Heavy-duty or light-duty? Electric or gas-powered? Handheld or backpack? Choosing a leaf blower is much more complicated than homeowners first realize. You’re just trying to get rid of leaves without hours of raking. How hard can this be? Well, it all depends on how much you want to spend on professional or DIY leaf removal, how convenient you need the blower to be and how your landscaping is set up. Here are some of the things you’ll need to consider when choosing a leaf blower or leaf vacuum.
Types of Leaf Blowers
- Light-Duty Electric Blowers. This type of blower is best for blowing leaves or dirt from decks or driveways. Corded “electric brooms” and cordless electric blowers fall into this category. They don’t have big motors or fans, so they’re also the quietest blowers on the market.
- Heavy-Duty Electric Leaf Blowers. For lawn areas, you will need a bit more power. As a guideline, if a 150-ft extension cord provides sufficient reach, then a good corded electric blower is your best combination of power, quietness, and convenience. Most of these can also vacuum and mulch leaves for flower beds or composting, making them even more versatile.
- Handheld Gas Blowers. These are heavier, noisier and more expensive than electric blowers, but they work anywhere, which makes them suited to yards of about half an acre in size. There are some things to consider before going with this option: the hassle of mixing and storing gasoline, the higher price and noise-level compared to a good electric blower for about the same amount of power, and most handheld gas blowers don’t have a leaf vacuum option so you will have to think of another way to gather the leaves. If you do go this route, look for an engine of 24 to 30 cc in size.
- Backpack Gas Leaf Blowers. These are the most powerful—and therefore heaviest—blowers out there, which explains why they’re worn on the back. They are best for heavy-duty leaves on a big yard. You can also find push-blowers with a similar amount of power. Look for an engine of 40 cc or more. Hybrid or four-cycle engines are quieter and less pollutant. Also, look for good padding, vibration reduction and air circulation in a backpack gas blower.
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In order to compare different models, it’s helpful to know which measurements are used. Power is usually measured in terms of air flow—that is how quickly the air comes out of the machine. Look for a rating in either miles per hour (mph) or cubic feet per minute (cfm). Experts say that the latter is a more accurate measurement, but manufacturers vary in how they measure it (e.g., with or without the blowing tube), so it’s best to use both. Noise is rated in decibels (db).
Choosing the best leaf vacuum is first and foremost a function of evaluating the unit’s mulching capacity or ratio, which shows how much the leaves are compressed when they’re mulched. This means that under ideal conditions, a leaf vacuum with a ratio of 16:1 will chop 16 bushels of leaves into 1 bushel of bits. Be aware, however, that many factors will affect the leaf vacuum’s actual performance—the type of leaves, wetness, etc. Look for a high mulching ratio and a metal impeller, which will be much less likely to break than the plastic variety.
More Factors in Choosing the Best Leaf Blowers/Leaf Vacuums
Before you buy, you should also check into your local ordinances and with lawn and garden care professionals. Some communities limit or ban the type of blower you can use, so professionals might know which ones are best for the city. If possible, check the noise level of your leaf blower before making a final purchase. Receipts and a liberal return policy may work, too. Weight can also be a factor, especially when it comes to using a handheld blower for a long time. A variable-speed blower is a good idea, since lower speeds protect plants and flower beds from overly powerful blasts. Features such as flared and swiveling nozzles make it easier to shepherd leaves into a neat pile, and many blowers/vacuums offer a no-tools nozzle change. Being informed about these options will help you to choose the right blower for you.