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Pneumatic Tools vs Electric Tools in the DIY Workshop

When it comes down to workshop equipment, DIY and tools, everyone has their own opinion. Some will swear loyalty to a certain orbital sander, whilst someone else will insist the same piece of hardware is terrible. Others might argue that one nail gun is far superior to anything else on the market but, when put to the test, the same tool fails miserably.

Like most things in life, people have strong opinions about their choice of tools and will fiercely defend them. This often makes it hard to get an idea of what a tool’s real capabilities are.

benefit and cost line balance


Pneumatic Tools vs Electric Tools

Just for example, we’ve taken the electric reciprocating saw and the pneumatic reciprocating saw and we explore the differences between the two saws and see just who comes out on top – using just the facts.

Ease of Use


When it comes to judging the cost of a reciprocating saw, there is more to consider than the outward price tag.

A reciprocating saw has great versatility as a tool, allowing for demolition work, heavy-duty tasks like cutting sheet metal and steel pipes, cutting fibreglass and plastic, wood and many other jobs besides. That means that a reciprocating saw needs great mobility and usability. That means taking weight and ease of use into consideration.

A pneumatic model of reciprocating saw uses an air compressor to generate the pneumatic power, which, in turn, allows the blade to move back and forth. Because of this set up, that means a pneumatic reciprocating saw has no weighty electric motor inside. This makes it a much lighter tool to handle.

This lightness translates to greater ease of use in delicate and tight jobs, as the weight to handle is so much less than an electric model. Less weight also makes it much easier to carry out hard, time-intensive jobs without aching, sagging arms. Although it does mean you have to already have a compressor.

At the same time, the lack of electrical motor means that a pneumatic reciprocating saw does not generate much heat. An electric saw, on the other hand, becomes hotter with the more work it has to do. This can mean leaving to the electric saw to cool off and lost productivity – whether on site or just at home, this is less than ideal.

  • Because reciprocating saws have so many uses, it is important to consider weight and how easy a particular model is to use
  • A pneumatic model, which is lighter due to a lack of electric motor, makes it much easier to carry out hard, long-wearing jobs without arms tiring quickly
  • Electric reciprocating saws – because of their electric motor – heat up quickly, making it harder to keep going than with a pneumatic alternative
  • Pneumatic reciprocating saws allow for better productivity and ease of use


Lifespan and Cost

Like any tool, there are cheap pneumatic and electric reciprocating saws available. However, anyone with even a smattering of DIY knowledge that cheap usually means bad when it comes to power tools.

Looking beyond the bargain basement models, prices for a decent pneumatic model will cost less than an electric counterpart.

For example, decent electric reciprocating saws will probably begin to come in at around £60, with a well-known brand like Black & Decker costing £80, with prices rising for models that are more heavy-duty.

At the same time, a good quality pneumatic reciprocating saw can cost just over £30, with a premium model costing £80.

Whilst these prices seem comparable, it is important to note that an electric saw costing £80 is not a top-of-the-line piece of hardware, but rather a well-known brand. A top quality electric saw can cost in excess of £100 or even much more. At comparable prices, a pneumatic reciprocating saw offer much more bang for your buck.


  • A very good quality pneumatic reciprocating saw will cost around £80
  • An electric reciprocating saw of similar quality will cost upwards of £100.
  • In terms of what you get for your money, a pneumatic saw is a much better investment


Aside from the initial outlay, lifespan also plays a big part in how a tool justifies its worth.

When under heavy work, an electric reciprocating saw has much more potential to break simply because it has an electric motor. Whilst these motors are designed to cope with a certain workload, they can often overheat and break, even in DIY situations. To get a longer lasting, stronger engine, a more powerful, more expensive electric saw is the only answer.

On the other hand, a pneumatic saw has no such engine to overheat, cutting out the biggest problem that most reciprocating saws have. A pneumatic model will not overheat and flake out under heavy use, meaning even cheaper models have a greater lifespan and much better return on investment than their electric counterparts do.
A pneumatic saw, with it quick to recharge compressed air system, also provides much more work over its lifetime than an electric reciprocating saw, which might spend a good deal of its lifespan charging and cooling down. This greater level of productivity, added up over time, is another reason than a pneumatic saw provides better value for money.


  • Electric motors are much more likely to overheat and break than a pneumatic model
  • A pneumatic saw, on the other hand, has no such concern. This means a much longer lifespan
  • Electric saw, with their need to charge and cool down, provide much less work over their lifetime than their pneumatic counterparts

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