Ear protection a must, but not too noisy for your neighbors. Quieter than most gas leaf blowers, the Echo PB-500H isn't too noisy from 50 feet away -- it shouldn't annoy the neighbors too badly, one expert source notes.
But for the person running it, it's still loud. Not as loud as some, but easily loud enough that experts -- and owners -- recommend wearing ear protection.
"There is one recommendation I have for using this blower ... get earplugs," writes one owner at HomeDepot.com. "The first time I used the blower it was super loud and my ears were ringing afterwards. The next time I used the foam earplugs and everything was fine."
Some owners double up, wearing earplugs plus earmuff-style hearing protectors to shut out the drone of the Echo PB-500H -- but they almost all give it high marks anyway.
'Start blasting leaves in seconds.' The Echo PB-500H is extraordinarily simple to use, reviews say.
"Taking it out of the box, putting it together and reading instructions took less than 10 minutes," says one owner -- who had lived his entire life in city apartments and had never used a leaf blower before. "It started on the first pull."
Popular Mechanics turned a bunch of volunteers loose with the Echo PB-500H, blowing leaves at a church. They "needed no coaching to use the Echo," editors say. "Anyone can start it, sling it on his back and start blasting leaves in seconds."
It weighs nearly 23 pounds, but with its padded backrest and shoulder straps, owners almost unanimously agree that it doesn't feel heavy.
"I'm 63 and was leery of getting a backpack blower due to weight etc.," one writes. "Seeing a neighbor using one convinced me this was the way to go." Once he straps it on to his back, he says, he doesn't notice the weight. A bonus: "No more arm fatigue from holding the handheld blower."
Little touches make the Echo PB-500H especially easy to use, experts say. "The gas tank is designed so you can position your foot on the blower frame for an easy pull start, the primer bulb is right where you can see it, and the flexible left control wand -- which has the throttle mounted on it -- is so smart, you wonder why other manufacturers haven't copied the design," says Popular Mechanics.
Another source awards the Echo PB-500H its highest possible rating for handling ease, with special praise for its multiple speeds (so you can control the airflow around shrubs, etc.) and spring-assisted pull cord for easier starting.
Handles every task -- even wet leaves and embedded pine needles -- with ease. Sodden leaves, long grass, pinecones, needles -- nothing fazes the Echo PB-500H, reviews say.
It tops the charts in two major tests, earning the highest possible scores for blowing piles of leaves and deep-cleaning embedded leaf bits out of the lawn. Popular Mechanics reports no problems blowing wet or dry leaves, sticks, seedpods and pinecones.
In fact, out of more than 80 owner reviews at HomeDepot.com, only one complains that the PB-500H lacks power. Everyone else finds its 50.8-cc engine more than ample -- including one owner with a 2.5-acre yard covered in maple trees.
"I have a rolling blower that is used commercially that doesn't do as good as a job as this blower," this owner writes. "I literally was blowing leaves and sticks 20 feet away!" Another gets similar results: "I was able to blow pinecones out of my grass that were embedded under thatch, moss, and grass like they were feathers! I was moving oak leaves 20 feet away from me!"
Others say the PB-500H easily blows tough pine needles out of the lawn. "Also acorns, those spiky balls, and branches of all sizes," one owner adds.
The Echo's power makes it a huge time-saver, users say. "It can take 3-4 hours of raking to get my leaves to the curb," one writes. "I was able to knock out the entire yard in just over an hour on less than one fill-up and barely broke a sweat."
If you've got a lot of property, reviews say the Echo PB-500H backpack leaf blower is your best bet. Experts and owners alike find this gas-powered blower incredibly simple to use -- and powerful enough to blast leaves from 20 feet away. Its five-year warranty for homeowner use gives it an edge over rival backpack blowers like the Husqvarna 150BT (*Est. $295) and Husqvarna 350BT (*Est. $285), which carry two-year warranties. For most homeowners, experts say a backpack blower is probably overkill; a good handheld leaf blower will do the trick.
Report Credibility: Excellent The Echo PB-500H is one of five gas backpack blowers that undergoes testing by ConsumerReports.org. Testers rate the blowers' performance, handling and noise level before ranking them from best to worst in a chart, alongside more than two dozen other gas and electric leaf blowers. Testers also give each model an individual write-up, explaining what it's like to use.
Review: Echo PB-500H, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, As of October 2012
Report Credibility: Very Good Volunteer testers put seven backpack blowers through their paces -- two commercial and five residential models. The Echo PB-500H is one of the two top-rated residential blowers (along with the Husqvarna 350BT). The review notes that the testers like its "simplicity and power. … Anyone can start it, sling it on his back and start blasting leaves in seconds."
Review: Backpack Leaf Blower Comparison Test, Roy Berendsohn, Not dated
Report Credibility: Good More than 80 owners post ratings and reviews of the Echo PB-500H here. The average rating is 4.7 out of 5, and 96 percent of the owners say they would recommend it to others. Only four give it low ratings -- two who find it noisy or heavy and two who say it broke too soon. However, another owner says that when his PB-500H broke down after two years, Echo sent him a brand-new replacement for it.
Review: Echo 162 mph 450 CFM Gas Backpack Blower, Contributors to HomeDepot.com, As of October 2012