Best Insulated Screwdrivers for Electricians
Electrical installation and repair jobs can be complicated, and mistakes can have consequences. Projects both large and small require qualified professionals. That’s why electricians have to be licensed in almost every state, and sometimes at the county level, too.
To work as an apprentice, or become a fully licensed electrical contractor, you will need to have the right tools to do your job safely and effectively. These devices can include multimeters, voltage testers, wire strippers, circuit finders, and screwdrivers.
Insulated screwdrivers are essential for safety during electrical work. This article will look at these vital tools, what to consider when purchasing them, and how to find quality options that will provide the necessary functionality and protection.
Our Picks for the Best Insulated Screwdrivers of 2021
- Best Overall: Milwaukee Insulated Screwdriver Set (10-Piece)
- Premium Choice: Klein Insulated Screwdriver Set (8-In-1)
- Most Comfortable to Hold: Bahco Insulated Screwdriver Set (7-Piece)
- Best Variety: OEL Insulated Screwdriver Set (10-Piece)
- Best Variety Runner Up: Greenlee Insulated Screwdriver Set (9-Piece)
- Best Compact Screwdriver Set: Gardner Bender Insulated Screwdriver Set (2-Piece)
- Best Grip: Ideal Insulated Screwdriver Set (2-Piece)
- Best Precision: Morris Insulated Screwdriver Set (7-Piece)
Insulated vs. Non-Insulated Screwdriver Sets
One of the most important (and common) tools you will use as an electrician is the screwdriver. You will need it to open and close many appliances, metal boxes, and various devices for your work.
When you’re not working directly with electricity, a typical screwdriver will do just fine. However, when it comes to electrical work, these everyday screwdrivers have a major disadvantage: they are made with exposed metal. That’s why insulated screwdrivers come in so handy for electricians and DIYers alike.
Handle vs Shaft Material
While the tool’s handle can provide adequate insulation for electrical work, your average screwdriver still has a long exposed metal shaft that you could accidentally touch. Electricians are never supposed to work with live circuits, but accidental contact could sometimes occur. If you accidentally touch a live circuit, the last thing you want is to have an exposed metal shaft conducting the charge right to your hand.
The metal shaft is an excellent conductor of electricity. If it is touching another component or any part of your body, it will transfer the current. When this happens, you are not just in danger of electrocuting yourself but also shorting other circuits in the vicinity.
This is why an insulated screwdriver is so essential. These tools have been specially designed with an insulated plastic cover that won’t conduct electricity. While a regular screwdriver only has an insulated handle, an insulated screwdriver extends the coverage to most of the shaft as well. Only the tip is left exposed.
How Screwdrivers Are Insulated
An insulated screwdriver protects an electrician from coming into contact with live circuits, including the grounded parts of metal boxes. The shaft is made of non-conductive material, making it possible for the worker to hold the shaft without fear of electrocution.
Apart from protecting the electrician, the insulated screwdriver also prevents electrical contact between different parts of a circuit, shielding them from shorts.
The plastic on insulated screwdrivers is more than just regular coating. For example, even if you were to be very careful and not touch the shaft on a regular screwdriver, you could not be sure how the non-conductive material on the handle would perform if you contacted a live wire.
An insulated screwdriver, on the other hand, is rated for a particular number of volts. This number is the maximum load it can take from an electric current before it fails. Most professional insulated screwdrivers are rated for between 1000 and 1500 volts. This is more than enough for the average residential electrical installation, maintenance, and wiring repair.
Maintaining Insulation Integrity
Even though insulated screwdrivers have the right insulation for the job, they are still metal underneath. Any tear or gap in the coating and you will be dealing with the same problem regular screwdrivers have.
The insulation should remain intact for the screwdriver to be truly safe. As an electrical contractor, you should regularly inspect your insulated tools for damage. You should also avoid using them for improvised purposes, such as scraping, prying, or hammering. These can cause small abrasions that could compromise the tool’s effectiveness.
Why You Shouldn’t Attempt to Insulate Your Own Screwdrivers
You might be tempted to implement your solution to the insulation problem, such as heat shrinks, rubber coatings, masking tapes, or liquid tapes. These options are often inadequate and may even prove dangerous.
For example, masking tape may provide some degree of protection, but it does not have the consistency of industrial-grade insulation. For insulation to be reliable, it needs to have a consistent thickness, which masking tape wrapped cannot offer.
Another problem with such makeshift solutions is that you have no way of measuring how much protection they provide. Your tape does not have a voltage rating. Also, electrical tape is not as strong as the insulating material used on insulated screwdrivers. It can get damaged by regular use, which would expose the metal underneath.
Tape may also become loose if you are working in a moist area, if you drop the screwdriver on the floor, or if you carry the tool by the shaft. In other words, tape or other makeshift coverings are simply too unreliable to replace a fully-insulated screwdriver.
Things to Look for in Screwdrivers for Electricians
Before buying an insulated screwdriver, it is crucial to know which different varieties are available. The differences mostly focus on the tip (or head) of the tool. Here is a closer look at the different options.
