The leaf blower is an essential gardening tool, used for clearing fallen leaves and other light garden debris (e.g. grass clippings, small sticks, sand, light snowfall). It can transform your garden into a neat and tidy haven, without the back-breaking labour of a rake and shovel.
Having an orderly garden is important for two reasons.
- There is an aesthetic appeal.
- Dead leaf and grass trimmings can harbour harmful diseases, which could be deadly for thriving plants.
Before buying a leaf blower, ask yourself:
- How big is my garden?
- How machine savvy am I? (Can I change fuel? Can I maintain an engine?)
- How much storage space do I have?
- What do I plan on using the leaf blower to move?
- How much noise can I (and my neighbours) handle?
- Do I need a blower, a vacuum, or both?
Consider each of these before purchasing anything.
Types of Leaf Blower
There are 5 main varieties of leaf blower, each with their own sets of benefits and drawbacks.
Corded-Electric Leaf Blower:
- Connected to the mains power supply via a cable.
- Manoeuvring the cable around obstacles can be clumsy.
- The working radius is limited by the length of the cable.
- Best for smaller gardens.
- Mower powerful than the cordless leaf blower; some models can be just as powerful as petrol.
- Often the cheapest leaf blower.
- Gives off zero-emissions.
- Lightweight; designed for one-handed use.
- Easy start-up; usually just the press of a button.
- Requires little to no maintenance.
- If a vacuum function is included, this can be switched-to with the flick of a button (useful for clearing nozzle blockages).
Cordless Battery-Powered Electric Leaf Blower:
- Powered by a battery.
- Usage time will depend on the battery’s charge capacity.
- Best for medium-sized gardens.
- Completely mobile.
- Easy to manoeuvre.
- Lightweight (some can be operated one-handed).
- Often less powerful than corded and petrol leaf blowers (though some more powerful models exist).
- Environmentally friendly.
- Makes very little noise.
- Ideal for borders, patios and anywhere requiring a delicate, precise touch (the lack of power means surrounding plants will not be destroyed).
- Will struggle to move heavier debris or damp leaves.
- Easy to start and operate.
- Requires little to no maintenance.
- Cheaper than petrol leaf blowers.
Petrol-Powered Handheld Leaf Blower:
- More powerful than most electric leaf blowers.
- Heavier than most electric leaf blowers.
- Handheld makes for increased mobility and manoeuvrability.
- Requires regular maintenance.
- More expensive than most electric models.
- Requires refuelling (another cost).
- Suited for larger gardens.
- Can tackle heavier debris than electric, and damp leaves.
- Can be very noisy; will usually require the addition of ear protection.
- Fitted with a cord-start engine, which requires a little more mastery.
- Usually fitted with a 2-stroke engine.
- Even more powerful 4-stroke engines are being introduced as a more environmentally friendly option.
Petrol-Powered Backpack Leaf Blower:
- More powerful the electric, and petrol handheld leaf blowers.
- The engine is mounted on the shoulders like a backpack; the weight is evenly distributed across the back and shoulders, increasing the leaf blower’s ergonomic value.
- Best for prolonged use.
- Very mobile and easily manoeuvrable.
- Very heavy; on average, weights twice as much as a petrol handheld leaf blower.
- Best suited to large gardens.
- Requires refuelling.
- Needs regular maintenance.
- One of the nosiest leaf blowers; needs ear protection.
- More expensive than the petrol handheld leaf blower.
- Cannot be fitted with vacuum or shredder attachments.
Petrol-Powered Wheeled Leaf Blower/Walk Behind Leaf Blower:
- The biggest leaf blower available.
- The most powerful leaf blower available.
- The most expensive leaf blower available.
- Requires a huge storage space.
- Can clear lots of heavier garden debris from a flat space of land.
- Powered by a 4-stroke engine.
- Gives off emissions.
- Cannot be fitted with a shredder or a vacuum.
- Very noisy!
- Requires refuelling (though the process is easier as it needs no mixing of petrol and oil).
- Requires regular maintenance.
- Very heavy and difficult to move.
Leaf blowers can come fitted with a range of additional features, designed to make your gardening experience more efficient and comfortable. Here are a few to keep an eye out for:
- Extra Hand Grip:
- The leaf blower comes fitted with a second hand grip.
- It is easier and more comfortable to operate.
- Nozzle Design:
- Flattened Nozzle: good for sweeping loose debris.
- Rounded Nozzle: good for loosening embedded debris.
- A narrower nozzle with eject air with increased pressure, for faster, more powerful, clearing.
- Some leaf blowers come with interchangeable nozzles.
- Speed Control:
- Some leaf blowers allow you to increase or decrease the airflow speed as necessary.
- Increase the speed for more difficult, or more open, areas.
- Decrease the speed for delicate areas (e.g. flowerbeds).
- Emergency Shut-Off Switch:
- The leaf blower can be turned off with the press of a single button
- Clear Fuel Tank:
- Sometimes fitted on petrol leaf blowers.
- Allows you to check whether fuel is running low without removing the cap.
- Bottom-Mounted Air intake:
- Traditionally a leaf blower will take air in through the side of the engine; this can often be blocked by clothes or the body.
- Bottom-mounted air intake sucks air through the bottom of the machine.
- Collection Bag:
- Does the leaf blower come fitted with a collection bag?
- How big is the collection bag?
- Is the collection bag waterproof? (not all leaves are dry!).
Some blowers come fitted with a vacuum/shredder function, meaning fallen foliage can be easily collected and transformed into compost. It is an especially useful function in places where you do not want to scatter debris (around a pond).
Only handheld leaf blowers come fitted with vacuums (and not all of them do).
With cheaper leaf blowers, a simple switch can alternative between the blowing and sucking functions. With more expensive models, the leaf blower must be reconfigured between functions. While the latter is more time consuming and complicated, it means you do not lose any power between modes (as you might on the cheaper ones).
As well as vacuuming, some leaf blowers come fitted with an additional shredding/mulching function. Try to purchase one with metal blades, as plastic can be more brittle and is liable to crack, or even shatter.
When vacuuming, always avoid stones.
Health Dangers (Noise & Air Pollution)
There are a few health concerns to be wary of when operating a leaf blower:
- Air Pollution:
- Some leaf blowers release more carbon emissions than others.
- More carbon emissions are more harmful to the environment.
- Noise Pollution:
- Some leaf blowers are very loud.
- Some places in America have restricted, even banned, leaf blower use because of their noise.
- Petrol will be louder than electric; bigger louder than smaller.
- Some noise pollution is at a level high enough to cause hearing loss.
- Always wear ear protection.
- Work as far away from people and pets as possible.
- Do not work too early, or too late, in the day.
- Dust Clouds:
- Leaf blowers can throw dust clouds in the air.
- Dust clouds may contain mould, faeces and pesticides, the consumption of which will have detrimental health effects.
- Harmful substances may cause allergies or disease.
- Wear a dust mask whilst working.
By Dylan Blyth.