Your neighbors won't mind, but you'll want earplugs. All gas-powered leaf blowers are loud. The Stihl BG 55 is one of the quietest handheld gas blowers from 50 feet away (which can help keep your neighbors happy) -- but it's one of the loudest at ear level in one top test. You'll definitely need to wear hearing protection, experts say.
"It is noisy, but you expect that from leaf blowers (earplugs are a must)," one owner writes.
Other owners are silent on the noise issue. The handheld Stihl prompts far fewer noise complaints than more powerful backpack blowers like the Echo PB-500H (*Est. $300), which has some owners scrambling for both earplugs and earmuffs to shut out the roar.
Lightweight and easy to control, but some say it's hard to start. Weight is a make-or-break factor for handheld gas blowers in reviews. Lower-rated models tip the scales at more than 10 pounds, which can fatigue your arm and hand and make the blower harder to control.
At 9 pounds, the Stihl BG 55 is lightweight and well balanced, owners say. Male and female users find it perfectly comfortable to carry.
"I use the blower to clean my gutters, roof, patios, gravel areas, and my driveway," one owner writes. "Easy to carry up a ladder and around the roof." An optional gutter kit (*Est. $35) extends the nozzle more than 10 feet, so you can blow dry leaves and debris out of your gutters. You can also get an optional vacuum kit (*Est. $40). Both work well, owners say.
Two top testing organizations love the Stihl BG 55's easy handling, with a throttle trigger that lets you vary the speed (so you can blow more gently around flowerbeds, etc.) and can lock into place, so you don't have to squeeze the trigger constantly. Popular Mechanics finds only one small quibble: "The Stihl needs a momentary Stop switch, not one with a fixed position."
Most owners, both men and women, say they never have a problem starting the Stihl BG 55. One has had his for nine years, and it "never fails to start on the second pull."
However, several owners complain that the Stihl BG 55 is hard to start. Some say there's a special knack to starting Stihls so you don't flood the engine, and you should get your dealer to show you how. One posts step-by-step instructions he got from his dealer (full choke for a few pulls until it fires once, then pull on half choke until it starts). Another owner says, "You will struggle if you don't follow the starting instructions, easy once you get the hang of it." The similar Stihl BG 56 C-E (*Est. $190) adds an "Easy2Start" feature.
Beats other handheld gas blowers in a leading test. The Stihl BG 55 wins Popular Mechanics' eight-leaf blower shootout, beating close rivals like the Husqvarna 125B (*Est. $145) and Hitachi RB24EAP (*Est. $140). "The Stihl's air-movement numbers were low compared with other blowers, but we found it moved debris better than those with higher numbers -- the airstream is optimized, focused and less turbulent," testers write.
In another top test, the Stihl BG 55 gets the highest possible scores for performance. Testers say it aggressively digs embedded bits of leaf out of the lawn and is especially quick at sweeping piles of leaves and other debris.
Although it's not as powerful as a backpack blower, owners say the Stihl BG 55 is strong enough to move wet elm leaves, small apples and more.
"I have used the Stihl BG 55 handheld blower at my landscaping job and it works great for leaves, grass clippings, and sand," says one user at Viewpoints.com "You can turn a five hour parking lot sweep into a five-minute walk around." Another owner says it has held up to hard use on his heavily wooded property: "Powerful, sturdy, lots of air ... Dropped it a few times and it kept running."
If you need to journey beyond the length of an extension cord with your leaf blower, experts recommend the gas-powered Stihl BG 55. The BG 55 excels in two expert tests, and most owners love this lightweight, powerful leaf blower -- making it the top pick among handheld gas blowers. The runner up Echo PB-250LN (*Est. $170) works equally well in tests, but with fewer owner reviews than the Stihl, it's hard to judge how well the Echo holds up in real-life use.
Report Credibility: Excellent ConsumerReports.org ranks the Stihl BG 55 alongside 10 other handheld gas leaf blowers in a handy chart. Testers judge the machines' ability to loosen debris and blow leaves, as well as their handling and noise level. Each model gets an individual review, too. More than 40 owners post reviews for the Stihl BG 55 here, as well.
Review: Stihl BG 55, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, As of October 2012
Report Credibility: Very Good The Stihl BG 55 wins this test, edging out close rivals like the Echo PB-250, Husqvarna 125B and Hitachi RB24EAP. The Stihl weighs less and actually moves less air than others, but its focused airstream moves debris better.
Review: Which Leaf Blower Is the Best? We Test 8 to Find Out, Roy Berendsohn, Not dated
Report Credibility: Fair Eight owners have reviewed the Stihl BG 55 here -- and all but one score it a perfect 5. The other one rates it a 1, saying it's hard to start. Some of the reviews here are short, but others are long and well organized.
Review: Stihl BG55 Handheld Leaf Blower Reviews, Contributors to Viewpoints.com, As of October 2012