If you can do your cutting within 100 feet of an electric outlet (or 150 feet with some models), electric chainsaws do the job with less noise and vibration. And while they do cut more slowly, electric chainsaws are less of a hassle to own. They let owners avoid the issues involved with starting, fueling and maintaining a gas chainsaw. They also pollute less than comparable gas-fueled saws.
The 13-amp Husqvarna 316E (*Est. $270) is recommended more often than any other electric chainsaw. It has a 16-inch bar, and uses an in-line design that mounts its motor behind the bar. Not only is the saw quieter, it's easier to work with because you don't need to fight sideways torque. The Husqvarna 316E's safety features include an inertia-activated chain brake, a low-kickback chain and a reduced-kickback cutting bar.
The NPC finds the Husqvarna 316E to be the quietest of 13 corded chainsaws tested. Tests at Tools of the Trade confirm that the 316E's inertia-activated chain brake is effective; they also rate the Husqvarna chainsaw as having one of the fastest cutting speeds of all the electric chainsaws tested. ConsumerReports.org includes the Husqvarna 316E in its evaluation, and ConsumerGuide.com speaks favorably of it, too.
Homeowners looking to spend less for a capable occasional-use chainsaw should look at the 13-amp Craftsman 34118 (*Est. $100) electric chainsaw. It's manufactured by Poulan and is nearly identical to the Poulan Pro 400E (*Est. $100) . The only difference seems to be that the Craftsman 34118 has tool-free chain tensioning, a feature the Poulan lacks. Under either brand name, two comparison reviews say this electric chainsaw is an excellent buy. The Poulan's 18-inch blade tapers at the front end to help prevent kickback, and automatic chain oiling is standard for both brands. Tests at Tools of the Trade, where the Craftsman 34118 is named the budget pick, show that the double-acting chain brake is activated not only when anything pushes the handle against part of the user's body, but also by inertia, when the brake senses that kickback is starting.
Owners reviewing the Craftsman 34118 at Sears.com, and the equivalent Poulan Pro 400E at Amazon.com, give these electric chainsaws excellent reviews. One owner of the Craftsman model writes, "I have a gas saw but it stays on the shelf and I always reach for my new Sears electric saw. It's powerful, reasonably quiet and always starts when you pull the trigger." ConsumerReports.org tests the Poulan-branded variant. The only major drawback with these two saws is that neither has an anti-vibration handle.
Another budget-friendly saw that has gotten positive feedback is the Worx WG303 (*Est. $100) , but it's not reviewed as extensively as the Craftsman/Poulan twins discussed above.
If you plan to do a lot of cutting day in and day out, the Stihl MSE 180 C-BQ (*Est. $370) electric chainsaw is praised by Mother Earth News as being essentially as powerful as a midsized gas model. (It's also priced accordingly, at around $370.) The Stihl's coast-down and inertia chain brakes work well, according to reviews, but this saw uses a bar that doesn't narrow at the tip. As a result, comparison tests demonstrate that there is indeed more risk of kickback with the Stihl MSE 180 C-BQ.