Cordless Tool Batteries – Solid DC Power Packs

I created this video a few days ago, didn't like how it came out and decided not to post it up. But since i'm a bit busy today, I thought I'd make it up to you guys and share this budget idea for inexpensive DC Portable Power.


So what's so special about this Ryobi? Well finding a good solid reliable 12V DC Power source for Video and Photo gear is quite expensive. After testing out a few different options for DC battery packs for the Z96, 352 LED Ring Light, 500 LED light panels, LCD Monitors, and other devices I thought about these super duper inexpensive yet highly reliable 12V DC Power packs. The kits normally come with a Cordless drill + (2) 12V DC Battery packs + (1) Charger. I bought two sets, ended up with (4) batteries and (2) chargers. The drills, i'll probably take apart and use the electric motors for a different project.

2011-02-28 22.16.46

These types of batteries are literally built for abuse, can be recharged hundreds of times, last for years, and are dirt cheap for the amount of power they provide. The best part about these 'particular' 12V DC Ryobi batteries is that they can be charged from a tiny AC adapter plug (comes with the kit). No need to pack up those bulky charging stations. These very 'particular' cordless tool batteries also have a very easy way of tapping in with two simple spade terminals.

Since there was no labeling on the battery, I took the drill apart to determine which is positive and which is negative. The end terminal closest to the red logo is 'negative'. The terminal furthest from the red Ryobi logo (back of battery) is 'Positive'.

2011-02-28 22.15.08

You might be able to find the batteries seperately and save a few bucks, but all they had in the store was kits that came with the Cordless Drill. Even if I didn't need the drill, I was able to walk out with (4) 12V DC batteries + 2 charging plugs and (2) carrying cases for $98 dollars. That comes out to less than $25 dollars each 12V DC Power Pack. Not bad if you compare this to single V-Lock Battery that can run you over $350 dollars (without a charging station).

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If you want to go ultra light, Ryobi also sells Lithium batteries that are 58% lighter and slimmer than the ones I have. Run times on the Lithiums might be longer too. Of course the Lithium versions require a large Battery Charging Station and costs a bit more, but they still share the same easy to tap into connectors. I'll probably permanently attach wires to the battery pack for safety and end the leads with Quick Connectors. Same connectors you've seen in my RC battery video with the 352 LED Ring light. So far they've been powering everything around the studio including the large 900 LED Video Light panels. With these 12V batteries powering the 900 LED panel, I thought it was fairly bright. It was only until I compared them side by side to with one connected to it's 15V AC power source (which I've been testing in the studio) did I notice it wasn't pushing out full capacity. Even still on 12V DC with these inexpensive batteries, the LED panels are very usable if you need to be mobile...

29 thoughts on “Cordless Tool Batteries – Solid DC Power Packs

  1. jeronimoo


    I've got a 12V motor on my dolly and searching already quite some time for a good battery. I just found out that my drill has a 14.4V battery, can I use that one too? and how would I have to fix that?


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  4. SkunkWorks

    Just a note on charging those VRLA (Valve Regulated Lead Acid batteries batteries I posted above...

    They have very specific charging requirements... if you're going to charge them on a vehicle battery charger you need to use one that is designed to charge Gel and AGM batteries. These are typically used in motorcycles, UPS, wheelchairs, alarm systems etc. The ones I grabbed that are shown in my picture above are the AGM type (absorbed glass mat) and I'm charging them with a CTEK 3300 12v vehicle battery charger.

    Thought I should mention this, failure to use the proper type of charger on these types of batteries can destroy the battery or do yourself serious harm.

    By the way, I just ran one of my VRLA 12v batteries powering a 12v DC motor drawing almost 2 amps for about an hour and a half, maybe 2 hours, non stop before it started to run down 😉

  5. SkunkWorks

    I just found these surplus batteries for 10 bucks... looks like they came out of a UPS. 12v @ 3.6 Amp hours which I think is probably more than double the power of most drill batteries. I'm still going to keep the Ryobi drill with its 2 NiCad batteries just for the lighter weight and convenient way of charging them. I've got my newly acquired UPS batteries on a car battery charger right now... not as convenient, but at least they'll probably be able to be charged in your vehicle outlet or cigarette lighter if the fuse in those circuits can handle what these things are likely to draw for current during charging (I don't know how the amp hour rating ties into that, maybe someone here knows and can tell me). If there's any Canucks viewing this and you have a Princess Auto nearby, these are 10 bucks while supplies last in the surplus section 😉

    Here's a pic showing the size compared to the Ryobi batteries and a small dc motor (oh, and these things are kind of heavy, they're lead acid batteries like in your automobile... but sealed and non-spill-able)... probably a few pounds. Should make good spare back ups to the Ryobi drill batteries in a pinch...

