Buyer Beware: Counterfeit and Knock-Off Batteries Pose Grave Risk
When you get a new power tool, you will eventually be in the market for primary, spare, or backup batteries to ensure future projects receive the power needed to get the job done.
Getting a battery sounds easy enough, right? But there are some things to keep in mind when shopping for a battery for your power tool. Choose wisely. The Power Tool Institute’s advice is to only buy original equipment manufacturer (OEM) batteries. In other words, batteries manufactured by the manufacturer of your tool. Be wary of counterfeit and knock-off batteries.
Not All Batteries Are Created Equal
Like most consumers, you will likely begin your search by noting the model number of your existing battery as well as the precise make and model of your tool. Then you’ll start searching. What you will find is an amazing variety of options and some with similar colors and markings to the tool manufacturer’s original equipment battery. You have many choices when it comes to buying batteries, but they are not all created equal. Before buying there are some things to be aware of:
- Why buy OEM? Because the consequences of doing otherwise can be very dangerous. An OEM battery is designed for seamless compatibility with your power tool and charger, and has undergone rigorous testing to back it up. Reputable OEMs have their products listed by an independent certification lab, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or Canadian Standards Association (CSA). They test and evaluate each system (tool, battery, and charger) for compliance with internationally accepted safety standards. These standards evaluate the total system to ensure they work together properly to monitor and control critical functions, such as cell balance, energy levels, flow of energy in and out, and temperatures.
So, what are the consequences of choosing cheap counterfeits or knock-offs? At best, users run the risk of poor performance and shorter tool life. The battery can also overheat, causing complete failure. Even worse, the battery might burst, causing a fire or explosion resulting in personal injury and/or property damage. Batteries can also catch fire on the charger when cell temperatures aren’t being properly monitored and managed. For these reasons, all power tool manufacturers recommend that only OEM batteries be used.
- I found a battery online that says it works with my power tool model, why shouldn’t I buy it? What may look like a well-made counterfeit or knock-off seems reassuring, but, as the saying goes, “What really matters is what’s on the inside.” Each OEM has its own proprietary control circuity for the system to communicate properly and to achieve certification, and the circuitry design is not available to third-party component suppliers. The differences in each proprietary inner workings of power tool systems make it virtually impossible for any knock-off battery to match the OEM. What seems to work well out of the box may deliver dire consequences later.
- Don’t buy on price alone. Be sure to consider all the factors, not just price. Purchasing a battery online from an unknown seller without having any verification of the seller’s qualifications or experience, or of the battery’s construction or testing or certification, can leave you with an unsatisfying – and potentially dangerous – experience. And, when you are comparing retailers while still trying to buy a proper OEM battery, it is easy to still fall prey to counterfeits. Pay close attention to the packaging so you don’t accidentally pick up a knock-off battery (makers of these knock-offs sometimes use colors and typefaces similar to those of the recognized brands specifically to confuse buyers).
The best way to help ensure you are getting the real thing is to purchase batteries from authorized dealers and be suspicious of any price that seems too good to be true. It probably is.