Of the plug-in electric blowers available, the Toro 51619 Ultra Blower Vac (Est. $85) looks to be a top choice. This is a minor update of the Toro 51609 Ultra Blower Vac (Est. $90), which, while it can still be found at retail, is discontinued. The old model was a standout in comparative testing, was named the top leaf blower by TheSweethome.com, and drew tons of mostly positive user feedback.
The newer 51619 looks to be following closely in those footsteps. It, too, has been tested by TheSweethome.com, and finished in second place behind the Black & Decker BV6600, with comparable prowess, but a little extra weight. It's still liked very much, however, especially in the light of the recent recall of the BV6600. "If you need a leaf blower immediately, our runner-up, the Toro 51619 Ultra Blower Vac is still an excellent option," the editors say.
The Toro Ultra Blower Vac is feature packed. It has a powerful 12-amp motor; converts to a vacuum in seconds and without needing tools; and has a new, larger metal impeller that finely mulches, reducing debris volume by 88 percent. The variable speed control lets you choose the right power for every task. The vacuum bag doubles as a storage bag; you can pack everything inside and hang it on a wall. Its air flow is rated at 250 mph, and its air volume at 410 cfm.
User feedback is strong. While some of the reviews originate at the manufacturer's site and others (due to their age) are clearly of earlier blowers, we see more than 1,200 posted at HomeDepot.com, and an overall rating of 4.3 stars. Amazon.com mingles the feedback for several similar blowers together, the 51619 draws more than 680 reviews and largely positive ratings (roughly 88 percent of these are 4 stars or, mostly, 5 stars).
For those looking to spend bottom dollar, and willing to do without a vacuum mode, the Toro 51585 Power Sweep (Est. $45) is worth considering as well. Weighing only 4.7 pounds, it has two speeds, and comes with a two-year warranty.
Expert reviewers aren't impressed, but those compare the Toro Power Sweep to more powerful, and more expensive, blowers. Instead, the Power Sweep is best suited to clearing dry leaves from walks, decks and driveways rather than anything more heavy duty, and even then expect that more than one sweep might be required.
Users, on the other hand, seem very pleased. At HomeDepot.com, there are roughly 435 reviews posted, and while that number again includes reviews from Toro's site, nonetheless the score is an impressive 4.6 stars out of 5, with around 96 percent saying that they would recommend the Power Sweep to a friend. At Amazon.com, roughly 93 percent of the more than 1,475 that weigh in on the Toro 51585 rate it at 4 stars or above. There's less feedback at LeafBlowerDirect.com, but all are from that site's users; all give it nearly perfect scores, and 100 percent give this cheap leaf blower their recommendation.
There are a number of pluses. The Toro Power Sweep is easy to carry, maneuver and store, reviewers say. In addition, the controls are conveniently mounted on the handle, and you can lock the speed so that you don't have to hold the trigger for continuous use. It's also among the quieter leaf blowers; neighbors shouldn't be excessively disturbed, though experts still say that ear protection should be worn by the user
Cordless blowers are very convenient, and some hold their own alongside corded and even gas-powered blowers. However, the cost of their rechargeable batteries drives their cost up compared to corded electric blowers.
Among cordless leaf blowers, several models bubbled up to the top this year, but we are sticking with our recommendation for the EGO LB4801 (Est. $180). It's a Recommended leaf blower and a Best Buy in one large comparative review. At ProToolReviews.com, Clint DeBoer says "Don't ever buy any other handheld blower before checking this one out." Power is why. That's because despite the relatively low maximum air velocity of 92 mph, the EGO with its 4-inch nozzle can move a lot of air; it is rated at 480 cfm at its highest speed, down to 250 cfm at its lowest. "Competing cordless blowers often compensate for a lack of power by narrowing the output of the blower engine or coupling the output to a flat spreader nozzle," DeBoer says. "Not so with the EGO—it just spits out air like it's going out of style." He adds that while other blowers can move debris about a foot away from their nozzle, the Ego will push material up to 6 feet away.
