Leaf blowers are a versatile yard tool
Leaf blowers are versatile tools that
go well beyond just sweeping up leaves. With the right machine, you can clean
spider webs off the house, tidy up around landscaping, clear grass clippings
off the driveway, and even blow away light snow. Some will also vacuum up and
finely mulch your yard debris.
Types of Leaf Blowers
Electric Leaf Blowers
With easy starting, relatively quiet motors and zero emissions, electric leaf blowers are a user-friendly choice. There's no pouring of gas or oil, no annual engine servicing and no winterization required. Electric blowers can either be plug-in models or battery-powered cordless models. A corded electric blower uses an extension cord for power, which limits how far you can go with them, but not how long they can be used. A cordless model cuts the extension-cord tether, but will only run as long as the batteries have juice -- no more than an hour with most models, and then only at its lowest speeds. The best electric leaf blowers are powerful enough for most chores outside the house, plus, many have a range of speeds, including lower speeds that are ideal for clearing debris from around delicate landscaping and for blow-drying cars.Gas Leaf Blowers
Gas leaf blowers work faster and are more powerful than most electric models, making them a good choice for homeowners who need to handle wet leaves and heavy debris, or to clean up large properties. However, hand-held gas blowers do have some drawbacks, not the least of which is that they are heavier and more tiring to use than electric models. Another thing to keep in mind with all types of gas blowers is that maintaining a gas engine takes more work than maintaining an electric motor: Gas blowers require regular servicing and winterization in the off-season, and most run only with a precise mixture of gas and oil. However, users who need heavy-duty performance say the extra work is worth it. Backpack Leaf Blowers
These leaf blowers mount a large gas engine to a harness, leaving the user to manage only the tube when blowing leaves. The size and weight of the engine makes their backpack design almost a necessity. Because they are generally built for larger properties and for commercial use, backpack blowers have lots of blasting power yet are designed to be comfortable enough to use for hours. They cost more than handheld leaf blowers, and may be overkill for owners with small properties.Walk Behind Leaf Blowers
If you have a commercial property, a walk behind leaf blower may be worth considering. These place a powerful motor on wheels and are most appropriate for jobs such as clearing leaves from a parking lot, but can also be a consideration for homeowners with acres of land to clean up.
Leaf blowers depend on airflow to move leaves and other debris. Manufacturers measure airflow using miles per hour (mph) or cubic
feet per minute (cfm). The airflow of the models in our report range from just
over 100 mph to more than 230 mph, and from less than 100 cfm to as much as
1,000 cfm. However, experts note that higher airflow doesn't necessarily mean
more power. For that reason, it's essential to consider reliable reviews before
making a final decision.
Handling is also a major factor to consider with blowers. Some handheld models weigh less than 10 pounds -- but even that
can start to feel heavy over time. If you have a large property or plan to use
the blower frequently, it's wise to look for one with ergonomic controls and a
comfortable-grip handle. Backpack models should have padded straps and be
designed to distribute weight evenly over your shoulders. Some blowers have a
"cruise control" feature that locks in the speed, eliminating the
need to keep a constant hold on the trigger. A walk-behind blower should have
large rear wheels and a swiveling front wheel so that it is easy to handle in
tight spots or over rougher terrain. The ability to change the direction toward
which it sends debris improves a wheeled blower's versatility, too.
Some leaf blowers include a conversion
kit that enables the model to vacuum, finely mulch and collect debris in a bag.
A built-in impeller minces leaves and other detritus into smaller bits, which
are then compressed for easy composting or disposal. For most blowers, the
ability to suck up leaves is a secondary function, so performance rarely
matches their sweeping and loosening abilities. Owners often use the vacuum
feature for decks when they don't want to send pet hair and debris flying into
Be respectful of your neighbors. Using
leaf blowers has become a point of contention in some areas due to their
excessive noise. The quietest leaf blowers measure less than 65 decibels (dB) at
the tool, which translates to sound levels that are low enough at 50 feet away
to keep neighbors happy. However, some, measure more than 100 dB, and can still
be annoying at some distance away. Even with a relatively quiet model, you'll probably
avoid complaints if you don't fire up your leaf blower too early in the morning
or late at night, and some areas have ordinances that will earn you a fine if
you do. For your own protection, experts recommend ear protection when using
most models. Eye protection against flying debris is a must with all blowers.
Leaf blowers vary greatly in price. Electric corded models ranging from less than $50 to over $100.
Cordless models also start at under $100, but can go as high as $300. Gas-powered
handheld models start at about $130 and go up to $300 or more, backpack models
range from less than $200 to more than $500. Walk-behind blowers start at
around $400 and can run into the thousands of dollars for the largest
commercial models. The quality of the engine or battery and other parts, as
well as the number and type of features, will affect the price. Most leaf
blowers have a two-year warranty, although some go as long as five or seven
years for consumer use.
Watch for recalls. In September
2016, Black & Decker recalled its models BV5600, BV6000 and BV66000 leaf
blower/vacuum/mulchers over dangers of cut fingers when a fan cover
unexpectedly came loose during operation. The company is offering a free repair kit and replacement fan cover. You can find more information about
these and other recalls at the Consumer Product Safety Commission website (search for leaf blowers).
Of course, to make the best use of a leaf
blower, you need to have leaves, grass clippings or other yard debris to sweep.
If you're in the market for additional lawn and garden tools, check out our
reports on lawn mowers, lawn tractors, string trimmers and hedge trimmers.
Finding The Best Leaf Blowers
To find the best leaf blowers, we
analyzed side-by-side tests from experts such as those at ConsumerReports.org,
Popular Mechanics, TheFamilyHandyman.com and TheSweethome.com. These
professional evaluations are an accurate way to compare performance and handling
on an even playing field. To better understand durability and real-world
function, we analyzed thousands of owner reviews from retail websites such as
HomeDepot.com, Lowes.com and Amazon.com. Based on this research, we evaluated
performance, ease-of-use and features to find the best electric and gas leaf
blowers, along with some worthwhile alternatives to consider.