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Leaf blowers

Leaf blower buying guide

Last updated: October 2013

Getting started

Gas blowers are still the fastest way to clear a yard full of leaves. More are also quieter, especially at the 50-foot distance used for most noise limits. But our tests of more than 50 models show that lower prices and comparable performance for the best electric blowers make them a smart choice for most homeowners, especially if your leaf clearing is within 100 feet of a power outlet.

Some corded-electric models swept away leaves and loosened stubborn debris almost as well as our top gas blowers. And many gas models are far less noisy than older versions, electrics are still quietest overall. That's good news, particularly if your community is among the scores of municipalities with gas-blower regulations. You'll also see cordless electric blowers that combine the ease of a corded blower with the mobility of a gas model--though those we've tested have been pricey and offered relatively little run time before their batteries need recharging.

Many areas prohibit unreasonable noise, including the whine of a blower, during certain hours--say, between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m. But some areas prohibit any blower louder than 70 decibels at 50 feet, and a few limit noise to 65 decibels (about as loud as a window air conditioner on high). Some gas blowers and all the electrics met the 70-decibel limit in our industry tests at 50 feet. And at 65 decibels or less in our latest tests, a few gas-powered blowers matched the quietest electrics we tested. Staying on good term with your neighbors happy might be the best reason to choose a less-raucous blower, wherever you live.

How to choose

The best handheld electric blowers are powerful enough for big jobs, provided they're within 100 feet of a power outlet. Gas handheld models go anywhere but add weight, cost, and noise, along with fueling and maintenance, while cordless-electric versions offer less power than gas models and limited run time per battery charge. Backpack gas blowers typically cost more than handheld blowers, but less than cordless models, and offer more power while transferring weight from your arms to your back and shoulders.

Got lots of leaves? Wheeled blowers pack the most power by far. They also take up the most storage space, can be tough to push and control, and cost the most overall--though a few cost little more than most backpack models. Here's what else to consider:

Know the law. A few areas prohibit gas blowers, and a handful in California and elsewhere ban all of those machines, no matter how quiet. Check with your community or go to the Noise Pollution Clearinghouse for a nationwide list of regulations. Then check our 50-foot noise scores in the Ratings; models judged Excellent should meet the toughest limits, while those that scored Very Good or Good should meet most.

Decide whether you need to vacuum. Some handheld blowers also pick up yard debris. But their relatively small tubes limit how much you can suck up at one time. A few have a metal impeller. which should hold up better over time than the usual nylon versions when ingesting leaves and twigs.

Factor in other features. Flatter nozzles tend to be better for sweeping leaves, while rounded ones are usually best for loosening them. Adjustable speeds let you power down around fragile garden beds, and a clear gas tank shows fuel level.

Look for labor savers. Handheld models that scored well in our handling tests have better balance and, often, a second grip for added control. A bottom-mounted air intake will probably tug less at clothing than an intake at the side. A convenient shut-off switch lets you cut the motor or engine quickly.

Be safe and considerate

Even blowers that are relatively quiet at a distance can prove deafening up close. To protect yourself and to be kind to others:

  • Wear hearing protection, especially with models that scored less than Good in our noise tests at ear level.
  • Wear goggles and a dust mask.
  • Keep people and pets far away from the area you're clearing.
  • Avoid running even the quietest blowers very early or late in the day.

Types

The best electric handheld blowers sweep and loosen leaves nearly as well as the best gas-engine models for less money. And both types take much of the work (and blisters) out of clearing fallen leaves and other yard and driveway debris.

Electric handheld blowers


These corded models typically weigh 8 pounds or less and are designed for one-handed use. No-hassle pushbutton starting and zero exhaust emissions are pluses, as is power that approaches what you'll get from handheld gas blowers. But the power cord limits your mobility and can create a hassle around trees and other obstacles. Consider an electric blower where a power outlet is within 100 feet of the work area.

Gas-powered handheld blowers


These are also designed for one-handed use, and there's no power cord to tangle or limit your mobility. The most capable models pack more sweeping and loosening power than the best electrics. And more meet most if not all noise limits where they apply. But you typically need to yank a pull-cord to start the engine. Gas engines require periodic tune-ups, and they're loud enough to warrant hearing protection. Gas-powered handheld blowers tend to be heavier than electrics; most weigh around 10 pounds. And most models have two-stroke engines that require mixing fuel and oil, and the four-stroke models, while cleaner, can also be relatively heavy.

