Tips for Using Electric Yard Tools
Father’s Day is this weekend and what better way to celebrate than to take a look at ways to improve on your existing toolset (children take note). We’ve used electric power tools for decades, and battery-powered garage tools are on the rise as a perfectly viable alternative to the traditional corded tools we’ve used. That said, yard tools have made huge strides in going all-electric with powerful cord and cordless varieties. A few years ago, Popular Mechanics magazine pitted gas power and battery-powered tools against each other, and showed surprising strengths for electric tools. If you’re thinking of upgrading and switching to quieter tools, keep the following in mind.
Best Practices for Cordless Tools
Just as with gas-powered tools, it’s all about fuel management. This is more important for electric cordless yard tools. Always make sure that you a fully charged battery or that you have a spare battery ready to go. While a gas-powered clipper or mower can just be refueled and started again, once your battery dies you’ll need to wait for a fresh charge so always keep a spare on hand.
Most electric tools use a DC motor. These motors are powerful and energy-efficient with very little initial torque slip. Once they start, they begin moving immediately without almost no torque ramp up to begin their work. Unfortunately, this makes us more likely to overexert the motor. Don’t force the motor to work too hard. Take things slowly and move in steps. Trying to make a cut too quickly or slice through large quantities of brush and foliage will drain your battery faster.
Recharge batteries properly to maintain their lifespan. Newer lithium cell batteries are designed to be recharged in as used, rather than all at once. Don’t drain your battery completely and then charge it back up to full as new programmable batteries are likely to have reduced capacity if reduced to zero charge. Instead, recharge after use and set them aside rather than leaving them in the charger at all times.
Best Practices for Corded Electric Tools
Cordless tools give you access to complete portability without having to worry about distance from an outlet or tripping over cords. Unfortunately, they also don’t provide some of the protections and power boosts you can get from traditional corded tools. As an electric motor is strained it pulls additional power to keep up with the increased demand. This drains the battery faster, reducing operating time. Traditional corded tools, on the other hand, can pull as much power as they need provided your home’s electric circuit can handle the power draw. To stay safe when using corded power tools always remember:
- Use GFCI Outlets - Whenever possible plug your power tools into a GFCI enabled outlet. This will protect you from shorts, faults, and excessive power draws that can lead to shock and injury. A GFCI socket will also protect your tools from damage, so it’s win-win.
- Avoid Extension Cords – Yes, when using outdoor tools an extension cord is almost mandatory. Just keep in mind that the longer your power cable is the more energy you’ll be drawing from the circuit. To help mitigate this problem, always use a low gage (thicker cable) wire. Outdoor tools should always use a weather proof utility extension cord (12-gage or lower) to help protect against fires and circuit breaker trips. Another way to reduce risks is to use a short cord. Always use the shortest cord you can safely get away with.
- Never Cross Your Cord – Always keep the power cord away from the business end of your power tools and don’t it get tangled up in your feet. Be aware of how much cord you have left and where it’s located to avoid tripping or entangling the cable.
Electric tools are a great gift when you buy quality tools and put in the effort to get the best out of them. While traditional gas-powered yard tools still provide some of the strongest and fastest equipment, an electric yard tool will reduce noise and fuel costs for your household while still giving you the power to keep an amazing lawn and yard.