Corded or Cordless, Which is More Green

We get a lot of woodworking-related questions from readers. Most deal with articles published in recent issues of Popular Woodworking and Woodworking Magazine. But often, we’ll be asked about projects from old issues , some from as far back as the early 1990s. And sometimes, we’ll receive ideas for future articles and other worthy matters.

This past month I received a question about power tools, specifically drills. It seems that new drills, whether it’s a drill driver, impact driver, compact driver or some other type of driver, are constantly being improved upon and released by manufacturers. The latest drill improvement is in battery power, moving from Nickel-cadmium and Nickel-Metal hydride to Lithium-ion power packs. Many drills feature 18-volt Lithium-ion batteries, but it’s not uncommon to see 24v or 36v batteries stoking hand tools.

With all the focus in today’s world on being “green,” one reader wondered if a battery-powered drill or an old-fashioned corded drill was better for our planet , which power source uses less energy. Put another way, it takes a certain amount of energy to charge a battery. That battery can, for the sake of discussion, drive 100 screws. If you then drove 100 identical screws using a corded drill, would you use more or less energy than it took to charge the battery?  

Interesting question , and something I couldn’t answer, but I knew where to turn. I contacted Bryan Wright of Strata-G Communications (the company represents Bosch Power Tools.) He sent the question to Edwin Bender at Bosch , he’s the group product manager for cordless tools.

Bender says that every application or operation requires a certain amount of power, measured in watts. And if you could hold all other variables constant, corded and cordless drills use roughly the same power.

According to Bender, “If you dig deeper and want to split hairs, a corded tool should typically be a little more efficient and therefore use less energy because it works off a higher voltage (120v or 220v) than cordless (12v-36v).” He goes on to say, “If you hold the power constant (for one application) then a lower voltage means you draw more current.”

Bottom line: It’s nearly impossible to hold the variables constant and any variations would be so small that a simple answer is that both cordless and corded tools consume almost the same amount power. So using Lithium-ion power sources does not hurt the earth any more than a corded tool , just dispose of any old batteries properly. That doesn’t mean in a landfill.

Now, here’s my question for you. Do you prefer to use cordless or corded tools? Do you find situations where it’s best to use both? Leave a comment to let us know.

, Glen D. Huey

21 thoughts on “Corded or Cordless, Which is More Green

  1. Alan

    As a Master Auto Mechanic and a beginner woodworker, I use power tools and hand tools every day under extreme conditions.
    For all of the work I do I have found that as long as I have enough power to complete the task (sometimes only pneumatic tools work on cars), it is ALWAYS BETTER to have no cord or air line attached to any power tool. This also speaks to my preference for hand tools for both my work and woodworking.
    I read somewhere recently: "anything with a cord eventually ends up in the trash…" So– go small & nimble, powerful and CORDLESS whether you can go without power or not.
    Don’t forget to shop around… the power in cordless tools IS out there. I even have a cordless impact that will do lug nuts…

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