10 Best Leaf Blowers | March 2017
- built-in cord retainer
- compacts trimmings at 16 to 1 ratio
- tool free change from blower to vac
- comfortable rubberized handle
- 0-18,000 rpm variable speed control
- compact at only 20-3/4" long
- reliable starting in all weather
- quality, high-performance battery
- comes apart for compact storage
- compatible with 18v ryobi1+ batteries
- comes with the battery charger
- blowing power isn't very strong
- includes a concentrator nozzle
- quick conversion from blower to vacuum
- comes with a cord storage hook
- has zero carbon footprint
- not as noisy as gas powered models
- safety cord lock keeps you connected
- can maximize run time or power as needed
- fast 1-hour charge time
- weighs less than 5 pounds
Choosing The Right Leaf Blower
If you've ever hand raked your entire yard, you understand the amount of time and physical energy it takes to complete said task. Maybe that's the reason you're here: you're ready to invest in a leaf blower. Leaf blowers are powerful, effective, and in many cases are surprisingly affordable, too. It might come as something of a pleasant surprise to know that you can get a leaf blower for well under fifty dollars.
First, to be clear, when we discuss leaf blowers, in this context we are talking about electrically powered, handheld units as opposed to their larger and more powerful counterpart, the backpack blower. Those professional grade units tend to be overpowered for the purposes of most people looking merely to keep their yards or patios looking cleaner through occasional maintenance. (And even the cheapest backpack blower costs more than two hundred dollars, it should be noted.)
When choosing a leaf blower, you first have to decide if you prefer a corded unit or one that is controlled by battery power. The benefits of a unit that plugs in are as obvious as its drawbacks: your power source is reliable and essentially endless, and you never have to wait for a battery to charge. On the other hand, use of corded units necessitates the ownership of a long extension cord and the reach of the unit is limited by the length of said cord. Moving about also requires frequent retracing of steps and movement of the cord. A battery powered leaf blower, on the other hand, lets its user move freely about a property unencumbered by a cord and not limited by its reach. Once the batteries die, however, the unit is nothing more than an oddly shaped paperweight until they have been recharged. This annoying can be mitigated by the purchase of extra batteries, but of course that adds expense.
As for actual power, there is surprisingly little difference between the air output of a plug in blower compared to a battery powered blower with a relatively full charge. While most blowers create wind speeds of 160 miles per hour or more, some smaller units only generate winds blowing at 120 MPH. This will likely not be sufficient for clearing larger buildups of wet leaves or for larger twigs. Don't try to save money by getting yourself a leaf blower that is underpowered for your property's needs -- this will prove counterproductive as you end up wasting time manually clearing debris rather than blowing it where it needs to go.
Finally, consider whether your needs will be met by a unit that functions as a leaf blower alone or if you prefer (or need, given the quantity of leaves your property produces) a leaf blower that can also function as a vacuum and mulcher. Many leaf blowers can also be used to suck up and chop up leaves and small lawn debris, providing you with useful leaf mulch or simply reducing the number of bags needed to clean up the leaves you gather. With this versatility, you can expect a slightly added price, but many users find this cost well worth it.
Using Your Leaf Blower
Using a leaf blower will quickly become second nature to most people, but the amateur user will benefit from these few basic tips. First and foremost, you have to know how to operate the actual machine. Read the manual if you have any doubts about its function, and otherwise simply make sure you are running battery powered units with a full charge or are using intact power cords rated for the voltage drawn by your leaf blower.
Next, know that timing is important when blowing leaves. Wet leaves are remarkably resistant to a leaf blower; whenever possible, clear leaves before rainfall or else wait a day or two to let wet leaves dry out again before you try to remove them with your blower. (If you must clear wet leaves, you will likely have to use a rake.) Also avoid blowing leaves on a windy day unless the breeze is consistent blowing in the direction in which you want to move the leaves anyway; otherwise, you will simply lift and redistribute the leaves, rather than clearing them.
To make your work easier, plan in advance where your final leaf pile (or piles) will be and lay down a large tarp (weighted with rocks or branches if need be) that will collect the blown leaves in a pile. You can skip the tarp if you plan to suck up and mulch the leaf pile later. Always try to work in one direction when blowing leaves. One technique is to start in one corner of your yard and work toward the far corner; another is to work your way down hill.
You should hold your leaf blower down by your waist to reduce arm strain and to create the proper shallow angle for ideal lifting and moving of leaves and twigs. Use a back and forth sweeping motion to keep leaves moving once they have been lifted from the grass.
A Few Words On Leaf Blower Safety
Operating a leaf blower is safe and easy as long as you take a few basic precautionary steps prior to each use, and as long as you adhere to a few common sense practices.
It's important that you wear hearing and eye protection while using a leaf blower. Most electric units create a noise level measured between seventy and eighty five decibels, which is instantly annoying to the human ear and which can cause long term damage with prolonged exposure. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration directs companies to protect workers from sound at this volume; take care of yourself and do the same.
As for eye protection, a leaf blower stirs up all sorts of debris while in use, including many small particles that can easily find their way into your eye, causing irritation or damage. Use goggles or protective glasses to minimize the risk of a scratched cornea.
And of course you must make sure no one else is near enough to your leaf blower to have their eyes or ears potentially damaged, or else to even be struck by a bit of wind blown debris you inadvertently send aloft.