- Flathead screwdriver. Also known as the slotted screwdriver, this is the most common type of screwdriver and probably the most common hand tool overall. It dates back to the 15th century and comes in many different sizes. It is a versatile tool that can be used as a screwdriver but can also serve as a chisel, prying device, or general-purpose instrument.
- Phillips. The Phillips screwdriver is yet another common option. You can easily recognize it because of the plus-shaped or cross-shaped tip or head. The tips are also angled slightly inward to prevent cam-outs (where the tip comes out sideways due to not going deep enough into the screw head). That’s the main benefit of this type of screwdriver. It offers precision and security, allowing you to save time while screwing and unscrewing. That said, these tools are designed so that they will cam out when turned too forcefully. Because of this, they can be ineffective against very tight screws.
- Hex key screwdriver. This type of screwdriver gets its name from its hexagonal (six-sided) head. It is unique because it is not shaped like a regular screwdriver but instead is an L-shaped metal bar with no covered handle. Some, however, come in traditional screwdriver form and can fit small hex-shaped screw heads. This type of tool is common in furniture, but hex screws can also appear on some electrical appliances.
- Torx screwdriver. The Torx screwdriver has a tip in the shape of a recessed 6-point star. As a result, they are often also called “stars.” These tools have very high torque limits and were originally for use on security equipment and appliances. That said, they can be used for any application where you need high resistance to camming, such as when working on structural framing, concrete, and commercial electrical projects.
- Robertson screwdriver. The tip of a Robertson screwdriver is shaped like a recessed square, leading to the alternative name “square.” These were invented in the early 20th century and have the highest torque limits among screwdrivers. They are also extremely durable.
- Pozidriv screwdriver. Pozidriv screwdrivers are a cross between a Phillips and a Torx. They have the familiar cross shape of the Phillips and two additional smaller points that look like a Torx. These screwdrivers combine the best of both worlds, maintaining the practicality of the Phillips and the security of the Torx. They are incredibly durable and have high torque limits.
Sometimes you may have to choose between getting an individual screw and a handle with interchangeable bits. Both options have pros and cons, and the best choice depends on your needs.
On the one hand, bit holders are compact and help you save on space. They also allow you to take advantage of the wide range of bits available on the market, including some that may not be possible to find as individual screwdrivers.
On the other hand, bit holders tend to be ineffective on screws that are recessed too far into their holds. These challenges may require purchasing additional specialized bits.
As for individual screwdrivers, the obvious disadvantage is that they take up a lot of space, and you will have to purchase a new one if you encounter a uniquely-shaped screw. However, they have the advantage of longer shafts, which give them a greater reach than their more versatile peers. Individual screwdrivers are also a great idea if you’re planning on stocking a workshop or working in a team and might need two people using the same screwdriver at the same time.
Size, Shape, and Weight
The size and shape of the tip of a screwdriver are the most important variables. These measurements are what make it possible for the end to fit into a screw head. Some of the shapes, such as flatheads, stars, and squares, have been covered above. There are, however, as many shapes for screwdriver tips as there are for screw heads.
As an electrician, the ones listed above are the ones you are most likely to need. As for size, there are pre-set sizes followed by almost all manufacturers. These range from #0 for the smallest to #4 for the largest. You will need heads to cover the whole range of sizes.
A good screwdriver should be highly versatile. For example, an ergonomic handle with good grip makes it easier to apply torque to the screwdriver when tightening and loosening screws. Some screwdrivers are even motorized, largely automating the work of screwing and unscrewing.
When shopping for a screwdriver, look for one with an ergonomic handle and features (for example, a compartment in the handle for storage of bits) that help make work easier. Anything that saves time and makes turning easier will prove to be a good investment.
Here is a look at the best-insulated screwdriver options for electricians.
Best Overall: Milwaukee Insulated Screwdriver Set (10-Piece)
For a professional electrical contractor, this is the best-insulated screwdriver set in terms of overall value. Available through Ohio Power Tool, the Milwaukee 10-piece insulated set comes with 10 different screwdrivers, including three Phillips, three slotted, and three square screwdrivers. It meets the OSHA insulated tool standard and offers protection for up to 1000V.
Each screwdriver in the set comes with a lanyard hole. This trait may sound simple, but a lanyard can protect the insulation from damage by preventing the tools from dropping to the ground. The feature also makes secure storage easier.
All the shanks and handles are impact- and fire-resistant, and the insulation has two unique layers. This design offers redundant protection, and it provides a visual indicator for wear and tear so that you know when your tools need replacing. Each driver also comes with ID markings, so you can quickly identify your tools when on the site.
The main drawback of this particular set is its price tag. It requires a significant investment, but it should provide value for serious professionals who want to ensure their safety.
Premium Choice: Klein Insulated Screwdriver Set (8-In-1)
The Klein insulated 8-in-1 screwdriver is another professional-grade set of screwdrivers available through Ohio Power Tool. It consists of eight pieces, including three Phillips, two squares, and two slotted tools.