  6. Emm

    Post author

    @Diesel - yes the Lithium are much better batteries but are more expensive and require a charging station.

  7. Diesel


    I see for a higher price they have a Lithium-Ion version of that battery as well (12v 1.2ah - 45 min charger). Those may hold a charge longer and last longer over time, correct?


  8. If the Ryobi is 12v I will take a WILD guess that it has 4 3v cells. That could translate to a 6v out (monitor) and a 3v out (Zoom) or the 12v out (light). Assuming you could get inside to hack. What do you think?

  9. Emm

    Post author

    @Serge - I saw that a while back. I emailed the seller to update the description and at least share the source of the project. It's all good, thanks for pointing it out.

  10. Thanks Emm. I had a chat with someone who knew a little bit more about electronics than me, but they seemed to think it would be impossible (or atleast incredibly inefficient) to power a 8.1V Canon t2i and a 5v Zoom h4n even with some kind of system to regulate the correct power to each device. Is that right then? It's just a no goer?

  11. Just to note, there's a good chance these won't last for years, and can't be recharged hundreds of times. Power tools draw a lot of power, fast, and wear down the batteries. With frequent use (not daily, just frequent), most tool batteries die after a year or two. Now, what is nice, is that if you've got the electronics knowledge to use these in the first place, you'll know that you can just take the battery apart and replace any dead cells. This is a great hack, but as is stated, should really only be used by someone who understands electronics.

  12. Emm

    Post author

    @fugenie - There are several options to power cameras and other accessories already, but before you attempt something you should have someone who's familiar with electronics to wire it up for you. These batteries run at 12V, so they would be too much for most cameras.

  13. Could this feasibly power a canon camera too? I recently did a shoot with a t2i and h4n, but juggling batteries between the two was a real nightmare. I was thinking it would be amazing if I could rig a battery to power both at the same time - is that possible? (I know nothing about electronics).

  14. Jim

    If the N connector will allow the battery to connect up to other units like monitors, if it is the same as the charger, you simply make up cables with an N connector on each end, plug one into the charging port and the other into the monitor or lcd lite and viola, you have power.
    The cool thing too is that you can make custom length for example if you have a battery on an ammo pouch on your belt, it will simply hook up and not fall out

  15. Nice idea good batteries in a nice little package i love the way you say o the batteries come with a drill, i am sure its the other way round.

    How long till ebay is full of drills without batteries?


  16. Simon

    I did this sort of thing years ago with DeWalt batteries. I wanted the batteries to be quick change so I added a power output jack (4 PIN XLR) to a DeWalt flashlight. Since I did not modify the batteries themselves, I could swap them with other people easily. It also meant I always had a flashlight which can be handy.


  17. Emm

    Post author

    @Vincent Rozenberg - Looks good. Never tried them but has good specs on the site.

  18. SkunkWorks

    Very cool, Emm. Funny, I was actually going to ask you today or tomorrow what would be a decent battery solution to run a 12v motor.. with enough current/torque to move a loaded down igus/zaza slider carriage along its rail. I think you have just given me the answer!

    I've been wanting to motorize my slider for smooth controlled slides. There's a local store here in Canada that's sort of like Harbor Freight in the U.S. They have all kinds of cheap and cool parts and gadgets in their surplus section including all kinds of small D.C. motors... 12v, 24v, 120v etc. Some are labeled as electric window or car seat motors so I new they'd have the power and torque required to pull a dry linear bearing slider mounted T2i, head and carriage if they could be powered properly... couldn't think of a battery that would have enough current and be portable and light weight.

    Am going to maybe try out your battery idea with the small dc motor I grabbed for 10 bucks. If the motor isn't good enough then I could always do like you said and rip apart the drill and use its motor too (and the battery is actually designed for it). Hell, I could probably even make this project work leaving the drill in its stock form!

    I wonder if these drill batteries can be charged in an automobile with the right adapter 😉

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