What the best leaf blower has

  • Sufficient airflow. "If you have enough acreage to justify a riding mower, you'll need a blower with serious airflow, more than 90 mph," says David Wolman at Wired. However, don't rely on the airspeed specification alone; Popular Mechanics warns that mph and cfm measurements aren't a dependable way to determine the power of a leaf blower.
  • Effective sweeping and loosening. Instead of just blasting at the ground, the best leaf blowers use their power productively. Well-designed tubes help move leaves efficiently and can blow free any trapped foliage.
  • Variable speed trigger to easily adjust power. With an infinite number of speed settings, variable speed triggers allow users to instantly customize power to match the toughness of the job. Leaf blowers with power dials aren't as adjustable, but are still handier than machines with only one constant speed.
  • Comfort and balance. Handheld blowers should naturally hang at a downward angle and be light enough to maneuver the air tube with minimal effort.
  • Neighborhood-friendly noise levels. Before you buy, find out what noise restrictions there are in your area. The best leaf blowers measure less than 65 decibels from 50 feet away, a decent level for suburban landscapers. Due to concerns about noise and emissions, some cities and towns limit the hours that leaf blowers can be used, or ban them altogether.
  • Brand reliability. Top leaf blower brands are known for durability and solid construction, two key features in a long-lasting tool. The standard warranty on leaf blowers is two years.

Know before you go

Wear ear plugs and safety glasses. Leaf blowers often generate between 70 and 75 decibels of noise at the source, which can cause damage after prolonged exposure. Wear safety glasses to prevent small sticks, leaves and other debris from being blown into your eyes.

Use only heavy-gauge extension cords rated for outdoor use. Using a cord that's too small is not only unsafe but could damage your electric leaf blower. Experts recommend using a 14-gauge extension cord up to 100 feet long. If you need more length, upgrade to a 12-gauge power cord "to make sure you pull enough amps to get top performance from the blower," says Joe Delulio at LeafBlowersDirect.com.

Locate the closest service center before you buy. Driving long distances or shipping your leaf blower to a service shop can be expensive and inconvenient, and may not be worth it even for a warrantied repair.

What's to come

As companies work to create gas leaf blowers with lower emissions, more four-stroke engines are hitting the market. In comparison to the standard two-stroke, four-stroke models are quieter, produce less vibration, and don't require a mixture of gas and oil. Current models are heavier and more expensive, making them an inferior choice for many consumers.

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