The advent of lithium-ion batteries freed us from being tethered to the cord on jobsites, making our work so much easier. Long extension cords were no longer necessary, and carpenters today purchase two battery packs and a charger for their worksites. The portability and ease of movement on framing jobs, as an example, speed the job along.
In the home workshop, they are not as essential but are nonetheless convenient for moving about with your circular saw or power drill, the cordless power tools so often used by us all.
Lithium-ion batteries are a fairly recent technology that has become more common and popular than the previous nickel-cadmium battery technology. They are rechargeable and contain cells with a voltage of 1.2 volts, 1.5 volts, or 3.6 volts. Together, these cells are used to manufacture batteries between 3.6V and up to 48V.
Higher voltage generates greater torque. Tasks that require more torque require batteries with higher voltage. To put this in perspective, voltage ratings of between 4V and 8V are enough to power cordless screwdrivers; and power drills with between 12V and 18V will cover most simple homeowner tasks. Higher power tools for heavier work, voltages 20V and up, are available, but higher voltage means a larger and heavier battery.
There are many brands of power tools in all sizes and voltage needs, and as you would expect, there are an equal (if not greater) number of battery brands to choose from. All power tool manufacturers offer branded battery packs (but not the batteries) for their own power tools, too.
So, the question becomes must you use the branded battery for each power tool product? Will a Kobalt battery fit a DEWALT power tool? We’ll offer some thoughts.
Kobalt and DEWALT Brand Power Tools
- DEWALT brand power tools are well known in the industry with over 90 years of experience. They are highly rated tools, and their yellow and black color is easily recognizable on job sites and woodworking shops.
DEWALT also manufactures its own branded battery packs (but not the batteries) to fit their particular power tools. This is important to our discussion, as every brand’s battery packs are designed to fit their specific power tools.
- Kobalt is a relative newcomer in the power tool field, introduced in 1998 by Lowe’s, one of the two major big box outlets. Kobalt is manufactured by Lowes, as well. They are not as highly regarded in the industry as DEWALT and other more well-established and experienced brands and come in at the lower end of power tool price points.
Kobalt also manufactures its own branded battery packs (but not the batteries), and they are designed to fit their particular power tools. Kobalt batteries are, in a word, cheap (less expensive), sold at or near the cost to make. The young brand identity is still being established, and as the Kobalt name becomes better known and accepted in the marketplace, you can expect their prices to rise.
Power Tool Batteries
When it comes to power tool batteries, not all things are intuitive. Understanding power tool batteries and their uses and the interchangeability of charges and more should be its own piece for us. We’ll just run through a couple of points to illustrate what we mean, and we’ll use Kobalt batteries to make the points.
The Kobalt 80V battery pack is a beast in both size and power, lasts only a short time but charges quickly. With 30 minutes of power and 30 minutes to charge, you get to take a break from your work for coffee. However, not all Kobalt 80V batteries are interchangeable due to the size of the battery pack – the right battery pack for the right tool.
Kobalt also offers a 40V battery pack for its tools. Again, they are not all interchangeable among Kobalt tools because of the size of the pack. Kobalt’s 24V battery comes in various pack sizes, too.
How about charging these batteries? Well, this might interest you, too: you can charge a 20V battery with a 24V charger. As long as the charger offers a higher voltage than the battery, it will push energy into the battery.
Confused? There’s a lot to power tool batteries of all makes, models, and usage, far more than we’ll cover today. We simply wanted to give you a small glimpse into the subject of power tool batteries. We didn’t even touch on the amp hour (Ah) rating on batteries, a whole other subject. This is why it is wise to simply follow manufacturer recommendations on battery packs for their power tools and keep it in the family.
Now we get to the big question.
Do Kobalt Batteries Fit DEWALT Tools?
We’ve made the distinction now between battery power (voltage) and a battery’s physical size. Well, actually, the battery pack’s physical size. This is the important point to be made in answering this question.
Manufacturers make the battery packs. They also make the power tools that use those battery packs. So, of course, they ensure that the battery pack will fit the power tool well and tightly so as to deliver full power and be stable in its position.
Each of these two pieces, then, are made for each other – the pack and the tool assembly. There is no universal standard for battery pack sizes and the part of the tools they attach to when charged – the battery slot. Each manufacturer has its own design. While the battery packs tend to have the same voltage, they have their own slot sizes and configurations.
Kobalt batteries are made to fit Kobalt tools; DEWALT batteries are made to fit DEWALT tools. The short answer to the question is that Kobalt batteries do not fit DEWALT tools without modifications.
What are those modifications? Adapters are now available for power tool battery packs, making it possible to use one manufacturer’s battery pack with another manufacturer’s power tool. But should you use an adapter?
Batteries are made to communicate with power tools, especially with brushless motor-powered tools today. We’ve written about brushless and brushed motors before, and in fact, it was in a piece we wrote about Milwaukee batteries. You can find that article here.
Going one step further, that communication is a part of the voltage of the battery, meaning that a 20V battery is interchangeable within a manufacturer’s family of 20V power tools. Compatibility issues are possible when you step outside the manufacturer’s family of tools, though. The communication is not as tight.
You certainly do not want to use a higher voltage battery with a lower voltage power tool, also. The idea of a 20V battery pack on a 12V power tool is dangerous. A dead battery pack and a dead tool are of no use to you.
Thirdly, there is the issue of the power tool and battery’s warranty. If the battery and the tool are not communicating properly and the tool asks for too much power, it will run hotter than it was made to run and risk shortening the lifespan of the tool.
If a manufacturer suspects or learns you were using an adapter to rig a battery that was not the manufacturer’s make, good luck collecting on a warranty claim.
In the case of DEWALT, which manufacturers its own adapter, we have a slightly different issue. DEWALT’s adapter is made to allow the use of 20V Max batteries in most of their 18V tools. However, the adapter comes with a long list of exceptions, and their adapter does not work with its FlexVolt batteries.
The issue, then, goes beyond compatibility to include safety, peak performance, and warranty concerns. There are those who want to push the limits of their power tools, whether for cost-savings or other reasons, but there are substantial risks associated with that daring-do.
We recommend you not push the limits. Follow the manufacturer’s suggestions for their power tool, and battery pack uses. Stay safe, get a long life out of your tools and from your investments in them, and protect the warranties that come with them.