The downside to all of that power is limited run time in the blower's highest, turbo mode -- around 10 minutes according to DeBoer. At Popular Mechanics, it's praised as a "beast of a sweeper," but fails to take top honors (but does earn 4 stars) because "The high setting quickly runs down the battery." However, as DeBoer notes, it can run for up to an hour in low mode, and he adds that "In low speed, the blower still outperforms most 40V models we've used."
The batteries are swappable, so you could have spare EGO BA1120 56-Volt 2.0 Ah Battery (Est. $130) charged up and ready to go to cover a larger property, though at around $130 each for a 2 Ah battery (and more powerful -- and pricier -- batteries are available as well) costs can add up quickly. On the other side of the coin, the EGO leaf blower uses the same batteries as other gardening gear from the company, and the line includes a mower, hedge trimmer, string trimmer and a chain saw. If you already own other EGO gear (and presumably a battery and charger for those), the blower minus the battery is available as the EGO LB4800 (Est. $100).
One plus with this leaf blower is noise -- and that can be a major plus for those nearby neighbors. The EGO is earns an excellent score for noise at 50 feet in one large review, and good enough at the ear that hearing protection isn't really needed -- a rarity among leaf blowers.
User feedback is strong. We saw roughly 1,325 reviews at HomeDepot.com, where the EGO LB4801 earns a 4.5-star rating, with recommendations from 91 percent of owners. We also saw an identical 4.5 star score at Amazon.com, albeit based on few reviews (just over 160).
But where the EGO was an easy choice in last year's report, it's got some competition this time around. The Worx WG591 (Est. $180) is named Best Overall in Popular Mechanics eight cordless blower test and is a recommended choice at LeafBlowersDirect.com. We saw fewer user reviews than the EGO, and satisfaction that was only a tiny touch worse -- for example a 4.4 star rating at HomeDepot.com, with recommendations from 89 percent of the more than 220 owners that weigh in. It uses a 56-volt Li-ion battery system, and carries an air speed rating of 125 mph, but a slightly lower air volume rating (compared to the EGO) of 465 cfm. Popular Mechanics grouses a little bit about the control system -- "We prefer to control blower output with the trigger, rather than the separate adjuster the Worx uses, which sometimes needed to be switched off before the blower would turn on" -- but is otherwise impressed, and voiced no issues regarding too-short run times in any mode.
Like most cordless leaf blowers -- at least those with much in the way of positive expert feedback -- neither the EGO nor the Worx has a vacuum function. If that's a must, the Black & Decker LSWV36 40V Lithium Sweeper/Vacuum may be worth considering. That price includes a rechargeable Black & Decker LBXR36 40-Volt Lithium Ion Battery (Est. $70), which is shared by a host of other Black & Decker garden equipment, including a mower, hedge trimmer, string trimmer and chain saw. If you already have compatible gear, and the battery, the blower is available separately as well as the Black & Decker LSWV36B (Est. $65).
The Black & Decker Sweeper/Vacuum isn't intended for heavy duty tasks, and those who keep that in mind are generally satisfied. With a maximum air speed of 120 mph and air volume of 90 cfm, it's only suitable for removing debris from hard surfaces, such as driveways, walkways and decks. It has a no-slip grip and a built-in scraper for loosening stuck-on debris. It 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 (both with and without the battery) gets a rating of 3.8 out of 5 stars based on more than 730 reviews posted at Amazon.com. Owners say its durability, blower performance and vacuum-mulch kit make it a great value. Many negative reviews are from those who complain that it won't handle tougher jobs or clean up lawns -- but then again, that's not what this blower/vac is designed to do. Feedback is a little better at HomeDepot.com, thought that's based on fewer reviews (just under 45 when we checked); nonetheless it earns a 4-star rating and recommendations from 84 percent of owners.