By Rory Macnamara

Battery-powered products applicable to many industries indicate how the battery has developed from as early as the 18th century.

Commercialisation of these batteries commenced in 1970, which led to further development in the 80s, creating the rechargeable and more stable version which is now being used in small to larger applications. In the plumbing industry, the utilisation of specialised tools and instrumentation is crucial to ensure efficient and effective system operation.

ROTHENBERGER Tools South Africa’s managing director, Adler Teubes, says that when it comes to tools and instrumentation, the company places a strong emphasis on affordable quality. Teubes states that whilst there is a global trend of digitising certain tools to enhance accuracy and convenience, this is happening extremely slowly in South Africa.

MILWAUKEE’S product specialist, Werner Koch could not quantify the growth in South Africa, but confirmed that battery pack demands are certainly growing due to load shedding issues. Whilst this is a necessity, the investment in battery operating tools is beneficial.

There are other areas influencing the research and development of analogue tools, including a shift to battery-operated tools and pressing of pipes as opposed to brazing and welding. “One big shift we have done recently, is on vacuum pumps. Vacuuming the system before linking up water has always been an electronic process. However, we have introduced battery-operated vacuum pumps to provide more flexibility and convenience. These pumps come in different capacities, such as 2.5 and 5 CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute) and are suitable for various system sizes such as low-volume and long-period usage. The use of battery-operated pumps is especially beneficial in environments where power supply is uncertain or limited.”

“We have embraced the concept of standardised battery platforms for their tools and have subscribed to two battery platforms.” Traditionally, each manufacturer of power tools had its own proprietary battery, which led to a fragmentation that inconvenienced consumers. However, those manufacturers have now come together to adopt a standardised battery approach. By doing so, they enable multiple suppliers to use the same battery, eliminating the need for users to invest in multiple battery types. This collaboration streamlines the industry, offers higher quality batteries from specialised manufacturers, and ultimately benefits the end consumer.”

The two battery platforms are Cordless Alliance System (CAS) and AMPshare. CAS was established a couple of years ago by Metabo and ROTHENBERGER, with Metabo being the battery manufacturer. ROTHENBERGER is one of 27 manufacturers worldwide that are affiliated with CAS. More recently, the AMPshare system was introduced, with Bosch as the battery manufacturer. ROTHENBERGER is also part of the AMPshare system.

MILWAUKEE has developed their own patented Red Lithium-ion battery technology, and the batteries are only compatible with their cordless range of tools stated Koch.

“These standardised battery platforms offer significant advantages to end-users. For instance, if a plumbing professional primarily uses Bosch power tools, they can purchase a ROTHENBERGER vacuum pump that is compatible with the Bosch AMPshare battery system. This eliminates the need for extra batteries and saves money in the long run, as batteries are typically one of the priciest components of power tools. By adopting standardised battery platforms, manufacturers can focus on producing high-quality tools while leaving the battery manufacturing to specialised battery manufacturers.”

He notes that this means a plumbing company can now have ten tools with five batteries, whereas in the past those ten tools would have required 15 batteries, for example.

Battery lifespan is another important factor to consider in an environment where loadshedding is unlikely to end for several years. Like any battery, the rechargeable batteries used in power tools have a limited lifespan. However, advancements in battery technology have significantly improved their durability and performance. Modern batteries can last for an extended period before needing to be replaced.

Lithium battery charger. Images supplied by ©Plumbing Africa Rory Macnamara

Lithium battery charger. Images supplied by ©Plumbing Africa Rory Macnamara

“The advantage of lithium batteries over ‘traditional’ batteries lies in their safe chemistry said MILWAUKEE’S Koch, add to that longer life, constant power supply, fast charging and holding its charge when not in use. Our patented Redlink plus Intelligence system is built into all battery powered tools, ensuring one gets the most out of the tools and batteries.”

“Power tools are going battery-operated worldwide. In the US, 95% of all power tools are battery-operated. In Europe, it’s around 90%. South Africa is still a bit behind, but as in any industry, there are people who prefer electrical power tools over battery-operated ones because they perceive the latter to be less powerful. However, batteries have improved over time to such a degree that certain tools perform better with batteries than with electricity,” says Teubes.

While the market may be slow to adopt high-tech or digitalised tools, one area it doesn’t compromise, says Teubes, is quality. “Plumbing users of tools are highly professional and quality orientated. They will not compromise on the quality of their tools, even if they argue the price. They tend to stick with known quality brands and will not touch non-compliant tools.”

ROTHENBERGER products conform to the EN and CE standards. Because of the high-quality and stringent testing that occurs in the Spain and Germany factories, warranty claims – which are minimal – can be reduced.

Helping this low return rate is that ROTHENBERGER products are used by qualified technicians and semi-skilled people, not unskilled. There are also dangers associated with dealing with gases, so the users are both qualified and cautious.

Plumbers need to understand that as technology is changing, especially in the ‘pipe joining’ section, the new methods of jointing may well be reducing the use of brazing and welding. Certain pipes like copper will continue with the method – even then, jointing is being replaced by other technologies.

The use of lithium or li-ion is in pressing, pipe inspection, drain cleaning, bending, and threading.

In the case of threading, for example, a lithium battery application can do 50 threads, 2-inch pipe, on eight-amp batteries which results in a worktime of 50 minutes. Hence, saving on electricity and worktime in relation to cost.

MILWAUKEE offers a full range of tools for the plumber (refer to website below).


  • Eammon Ryan, editor of RACA Journal and Cold Link Africa.
  • Metabo –
  • Rothenberger –
  • Wikipedia for introduction