No earplugs required. You won't need earplugs to run the Stihl BGA 85. It's easily quieter for its operator than any gas leaf blower in one top test -- and it's even quieter than most corded electric blowers.
At "neighbor distance" (50 feet away), testers judge it very quiet. Sal Vaglica at ThisOldHouse.com praises its "neighbor-friendly 64 decibels" as one of the cordless Stihl's best assets.
But that's still just as loud as some gas-powered models at neighbor distance, Wired's David Wolman points out. For example, the Stihl BG 55 (*Est. $150) -- the Best Reviewed handheld gas blower -- rumbles along at 69 decibels.
No cords, no gas, no fumes. Popular Mechanics' Roy Berendsohn says that he has always preferred gas outdoor power tools, but Stihl's cordless tools (there's also a chain saw and grass and hedge trimmers) changed his mind.
"These tools are awesome," he concludes after a quick test. "Light, clean, quiet and fast; you can snap in a battery and go." Yes, they're expensive -- but he says they're worth it "for users who value timesaving, quietness and not having to worry about exhaust or handling tools with hot mufflers."
You have to buy the battery and charger separately -- but then you can use it with Stihl's other cordless outdoor tools, if you want. The AP 80 Lithium-ion battery (*Est. $150) can run the blower for about 10 minutes, or the AP 160 (*Est. $260) can run it for 20 minutes. (Stihl says it will run the whole time at full speed -- the power won't dwindle.)
The AL 100 Standard Battery Charger (*Est. $50) can charge the smaller battery in 70 minutes or less, or the AL 300 Rapid Battery Charger (*Est. $90) can do it in 25 minutes, Stihl says.
Wolman enjoys using the cordless Stihl better than the heavy, gas-powered backpack blowers he tests for Wired. No gas fumes to smell, and the lightweight cordless blower proves "more maneuverable and precise than backpack models. It can reach over and around hedges and yard furniture for strategic blasts instead of unleashing a 200-mph hurricane from 15 feet away."
Still, at 9.5 pounds (10.8 pounds with the bigger battery), the cordless Stihl outweighs the best handheld gas leaf blowers, including the 9-pound Stihl BG 55. It "starts to feel heavy without a shoulder strap," Wolman says.
Vaglica at ThisOldHouse.com says the rear-mounted battery "throws the blower out of balance, so you have to work at pointing the nozzle down" -- but it's so clean and powerful that he still names the cordless Stihl leaf blower one of the best new home products for 2011.
Good leaf-blowing power -- but some cheaper corded and gas blowers work better. "Most battery-powered blowers don't do much more than whisper to patio debris," ThisOldHouse.com editors say -- but the Stihl BGA 85 is the exception. Its leaf-blowing power proves "comparable to an emissions-spewing machine."
Likewise, in Wired's test, the cordless Stihl's muscle proves to be "plenty for our leaf wrangling," clearing leaves and debris from a neighborhood baseball diamond. In another test, the cordless Stihl sweeps big piles of leaves just as efficiently as the Toro Ultra Blower Vac 51599 (predecessor to the Best Reviewed Toro Ultra Blower Vac 51609 (*Est. $70), but the Stihl can't loosen embedded leaf bits from the turf quite as powerfully. And no electric blower in that test can match the gas-powered Stihl BG 55.
Despite the convenience factor, ConsumerReports.org concludes that the Stihl BGA 85 just costs too much -- especially since cheaper corded and gas blowers work equally well or better for a fraction of the price.
We found next to no owner reviews for the Stihl BGA 85, so it's hard to judge how well it works in real-life use.
Almost as powerful as a gas leaf blower -- but without the mess and fumes -- the battery-powered Stihl BGA 85 is really in a class by itself. No other cordless leaf blower can match its muscle. Still, $500 to $650 is a steep price to pay for convenience. If you're willing to put up with extension cords or gas cans, the top-rated, corded-electric and gas blowers all pack more power at a much cheaper price.
Report Credibility: Excellent In this free article, ConsumerReports.org says the cordless Stihl BGA 85 costs a lot for middling performance. Links lead to ConsumerReports.org's excellent comparison test of 31 leaf blowers, both gas and electric -- but only subscribers can access that.
Review: Stihl the One? Perhaps Not Its Cordless-Electric Leaf Blower, Ed Perratore, June 5, 2012
2. This Old House
Report Credibility: Very Good Testers here recommend only one cordless leaf blower: the Stihl BGA 85. They judge it "very good" at blowing leaves, after testing it alongside nine other gas and electric blowers. They do note that the Stihl's battery makes it back-heavy, so the nozzle keeps wanting to point up -- but ThisOldHouse.com still names the Stihl BGA 85 one of the 100 best new home products for 2011.
Review: TOH Tested: Leaf Blowers, Sal Vaglica, Not dated
Report Credibility: Good The Stihl BGA 85 wins this test, beating three powerful gas backpack leaf blowers. It packs plenty of power for the job (blowing leaves and debris off of a neighborhood baseball diamond) with more precise control and no emissions.
Review: Review Roundup: Leaf Blowers, David Wolman, Sept. 29, 2011
Report Credibility: Good Popular Mechanics' home expert Roy Berendsohn says he has always preferred gas outdoor power tools, but Stihl's cordless set changes his mind. He tests the chainsaw and trimmer first, then uses the blower to clear leaves and sticks from a bridle path and sweep out his shop. He admits it's a small test, but "it was enough to see that these tools are light, clean, quiet and fast."
Review: No Gas, No Problem: Stihl's Battery-Powered Tools Get the Job Done, Roy Berendsohn, Not dated