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Electric Leaf Blowers

With easy starting, relatively quiet motors and zero emissions, electric leaf blowers are a user-friendly choice. Unlike gas-powered models, there's no pouring of gas or oil, no annual engine servicing and no winterization required. Electric blowers use an extension cord for power, which limits how far you can go with them. Still, owners say they especially appreciate the ability to simply plug in the tool and get to work.

You won't get quite as much power with an electric model as you will with a gas leaf blower, but the best electric models are still strong 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. Extension cords generally aren't included, so they present an additional cost. Follow the manufacturer's guidelines when you purchase one -- and be sure to choose one that's rated for outdoor use.

Of the electric blowers available, the Toro Ultra Blower Vac (Est. $75) is a clear standout, with an array of experts and owners giving it top ratings and reviews. It has a powerful 12-amp motor, and an airspeed of 235 mph. In addition, it converts to a vacuum and has a metal impeller that finely mulches as many as 16 bags of debris down to one. At 7.5 pounds, it is also extremely light, and it has an infinite speed control, so you can choose the right power for each task.

The Ultra Blower Vac is among more than 50 models included in a comprehensive test of leaf blowers by ConsumerReports.org, which evaluates each model according to its performance, noise and handling. It earns a recommendation from Joe Delulio, product experts at LeafBlowersDirect.com, who commends its power, light weight and variable speed control.

Among owners, the Toro Ultra Blower Vac garners an average rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars from more than 1,000 reviewers posting to Amazon.com. Nearly 900 users posting to HomeDepot.com give it an identical average rating, while more than 110 Sears.com reviewers award it an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars. Users overwhelmingly say it's excellent at sweeping, vacuuming and mulching, and it can handle wet and dry leaves, as well as other yard debris. A few complain that the leaf bag is not especially sturdy and can be awkward to use, but this is the only complaint we found.

For those looking to spend bottom dollar and willing to do without a vacuum mode, the Toro Power Sweep (Est. $35) is a remarkably good option, reviewers say. Only 4.6 pounds, it has two speeds, and many find that its 7-amp motor produces almost the same airflow as top-performing gas blowers. It has a push-button start and comes with a two-year warranty.

The Power Sweep earns an average rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars from more than 600 users posting on Amazon.com; nearly 170 users posting to HomeDepot.com give it the same average rating. Owners like that it's light and simple to operate, and they say it's powerful enough to sweep leaves, seeds and clippings, although some say it's not strong enough to pick up wet, heavy debris in a single pass.

The Toro Power Sweep also gets a recommendation from LeafBlowersDirect.com, while editors at 10rate.com name it the best budget blower. Both sources agree that it offers plenty of power at a great price.

Cordless blowers give you extra freedom but cost more

Cordless blowers are very convenient, and some hold their own alongside corded and even gas-powered blowers. Still, as Sal Vaglica at This Old House points out, most are best for light-duty chores. "Cordless blowers move leaves with less noise than gas blowers, have no emissions, and aren't tethered to a cord," he says. "They also have less power, so they're best for a quick 'sweep' to clean up after mowing."

Expensive cordless batteries make up a large portion of the total cost of the tool, so expect to pay more for a battery-operated blower than a corded model. However, if you are already invested in a cordless tool system, such as those produced by Stihl or Black & Decker, you can save a bit of money by selecting a cordless leaf blower in the same line, since it will use the same battery and charger system. Run times for cordless models tend to be from 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the battery size.

Few cordless leaf blowers offer a lot of power, but an exception is the Stihl BGA 85 (Est. $300) . It uses a 36-volt lithium-ion battery, which, with the charger, can add $200 or more to the price, and has a run time of up to 23 minutes. It also features a variable-speed trigger and a two-stage axial fan that maximizes the volume of the air for more power. The multifunctional handle allows for single-handed operation of the controls; however, it doesn't have vacuum or mulching capabilities.

Because the BGA 85 is sold mainly through independent dealers, it doesn't receive many comments on major retail websites. Nevertheless, it earns praise in professional, comparative tests of leaf blowers. Specifically, the model gets a nod from Popular Mechanic's Roy Berendsohn, a self-described "gas engine guy" who says that testing Stihl's cordless tools was "a moment of reckoning." He further comments, "It's the first cordless outdoor power equipment I've found that radically closes the gap between gas engine and cordless," adding that the leaf blower, as well as a cordless chainsaw and trimmer in the Stihl line, are light, clean, quiet and fast.

In addition, Sal Vaglica of This Old House, reporting on a comparison test of blowers, calls the BGA 85's performance "very good," noting that it provides the power of a gas model without the maintenance, noise and emissions. His one complaint is that the heavy battery throws the unit off balance, so you have to work at keeping the nozzle down. The model earns top billing in a comparative test at Wired, with writer David Wolman praising its power, maneuverability and precision. It is also among the models tested in ConsumerReport.org's comparative leaf-blower test.

For a less expensive cordless choice, reviewers recommend the Black & Decker 40V Lithium Sweeper/Vacuum (Est. $150) . That price includes a rechargeable 40-volt battery; the price is cut in half if you purchase the sweeper/vacuum without the battery. It has a no-slip grip and a built-in scraper for loosening stuck-on debris. It also converts easily from blower to vacuum and can mulch six bags of debris down to one. The model has a run time of 30 minutes when set on the lowest speed (10 to 15 minutes on the highest setting) and comes with a three-year warranty.

The Black & Decker Sweeper/Vacuum gets an average rating of 4 out of 5 stars from nearly 190 users posting to Amazon.com. Owners say its durability, blower performance and vacuum-mulch kit make it a great value, although some say it cannot handle large or heavy-duty chores. The model also earns a recommendation from product expert Joe Delulio on LeafBlowersDirect.com, who calls it "simple and quick." He comments that it switches easily from blower to vacuum mode and praises how effective it is at mulching.

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Toro 51585 Power Sweep 7 Amp 2-Speed Electric Blower
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Toro 51609 Ultra 12 amp Variable-Speed (up to 235) Electric Blower/Vacuum with Metal Impeller
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