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Electric screwdriver buying guide

Guide written by:
Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter

177 guides
A handy companion to a drill or combi-drill, electric screwdrivers are especially useful for assembling flat-pack furniture. They can be used with any type of bit (Phillips, Torx, Pozidriv, etc.), but you'll need a battery with a high Ah rating for extended use. Read on to find the right electric screwdriver for you!

Important features

  • Voltage
  • Rotation speed
  • Amp/hour rating

How to choose an electric screwdriver: the basics

Occasional use


If you're only planning on assembling five pieces of furniture in the space of a year, then an entry-level 3.6 V electric screwdriver with at least 1 Ah and 3 Nm will do the job. Choose a compact, lightweight model for ease of use and comfort.

Regular use

If you plan on assembling a number of pieces of furniture every week, then go for a well-known brand and choose a model with high voltage and Ah ratings. Go for 3.6 to 4 V and a tightening torque of 5 Nm if you don't require much tightening force, and 7.2 V and at least 10-15 Nm for higher tightening force. Bear in mind, however, that in the latter case, a professional drill driver is probably better suited to your needs. 1.5 Ah is the minimum recommended battery capacity (most common value). This will ensure you can work for longer and will give your electric screwdriver higher tightening force and a bit more pep!

Limits of electric screwdrivers

  • Be careful not to confuse an electric screwdriver with a drill driver or combi-drill: the latter are multi-purpose power tools whereas electric screwdrivers are specifically designed for assembling flat-pack furniture and for low-torque tightening.
  • If you need a tool with a longer battery life and higher torque, look for an drill driver. A drill driver is a hand-held power tool which is somewhere between an electric screwdriver and a drill. It offers higher torque than the average electric screwdriver.
  • Please note that an electric screwdriver is not the same thing as an drill driver. The key point to remember is that drill drivers are pistol-shaped and can exert a torque of at least 5 Nm.



Screwdriver bits for electric screwdrivers


Screwdriver bit quality: an overview

Alloy

Quality

Price

Chromium-vanadium steel

**

££

Titanium

***

£££

Diamond

***

£££


It's worth noting that the proportion of titanium varies between manufacturers – which affects the quality of the bit – and that diamond bits have better grip. For professional use, select screwdriver bits according to defined standards. Find out more about screwdriver bits.

When is an electric screwdriver better than a drill?



If you only want a tool for assembling furniture and don't require much tightening force, then an electric screwdriver is what you need!
Small and compact, these tools allow for precise fastening and can even be used in tight corners, such as inside drawers. If you're moving house and have half a dozen items of Swedish furniture to assemble, break open the piggy bank and invest in this mini hand-held power tool! Don't bother with a drill driver or combi-drill in this case: the weight and features of these tools are not designed for this type of job.

Advantages of electric screwdrivers

If we haven't convinced you yet, here are some more advantages offered by electric screwdrivers:

  • Adjustable head so you can twist the tool instead of your wrist;
  • Straight handle or pistol handle (or even both on some models);
  • Average weight of 450 grams;
  • Ultra-fast recharging;
  • Torque adjustment settings;
  • LED lighting for better control and visibility.

Electric screwdrivers: voltage, rotation speed, amperage and lithium-ion battery

Choosing the right electric screwdriver is simple. Just focus on the following criteria and you won't go wrong!

Voltage

90% of electric screwdrivers have a voltage of 3.6 V, so that should make your job easier when deciding on what model to buy (the remaining 10% range from 4 to 7 Volts).

Rotation speed

Between 200 and 600 rpm without load, the rotation speed of an electric screwdriver is a carefully calculated balance between voltage and reduction ratio.

Ampere hours and battery life

In short, the ampere hour (Ah) rating of your electric screwdriver will have a direct impact on the tool's battery life. The higher the rating, the longer the battery will last.


Li-ion batteries

Most electric screwdrivers have lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries. This type of battery is quick to recharge, lightweight and has no memory effect. Nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) batteries, which are large, heavy and do exhibit a memory effect, are rarely used for electric screwdrivers. All batteries must be recharged using an appropriate charging device.

Electric screwdriver: how much torque do you need?


Put simply, torque is the tightening force: the higher the value, the higher the tightening force.

Torque is expressed in Newton metres (Nm). Most electric screwdrivers have torque values ranging from 3 to 5 Nm, with some top-of-the-range models offering up to 20 Nm. Impact drivers (hand-held power tools which are somewhere between an electric screwdriver and a drill/combi-drill) have torque values of 30 Nm or even higher.

A higher torque will make the screwdriver easier to use and allows you to drive screws into even the hardest of surfaces!

You can adjust the torque of electric screwdrivers to adapt the tightening force to the material you are working with.

Electric screwdrivers: additional options and features



Electric screwdrivers can offer other useful features and/or options, such as:

  • LED lighting: handy when you need to use your screwdriver in dark corners; 
  • An adjustable head for easier access to screws in tight spaces;
  • Two batteries so you always have a spare on hand;
  • A high no-load speed: measured in revolutions per minute (rpm);
  • A storage bag or case to stop you from misplacing accessories;
  • A lanyard or belt clip;
  • A low weight.

If you need more than that, look for a drill driver instead.

Warranty and after-sales support

As for all power tools, choosing a brand-name tool means you have the assurance of good after-sales support.

Most manufacturers also offer a 1- to 2-year warranty.
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Guide written by:

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter 177 guides écrits

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter

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Fit together, build the walls, paint a partition, throw my hammer in a rage thinking that it will fix the problem? Check.

The DIY motto ? Learning is better than delegating… well, it's also a question about your wallet! The satisfaction? The beer at the end of the job!
What do the best have in common? The influence of Gyro Gearloose, Mac Gyver and Carol Smiley depending on your generation, a good dose of curiosity, a average hand-eye coordination and a taste for risks… and if it doesn't work, try again! Advise you? I'll do my best!

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