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 can either be plug-in models or cordless and run from batteries. 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. 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. 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.
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.
Of the plug-in electric blowers available, the Toro 51619 Ultra Blower Vac (Est. $70) looks to be a top choice. This is a minor update of the Toro 51609 Ultra Blower Vac (Est. $85), which, while still available at retail, is being phased out. 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's not been professionally tested as of yet, though TheSweethome.com's Doug Mahoney says that, pending its own testing, "it appears to be the same tool with minor variations." Those variations include a more powerful blower, rated at an air flow of 250 mph and air volume of 410 cfm, versus 235 mph and 390 cfm for the older 51609. However, the new model is also about a pound heavier, at 8.5 pounds, which could lead to some extra fatigue with extended use.
The Toro Ultra Blower Vac remains feature packed. It has a powerful 12-amp motor; converts to a vacuum in seconds and without 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.
User feedback is beginning to accumulate, and so far the Toro 51619 Ultra Blower Vac looks to be just as well liked as its predecessor. While Amazon.com mingles the feedback for several similar blowers together, the 51619 draws more than 170 reviews and largely positive ratings (over 150 of these are 4 stars or, mostly, 5 stars). We saw more than 50 reviews for the 51619 at the Toro site, where it earns a 4.4-star score that's very much in line with what its predecessor earned. Normally, we take feedback at manufacturer sites with a grain of salt, but Toro uses a third-party authentication service and there seems to be no censorship of negative reviews, so these appear to be valid.
Based on that and similar user feedback, and based on the improvements over its predecessor, we are naming the Toro 51619 Ultra Blower Vac as our Best Reviewed choice, though if you find it in retail at an attractive price its predecessor, the Toro 51609 Ultra Blower Vac is still well worth considering.
For those looking to spend bottom dollar, and willing to do without a vacuum mode, the Toro 51585 Power Sweep (Est. $35) is worth considering as well. Weighing only 4.6 pounds, it has two speeds, and comes with a two-year warranty.
Expert reviews aren't impressive, 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 380 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 97 percent saying that they would recommend the Power Sweep to a friend. There's less feedback at LeafBlowerDirect.com, but all are of that site's customers, 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, we saw some of the strongest recommendations for the EGO LB4801 (Est. $180). It's a Recommended leaf blower and a Best Buy in one large comparative review. It's also the favorite cordless blower at TheSweetHome.com, where Mahoney says it's on a par power-wise with the Toro 51609 Ultra Blower Vac. "The EGO is really able to get under compacted leaves and dust them up into the air," he adds. That's because despite the relatively low maximum air velocity of 92 mph, the EGO can move a lot of air and is rated at 480 cfm at its highest speed, down to 250 cfm at its lowest.
Of course, other than cost, the biggest downside to a cordless blower is the limited run time. In the case of the EGO, Mahoney found that it could last about 10 minutes on high, and up to an hour on low. But since that lowest speed won't do for "heavy-duty leaf moving", he suggest that the LB4801 fits best with "small properties, decks, patios, driveways, and gutter cleaning."
The batteries are swappable, so you could have spares charged up and ready to go to cover a larger property, though at around $130 each for a 2 Ah battery (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 for around $100.
One plus with this leaf blower is noise -- and that can be a major plus for those nearby neighbors. The EGO is judged to be the quietest leaf blower tested by TheSweetHome.com, and that's echoed in other expert reviews -- it's one of the few blowers that's said to be quiet enough to not require operator ear protection.
We saw mixed expert feedback on handling and ease of use. One reviewer calls the blower "easy to handle and control," but Mahoney has some gripes with the speed control system, especially for use at the highest speed. "The EGO is really a three-speed tool, with variable speed only between the low and middle speeds, and the high speed is controlled in a different place," he says, adding "It doesn't make any sense, unless EGO is subtly trying to discourage users from spending all of their time at the top speed, due to the significant battery drain that incurs." Be that as it may, we didn't see much griping from owners over ease-of-use, and it rates 4.8 stars on that attribute at HomeDepot.com, the primary retailer for this leaf blower.
Speaking of user feedback, it's excellent. We saw more than 725 reviews at HomeDepot.com, where the EGO LB4801 earns a 4.5-star rating, with recommendations from 90 percent of owners. We also saw good feedback at Amazon.com, but with a major caveat. It's only available from third-party sellers at that site and some negative feedback posted there complains that while the blower is fine, EGO will only honor the five-year warranty if you buy the LB4801 from Home Depot.
Like most cordless leaf blowers -- at least those with much in the way of positive expert feedback -- The EGO lacks a vacuum function. If that's a must, the Black & Decker LSWV36 40V Lithium Sweeper/Vacuum (Est. $145) may be worth considering. That price includes a rechargeable Black & Decker LBXR36 40-Volt Lithium Ion Battery (Est. $85), 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. $70).
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 3.9 out of 5 stars based on roughly 480 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.