The Best Leaf Blower For You

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Deciding on which leaf blower to buy can be a complicated decision. Gas powered or electric, light-duty or heavy-duty, handheld or backpack, which one do you actually need?

  • How large is your property?
  • Is it a city lot or several acres in the country?
  • Is there a source of electrical power nearby?
  • And, how much do you want to spend for convenience?

Overview Of Leaf Blowers

Much has changed, in recent years, for leaf blower product design. New lightweight blowers now have better grips for two-hand control and less fatigue, and gas powered engines are lighter, too. Look for features such as automatic chokes, vibration isolation and shaped airstream out of the tube to efficiently move leaves and debris. Multi-function leaf blowers also can offer additional features such as vacuuming leaves and debris, or mulching leaves for composting.

Here’s the breakdown of the different styles of leaf blowers with some of the advantages and disadvantages of each style.

Light-duty blowers

A light-duty electric leaf blower works best for blowing leaves or dirt from patios, decks and driveways. Blowers with an electrical cord or electric brooms and cordless electric blowers are all in the light-duty category. The down side is they don't feature big motors or fans. But, they're also the quietest leaf blowers to use.

Heavy-duty blowers

Choose a heavy-duty electric leaf blower for large lawn areas. It will take more power to clear the lawn. If a 100 or 150-ft extension cord provides enough reach around the yard, then a corded electric blower may be the best combination of power, quietness and convenience. Most heavy-duty models can also vacuum and mulch leaves for flowerbeds, vegetable gardens, or composting.

Handheld gas blowers

Gas powered leaf blowers tend to be heavier, noisier and more expensive than their electric brothers. But gas powered leaf blowers can go to work anywhere. They are a good choice for yards up to half an acre. The downside is; extra work mixing and storing two-stroke gasoline, a higher purchase price and increased noise-level when compared to a comparable electric blower. Most handheld gas blowers won't have a leaf vacuum option. If this is important, then a handheld blower is not the way to go. For the best performers, look for handheld gas blowers with an engine size of 24 to 30cc.

Backpack gas leaf blowers

This is a situation where size does matter. Backpack gas leaf blowers are the big dog in the yard, the most powerful and the heaviest. That is why they're worn on the back. They perform the best for heavy-duty leaves on a big yard. There are also push-blowers with a similar amount of power. Look for models with an engine capacity of 40cc or more. Models with hybrid or four-cycle engines are quieter and less polluting than their two-stroke brothers. Good padding on the backpack is a must, vibration reduction, and air circulation, in a backpack gas blower, can also affect ease of use and user fatigue.

Comparing leaf blowers

Comparing the performance of different models from different manufacturers is somewhat of an exercise in judgment. To compare different models, it's necessary to know which measurements are used.

Power & Noise

Power is usually measured in terms of airflow or velocity, which is how quickly the air comes out of the leaf blower. This may be expressed in either miles per hour (mph) or cubic feet per minute (cfm). Informed experts indicate that the latter is a more accurate measurement. But manufacturers vary in how they measure it (with or without the blowing tube), so it's best to examine both. Recent consumer tests have shown the efficiency of a leaf blower is improved by shaped airstream technology used by several manufacturers. This improves the efficiency to move more leaves or debris with less power. Noise is always rated in decibels (db).

Mulching Capacity & Ratio

Choosing the best performing leaf vacuum is a function of evaluating the unit's mulching capacity, or ratio, which indicates how much the leaves are compressed when they're mulched. Under ideal conditions, a leaf vacuum with a ratio of 16:1 will chop 16 bushels of leaves into 1 bushel of compost or bits. However, many factors will affect the leaf vacuum's actual performance: the type of leaves and the wetness of the leaves. Better models will have a high mulching ratio and a metal impeller. Avoid models with a plastic impeller that is less rugged.

A leaf blower, that incorporates a variable-speed trigger, can offer the advantage of protecting plants and flowerbeds from overly powerful blasts. Features such as flared and swiveling nozzles make it easier to direct leaves into a neat pile. Many blowers or leaf vacuums now offer a “no-tools” nozzle change. Studying these features and options will help point to the right blower for your yard.

Last Updated: September 23, 2012
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About Bill Washburn William "Bill" Washburn has a BA in advertising from the Art Center College of Design and has taught at the University of Southern California and Northrup University. Writing from a well-connected studio in the rural foothills of the west coast, he is a frequent speaker at local art associations and has published numerous articles discussing periods of art history and the fundamentals of drawing and painting. William is a master gardener who grows his own culinary herbs, organic heirloom vegetables and a variety of fruits. He writes frequently about his gardening experiences on his website Pioneer Dad. He is an accomplished advertising writer, fine art painter, and art director with more than 20 years' experience. 

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