Brushless vs Brushed Tools: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to brushless vs brushed tools, there’s really no contest.

Brushless tools are far superior to brushed in every way. They’re more durable, work better and last longer. ​

However, they also come with a significantly higher price tag.

Trying to decide whether it’s worth upgrading to brushless tools?

Read on as we break down everything you need to know.

What are brushed tools?

A traditional brushed motor is composed of four parts: carbon brushes, a ring of magnets, an armature, and a commutator.

The brushes are attached to the positive and negative terminals of a power source (usually a battery).

The carbon brushes are, therefore, the interface between the motor and the power source. They are electrically conductive and conduct electricity to the rotating armature.

The ring of magnets is stationary and surrounds the armature. When electricity flows through the armature coils from the carbon brushes, a magnetic field is created that interacts with the magnetic field of the ring of magnets to cause rotation.

The commutator is connected to the armature and ensures that electricity is always flowing in one direction through the coils.

The main advantages of brushed motors are simplicity, low cost, and ease of use. Brushed motors are still used in many types of small electric devices.

What are brushless tools?

Brushless motors have been around for decades. They are used in high-end cordless drills and circular saws.

Brushless motors eliminate the brushes and the commutator. Also, on a brushless motor, the magnets are on the shaft, and the copper windings of the armature are fixed around it. This is the reverse location of a brushed motor.

A brushless motor is more efficient than a brushed motor, so it can run longer on a charge. Also, because there are no brushes, the motor runs quieter and with less friction and wear.

A brushless DC motor (BLDC) requires an external control circuit to energize each winding in sequence to make the rotor turn. A DC brushless tool’s control circuit can be either an analog or digital circuit.

Brushless DC motors are generally considered more reliable than brushed DC motors because there are no brushes to wear out or collect dust; however, they require more complex electronic control circuits.

Important differences

Maintenance

Brushed motors are simple and inexpensive but require periodic replacement of their carbon brushes, which wear down over time due to friction with their counterparts in the power source.

This problem does not exist for brushless motors because they use permanent magnets for their stationary part rather than carbon brushes.

Efficiency, Power and Torque

Brushless motors are also more efficient than brushed ones. The copper windings in a brushed motor can overheat and fail if they are subjected to too much current, but this is less of a danger with brushless motors because they don’t have the windings.

The efficiency of brushless tools is also due to their ability to reverse the current in electromagnets. This reverses the force of the magnets on the shaft, thereby turning the motor in the opposite direction. Brushed motors can only spin in one direction.

The upside of this efficiency is that the batteries will last significantly longer on brushless tools, and they can generate more power and torque.

Responsiveness

A brushless drill adjusts its speed and power to meet the demands of a task. It will slow down if you’re driving screws into something soft like drywall, or apply more torque if you’re drilling into hardwood.

On the other hand, brushed motors always use the same amount of power, regardless of the resistance it encounters.

Long-lasting

Brushless tools generally last longer than brushed ones, since there’s no friction from the brushes wearing down and no sparking from the commutator. Brushless tools also tend to be lighter and more compact than their brushed counterparts.

Price

Brushed motors are by far the cheaper of the two, with brushless tools often costing around double that of their brushed equivalent.

Should you upgrade to brushless tools?

Brushless drills are mostly found in the higher-end and professional categories. They have greater speed and power than their brushed counterparts.

For daily use, the impact of upgrading to brushless can be significant.

However, for general use around the home, users may not notice the difference in power, nor will they benefit as much from the reduced maintenance costs.

Therefore, we recommend letting your frequency of use and budget determine whether you opt for brushed or brushless power tools.