Leaf blowers are a much faster alternative to raking leaves by hand. They can even double as a snowclearer and driveway sweeper – so they are a useful tool to own.
How do you know which leaf blower to buy though? And are there any types or brands you should avoid? To help you make the right choice, this article contains six vital considerations when choosing a leaf blower.
Before we go any further though, it’s important to understand the difference between a leaf blower and garden vacuum.
Blowers are great for gathering a pile leaves or clearing snow from driveways. They are only capable of moving leaves though – you still need to pick them up. Garden vacuums, on the other hand, can suck up leaves while mulching them at the same time.
This article focuses on garden blowers. Vacuums can often be a more versatile tool, but they aremore expensive.
1. What Type Do You Need?
One of the most important decisions when choosing a leaf blower is the type. The right option depends on your garden’s terrain, size and your budget. Here’s an overview of the various types:
- Corded Electric Blowers. These are the least expensive. They are usually small and lightweight, so they can be held in one hand. The cord provides plenty of power, but can be annoying and limits your mobility. For small gardens, however, a corded electric blower is often the best choice.
- Cordless Electric Blowers. Cordless blowers run on battery power. This makes them more mobile, as you don’t need to worry about the location of the nearest power outlet. Cordless machines are less powerful and have a limited run-time though.
- Gas Handheld Blowers. If you want the mobility of a cordless blower without losing power, a gas handheld blower could be a good choice. Gas blowers are noisier and less convenient than electric models though.
- Gas Backpack Blowers. Backpack gas blowers are often even more powerful than handheld models. They are also heavy, loud and expensive. But if you have a lot of leaves to gather over a large area, they can do a great job.
So, which type should you choose? For most small or medium-size gardens, an electric blower is the best choice. They provide a balance between power and convenience – and are also cheaper than gas options. If you go for a corded electric blower, make sure you buy a heavy-duty extension cord too.
People with homesteads or who need a leaf blower for commercial jobs should consider a gas model. The extra power can make quick work of most tasks, while the lack of a cord increases mobility. Gas-powered blowers need more maintenance though.
Tip: If you’re buying a cordless electric leaf blower, watch out for “Bare Tool Only” deals. These don’t come with a battery. Buying a “Bare Tool” is great if you already have a battery, but you’ll need to buy one with a charger if you don’t.
2. 2-Cycle or 4-Cycle Engine?
If you’ve decided to buy a gas-powered leaf blower, you have the choice between a 2-Cycle or 4-Cycle engine.
2-cycle engines are often cheaper. They provide decent power without being too heavy, but they run on mixed fuel. This means you’ll either need to buy it pre-mixed or do so yourself.
4-cycle engines are more expensive, but they don’t need mixed fuel. The downside is you’ll need to change the oil more often.
3. How Powerful (And Noisy) is the Blower?
It takes a surprising amount of power to move wet leaves. Many home owners make the mistake of choosing an under powered machine, which often doesn’t have the required power to quickly gather leaves.
Fortunately, most leaf blowers are listed with an air flow rating. This is often measured in either cubic feet per minute or miles per hour. Ideally, use both values to compare the power of two blowers.
Of course, the more powerful a leaf blower the noisier it will be. Leaf blowers can be loud machines, which could make you unpopular with the neighbors! Before you buy a blower, check the decibel rating.
Some regions also have restrictions on the noise output of a leaf blower. Make sure you check the regulations in your town, and if you’re buying a gas-powered blower consider getting one with a muffler.
4. Is It Comfortable to Hold?
One of the most commonly overlooked factors when buying a leaf blower is how comfortable it is to hold. This might not matter if you have a small garden. But if you’re going to be using the blower for extended periods, it’s important to be comfortable.
Several factors can make a leaf blower easier to hold, but a lightweight design and ergonomic handle are the most important. The best handheld leaf blowers naturally tilt downwards, so you don’t need to fight them when clearing your garden. Some gas blowers also have built-in vibration reduction.
5. Does it Have Speed Settings?
A useful feature is a variable speed setting. This allows you to change the output depending on the job.
Cheaper leaf blowers usually have an adjustable dial, so you can select from a few pre-set speeds. More advanced blowers allow for a near-infinite range of speeds. While the latter feature isn’t required for small gardens, it can be useful for commercial blowers.
6. How Much Does It Cost?
Garden leaf blowers can range in price from $40 for the smallest electric models up to $1000+ for the most powerful gas-powered machines.
For most home owners, spending $100-$200 on an electric blower is the sweet spot. This provides a good balance between cost and power.
If you have a large garden, it could be worthwhile spending more on a more powerful gas-powered model. While the upfront cost is higher, the extra power will save you a lot of time and frustration. Make sure you buy some ear protection too!
This is a guest post from James Hall
When he's not gardening or walking his beloved dogs, Jim is a writer and home cleaning expert. He writes about a wide range of topics, including home automation, DIY and the latest technology. You can find him on Twitter.