but you will need the correct charger or adapter to be able to use it on both voltages. If you travel between the United States and Australia often you may want to invest in 2 separate kits, one purchased in each country, that are designated for use in that country by the manufacturer.

      Thank you,
      Acme Tools

  • Terry

    August 6, 2017 at 1:01 am

    I am looking to buy new Dewalt XRP 18v DC9096 batteries. The original batteries are Ni- Cd but am I able to use Ni MH instead?
    Many Thanks

    • Acme Tools

      August 7, 2017 at 7:52 am

      Hello, Thank you for your comment. You would be able to use the DeWalt Post Style Ni-MH Batteries in your tools but you would need to purchase a new charger to charge the Ni-MH batteries. If you are interested in new battery technology you should look into using the 20V Max Li-Ion batteries on your 18V tools. They are much lighter and some offer longer run times than the DC9096 Ni-Cd and Ni-MH Batteries. You will need to purchase a new charger and the DCA1820 battery adapter or the DCA2203C Adaptor, Battery, Charger combo to make all of this work.

      The advantage of going the Li-Ion route is that you now have the latest technology on batteries and if something happens to your 18V tools you can replace them with the new 20V tools that DeWalt is producing.

      We hope this helps,
      Acme Tools

  • Chris

    September 22, 2017 at 5:37 pm

    I have two DEWALT 12V MAX Li-ion drivers. I was wondering if the newer 20V MAX batteries are compatible? If so, would they stay charged longer when in average use?

    Great article! Thank you!

    • Acme Tools

      September 25, 2017 at 9:09 am

      Hello, Thank you for your comment. The DeWalt 20V MAX batteries will not fit into a 12V MAX tool. If you would like to have longer run time on the 12V MAX tools you would have to use DeWalt 12V MAX batteries that have a higher Amp Hour rating than the ones you currently have. The Amp Hour rating is easiest explained as a gas tank for the battery. The larger the gas tank (Amp Hour rating) the longer the battery can run.

      Thank you,
      Acme Tools

    • Acme Tools

      October 3, 2017 at 8:24 am

      Hi Jim, Thank you for your comment. The 12/20 refers to the charger only. It will charge BOTH the DeWalt 12V Max and 20V Max batteries. The drill you purchased will only work on 1 of the 2 voltages and it would be specified on the model number tag that is on the side of the tool.

      Thank you,
      Acme Tools

    • Acme Tools

      October 24, 2017 at 8:03 am

      Hello, Thank you for your comment. A higher voltage tool will not necessarily drain a battery quicker. It may seem that a higher voltage tool will drain a battery quicker but it is usually due to the kind of work being done. Users of higher voltage tools will put those tools in high demand situations more often than tools of lower voltages.

      Thank you,
      Acme Tools

  • Ramon

    October 30, 2017 at 2:43 pm

    One of my 18v Dewalt Drill batteries has started showing a weakness and I intend to replace the internal rechargeable batteries. If I can replace the internal batteries with a higher voltage say, 20v with a possible 5ah, will it damage my 18v Dewalt Drill itself?

    My point on this question is, ” being able to operate my 18v rated power tool using a slightly higher voltage capacity battery” without damaging it.

    Please advise!

    • Acme Tools

      October 30, 2017 at 5:43 pm

      Hello, Thank you for contacting Acme Tools. Although this sounds like a good idea it is not possible. Cordless tool battery cells, like the ones in your 18V battery, cannot be added in a way to provide 20V. In actuality the DeWalt 20V Max batteries provide 20V for a fraction of a second and then they consistently put out 18V. This is noted by an * on all DeWalt 20V Max batteries and tools. If you were able to provide more than 18V to your tool you would damage the electronics and motor of the tool, they are calibrated to operate on 18 volts DC.

      Thank you,
      Acme Tools

      • Ramon

        November 1, 2017 at 10:09 am

        Thank you so much for that valuable information. I will then settle replacing the internal weak batteries with the same voltage and will not damage my drill.

  • Laith

    November 5, 2017 at 11:42 am

    The power supply is different between countries, For Example USA and UK 110/60Hz , 220/50Hz.
    My question is:
    Dewalt made different change on things (tool , battery and charger).
    Only charger?
    Because I can see same part number on the both market and when I read the reviews they say only 110 on USA review market and only 220v on UK review market.
    And honestly the price difference is huge.
    So if it’s compatible I will buy only the charger from local market.

    Please advice and thanks.

    • Acme Tools

      November 6, 2017 at 9:17 am

      Hello, Thank you for your comment. Acme Tools only carries the tools designed for sale in the US market so we cannot fully answer your question. We suggest contacting DeWalt US and UK directly. To the best of our knowledge the difference is in the charger. The batteries may be rated at different voltages but the UK does not allow DeWalt to rate their batteries like the US does. For example, the UK has a 54V battery and in the US we have a 60V tool. The battery is actually a 54V battery but for a fraction of a second it puts out 60V so they can rate it that way.

      Thank you,
      Acme Tools


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