Gas-powered backpack blowers


These blowers typically add power over handheld blowers. Most weight 20 pounds or more--roughly twice as much as gas-powered handheld blowers. But your back and shoulders, rather than your arms, support the weight. Like handheld gas models, they're typically noisier than electrics, though a few meet most or all noise limits where they apply. They can't vacuum or shred. And they typically cost more than handheld blowers.

Gas-powered wheeled blowers


These offer enough oomph to quickly sweep a sizable area. Their large four-stroke engines require no mixing of fuel and oil. But wheeled blowers can't vacuum or shred. They're bulky and typyically weigh 100 pounds or more, so they tend to be relatively hard to maneuver and push, especially uphill. They require about eight square feet of storage space. And they're noisy and expensive--though a few models are surprisingly quiet and should meet even the toughest noise limits where they apply.

Features


Some leaf blower features add to convenience, and some enhance safety. Here's what to consider.

Adjustable air deflector


On wheeled models, an adjustable air deflector lets you adjust the airflow forward or to either side. That's handy for collecting leaves in one big pile or when you work alongside a wall, hedge, or other obstruction.

Bottom-mounted air intake


On handheld models, a bottom-mounted air intake is less likely to pull annoyingly at your clothing than one mounted at the side.

Convenient shut-off switch

This lets you shut off the electric motor or gas engine quickly and easily and is a good safety feature.

Hand grip

Some handheld models have more comfortable handles with a second hand grip for better control.

Nozzle design


Some blowers have flattened nozzles, while others have rounded ones. Choose a flatter tip for sweeping loose leaves, a rounder tip for loosening leaves that are imbedded in the lawn. Some blowers come with both.

Primer bulb

On gas models, it lets you give the engine a squirt of fuel for easier cold starting.

Speed control

Multiple speeds on an electric blower or a variable throttle on a gas-powered blower let you increase power for sweeping on hard surfaces or open ground and decrease it around fragile garden beds.

Translucent fuel tank

A clear tank allows you to tell at a glance when fuel is running low. And a wide opening reduces the chances of a fuel spill.

Brands


Mainstream leaf blower brands include Black & Decker, Craftsman (Sears), Homelite, Poulan, Toro, and Weed Eater. More expensive gas-blower brands include Echo, Husqvarna, John Deere, and Stihl. Use these profiles to compare leaf blowers by brand.

Black & Decker

This leading marketer of electric and cordless leaf blowers uses the Leaf Hog line name on some models. Black & Decker makes lightweight plug-in electric models that weigh 5 to 8 lbs. Black & Decker leaf blowers are among the most widely available, and can be found in mass merchants, home centers, web retailers and hardware stores.

Craftsman

Craftsman is one of the leading brands of electric and gas leaf blowers. The Craftsman gas leaf blower line includes handhelds, backpacks, and push types. Craftsman is made for and sold by Sears and models can be purchased online and in Sears and Kmart retail stores.

Echo

Echo makes high-end handheld and backpack professional-grade gas leaf blowers. Its gas blowers feature lower weight and high power, the latest starting and sound-reduction improvements, and high cfm. They're available at The Home Depot, outdoor power equipment dealers and hardware stores.

Stihl

Stihl makes professional-grade gas leaf blowers and high-end electric models. It sells exclusively through outdoor power equipment dealers. Stihl uses the HomeScaper line name on some consumer-grade models. The Stihl line of gas handheld and backpack blowers features high power and high amount of air moved, measured in cubic feet per minute.

Toro

Another leading brand of electric leaf blowers, Toro makes lightweight plug-in electric models that weigh 5 to 8 lbs. Toro uses line names Power Sweep, Super Blower and Power Blower on some of its models. Toro leaf blowers are among the most widely available, and can be found in mass merchants, home centers, Web retailers and hardware stores.

Weed Eater

Weedeater markets electric and gas leaf blowers. Weedeater products are value priced and many are lightweight. Weedeater leaf blowers can be found at mass merchants, Web retailers, and hardware stores.

   

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