Choose Right, Be Safe When Selecting Batteries for Your Power Tools

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Knockoff power sources and third-party adapters for tools may cause performance and injury risks.

A power tool is only as good as its battery. And the only battery you should be using with your power tool is the one made by the tool’s original manufacturer. Each manufacturer’s batteries are designed and rigorously tested to operate safely within their particular power tool system, which consists of three main components: the manufacturer’s battery pack, power tool, and charger.

Power tool battery packs contain very high amounts of stored energy. To make sure this energy is discharged efficiently and safely during operation of the tool, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) finely calibrate the three components of the power tool system. This helps ensure all three components are working together and at peak efficiency.

Because each system is unique, the electronics can exist in different parts of the system, depending on the manufacturer. They might be entirely in the battery, in the power tool, and/or battery charger. The electronics also may be split amongst the various system components that they are designed and intended to be used in.

This is why removing the OEM battery and its charger from the equation and using a substitute power source can be so dangerous. The substitute will not contain the proper electronics.

Any lithium-ion battery that is not designed intentionally to work properly with a specific tool and charger system poses a risk of bursting, which can cause a fire or explosion, resulting in personal injury and/or property damage. Other risks include poor performance, shorter battery life, damage to the tool and charger, and voiding a tool’s warranty.

These issues can be caused by knockoff batteries or counterfeit batteries, as well as a newer device, a so-called adapter, which purports to allow power tool battery packs from one manufacturer to be used with another manufacturer’s power tools. Each comes with its own set of potential problems.

Knockoff/counterfeit batteries and chargers are fakes or unauthorized replicas of the real product, marketed as being compatible with brand-name tools. They are made to take advantage of the superior value and trademark of the imitated product. Counterfeit goods generally are made from lower-quality components. They also are not certified by any recognized lab, even though they may bear a fraudulent UL or CSA sticker. These knockoff/counterfeit batteries and chargers often carry a CE mark to appear as a genuine OEM product.

It takes more time, effort, and cost to design, test, and list a complete power tool system across an entire product portfolio. Lower-cost knockoff batteries and counterfeit batteries are not designed or tested for compatibility and have not been manufactured to the same standards as OEM batteries.

Photo courtesy of NWFA

Regarding adapters, while on the surface they seem like handy devices, they also can cause unintended and potentially dangerous consequences, including overheating and even fires. The use of a battery adapter may not allow the power tool to properly communicate with the battery, which may not allow it to appropriately protect the battery during discharge. The risks easily outweigh any advertised benefits.

Unfortunately, it’s becoming easier to find and purchase knockoff batteries, counterfeit batteries, chargers, and battery adapters. Large e-commerce sites have them available without monitoring resellers to ensure products being sold are legitimate. Consumers are confused by claims of the suitability of these batteries and lured by the lower cost. Such a discount is achievable only through the use of lower-quality materials, poor design, and shoddy manufacturing.

Many trade associations and legitimate manufacturers are working hard to support legislation against counterfeit products being sold online. The Power Tool Institute supports legislation to help keep consumers safe.

Until laws protecting consumers are enacted, it is up to individual power tool users to protect themselves. Before purchasing a non-OEM battery or charger, users should be sure to consider all the factors, not just price. Purchasing a battery or charger online from an unknown seller without having any verification of the seller’s qualifications or experience, or of the battery’s construction or testing or certification, can leave users with an unsatisfying – and potentially dangerous – experience.

For more information on the safe selection, use and disposal of lithium-ion batteries for power tools, visit TAKECHARGEOFYOURBATTERY.COM.

Purchasing directly from an OEM or authorized dealer helps to ensure a consumer is not purchasing a counterfeit product. Remember, if the price sounds too good to be true, it
probably is.

Susan Orenga is with the Power Tool Institute (PTI). Since its founding in 1968, the PTI has established itself as the leading organization for building global understanding of power tools and for maintaining high standards of safety in the industry. Its members represent market-leading brands in the areas of portable and stationary power tools. For more information, visit powertoolinstitute.com.

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