Instead of separate shafts, this tool is a bit holder with interchangeable heads. The design is great for portability and saving on storage space. It has an auto-eject mechanism that removes each head with a simple twist. Both the handle and blades are rated for 1000V, so the set should be useful for most electrical jobs.
The orange insulation is also resistant to flame, so it will not be compromised if it comes into contact with heat. The handle has an ergonomic grip for easy use, while the whole set comes with a durable roll pouch for portability and organization.
The two main drawbacks of this set are the fact that the square tip is not included and the price is quite high. While the first problem might require you to buy a square head separately, the second one can be solved by purchasing a smaller two-piece set, which comes at a lower price.
Most Comfortable to Hold: Bahco Insulated Screwdriver Set (7-Piece)
The Bahco seven-piece screwdriver set is a value-providing collection if you need Pozidriv screws. It is available through Mega Depot.
The set has two Pozidriv and four slotted screwdrivers, making it a versatile option. The collection is very useful if your work involves installing new power sockets, replacing light switches, and rewiring in homes.
The handles are color-coded, so you can identify each piece easily, and the shanks use a molybdenum-vanadium alloy. These tools are rated 1000V, which makes them safe for most residential and small commercial jobs.
A particularly useful feature is the handle on each screwdriver, which is not only stylish (they come in silver, orange, and black), but also very comfortable. They also have lanyard holes for easy storage and security on the job site.
Unfortunately, these tools aren’t for use in cold temperatures, so take that into account if you work outdoors or in unheated areas in a four-season climate. They are also a little pricey. However, there are alternative sets from Bahco with fewer pieces that you can get for a lower price.
Best Variety Set: OEL Insulated Screwdriver Set (10-Piece)
The OEL set has 10 pieces and is available through Mega Depot. It features flatheads, round heads, squares, and Phillips. Overall, it offers a lot of variety and value for a single set. It also comes with a well-organized pouch for easy storage.
The tools have black tips and orange, insulated shafts. The two-tone design also makes it easier to inspect them because there will be a clear contrast if the insulation gets damaged.
The disadvantages of this particular set are the price, the lack of lanyard holes, and the fact that you may have several tools in the set that you will never use. However, there is an eight-piece option and a smaller six-piece set that is cheaper and offers only the most commonly-needed heads.
Best Variety Runner Up: Greenlee Insulated Screwdriver Set (9-Piece)
The Greenlee insulated screwdriver set consists of nine pieces, and it includes both flatheads and smaller Phillips heads. The handles are exceptionally ergonomic with excellent grips. The design enables you to apply a lot of force comfortably. They also have very long shafts, allowing them to reach into tight spaces and access recessed screw heads.
There is 1000V-rated insulation on both the shaft and the handle, and it comes in two color layers (black and orange), making it easy to inspect the screwdrivers for any damage.
This set, available through Mega Depot, comes in a roll-up pouch, which is highly portable. They’re a little on the expensive side, and they lack specialized heads, so you may need to supplement the collection with other screwdriver sets.
Best Compact Screwdrivers: Gardner Bender Insulated Screwdriver Set (2-Piece)
The Gardner Bender set is simple and affordable. The effective two-piece set has Phillips and flathead screwdrivers, and it is available through Hardware World.
The handles are especially ergonomic and offer excellent grip, allowing electricians to apply maximum torque. Both shafts and handles have been insulated with a rating of up to 1000V, making them suitable for the vast majority of electrical jobs.
Another great feature is that the tips are reversible, which combines two tools into one and makes the entire package very compact and portable.
The main disadvantage here is the lack of variety. Most electricians will have to supplement this set with another one or with several individual screwdrivers.
Best Grip: Ideal Insulated Screwdriver Set (2-Piece)
The Ideal insulated two-piece set is a great introductory kit for electrical apprentices, or those looking to start their collection and get the most common and versatile screw heads.
For sale at Mega Depot, it includes one flathead and one Phillips screwdriver. There is insulation on both the handle and shaft, with the handle being black and the shaft orange.
There’s also extra plastic sheathing extending from the black on the handle and covering part of the orange insulation on the shaft. This helps to keep the insulation intact and extends its lifespan. The color difference in the handle and shaft also helps when doing tool inspections.
The insulation is rated 1000V, so it is competitive with most other quality sets on the market.
The handle itself has a comfortable cushion grip, making it both comfortable and able to handle jobs where high-torque is necessary. The major con with this set is that there are only two pieces. You will need to buy more screwdrivers over time to work with different types of screws. However, given the affordable price tag, this set is a good introductory option.
Best Precision: Morris Insulated Screwdriver Set (7-Piece)
The Morris insulated seven-piece set features five slotted and two Phillips screwdrivers. Each tool has a different size, and the handles are made of ABS and neoprene, offering a comfortable but firm cushion grip.
The impact handle is also resistant to oil and acid. On top of each screwdriver is a rotating cap that offers precise control and allows for accurate turning. The tips are also all magnetic, causing screws to stick onto them after removal or during placement in the hole.
The insulation is rated 1000V, and the set is for sale at Mega Depot. The main drawback of this set is that there are only two types of screwdrivers, so you will need to supplement these tools with other models.