Which is best? 18V or 12V?

What do you think of the performance of 18V power tools over 12V tools – is there any justification for electronic security techs to switch?

A: I’m going to assume we are talking about Li-ion tools here. There’s no doubt that good 18V tools are now approaching the capability of mains powered tools and we are seeing techs preferring 18V cordless gear over everything else. It’s not surprising that as battery technology has improved the need to use corded tools is falling away. Obviously, there are some tools that have monster wattages you can only drive from mains.

Do you need to trade up? It depends on the work you do and whether you are finding the 12V gear is not working as well as you need it to. Modern Li-ion 12V tools are much better than the NiMi powered tools of the past. They can work harder for much longer and they charge much faster. Obviously, 18V has more power and torque than 12V, which is great if you need it. An 18V tool handles loads and stresses that a 12V will not. This decision is not either/or. For some techs, having 12V and 18V options will make perfect sense.

Other considerations include weight – if you do a lot of work over your head the difference in weight might be the deciding factor. There’s also a size difference between 18V and 12V – the 12V tools are smaller, which is great for getting into tight spaces. And 12V Li-ion will charge faster than 18V – in some cases a lot faster. Some of the 18V gear we have seen is packing 6A or even 9A batteries, which is great for grunt and longevity but it’s going to seriously test your deltoids. It’s also going to add more weight to every step you take from van to job and back.

Another factor is going to be cost. As soon as you start comparing prices you can see 18V costs at least 30 per cent more. That’s worth paying if you need the extra performance. But do you need it? Consider the speed of a tool’s operation. How fast do you need it to be for precision security work? Sure, 18V will work like mad, but it’s not that often you want to throw yourself at a task with no finesse. External metal, brick and Besser maybe, but rarely with timber or plaster.

It’s worth borrowing an 18V tools and using it to assess your work style. Are you always going at 1000 miles an hour, or are you only ever using 20 per cent of the available power in order to keep control of the work?