Leaf blowers, vacuums and mulchers are great help in keeping the yard and garden clean and tidy. And the best of all, they are easy to use and low maintenance tools, which often come at very affordable prices. However, when choosing the best leaf blower, vacuum and mulcher or their combo, there are few things to consider.
Leaf Blowers or Leaf Vacuums or Leaf Mulchers - or Combo?
When considering tools like these, one must ask a question - "What tool do I actually need?"
In most cases, one needs both leaf blower and leaf vacuum, while leaf mulchers often come third. However, these days, most of these tools come as combination of these three.
Basic parts of these tools are motor, impeller and cleaning attachments - motor provides power for impeller to create required air flow, while cleaning attachments depends on the mode used (vacuuming or blowing) and type of the debris.
Air speed determines how strong is a leaf blower and is often given in the mph or kmh. The faster the air, the greater the force the air has to move the debris around. However, if you are comparing two blowers/vacuums with similar air speed, check air volume (often given in cubic feet or cubic meters of air per minute) - if the blowers/vacuums have approximately the same air speed, one with larger air volume (per minute, per second) is actually the stronger one.
Commercial units are usually just blowers or just vacuums - this way they are optimized for one purpose and operate with greater efficiency. And they cost more.
Electric or Gas Powered Leaf Blowers
Leaf vacuums and mulchers can be powered with electric motors or gas engines. Gas engines are generally stronger, and have greater autonomy than corded or cordless electric units.
However, they are also noisier, have exhaust fumes that don't smell very nice and can cause breathing issues, have larger CO2 footprint, they are harder to maintain etc.
Gas powered leaf blowers/vacuums/mulchers are more common in commercial units which are operated away from residential areas and away from locations with mains power.
For small yards and backyard gardens, electric leaf blowers/vacuums/mulchers are, IMHO, proper choice - their noise levels are much lower than noise levels in gas operated units, they practically have no CO2 footprint during operation, there are no gas emissions of any kind, they are much easier to maintain etc.
However, they are also somewhat weaker, they depend on mains power, and their range depend on the length of the extension cord. But, their working area is your garden and it is quite easy to purchase long enough extension cord which covers entire garden/yard.
Note: most of the electric leaf blowers are manufactured with either very short power cord or without it, and purchase of extension cord is a must. Unless you already have one, of course :)
Cordless Leaf Blowers
If you do require a leaf blower to operate without mains socket around, but you believe that gas operated leaf blowers are too noisy and too dirty, then your solution are cordless leaf blowers.
They operate using energy stored in onboard battery, which powers electric motor. Their time of operation is limited by amount of energy stored in battery and the way the blower is used. If the unit is pushed to 100% of power all the time, operating time is significantly reduced. Reducing used power, can prolong operating time - this is very important to know when using cordless tools, not just cordless leaf blowers.
There are several important details one must pay attention when choosing cordless leaf blower:
- battery type and capacity - lithium ion batteries are the most expensive, but they offer more energy stored per weight of the battery.
They tolerate high charge and discharge currents, have no memory effect, and have low self-discharge levels. Beside lithium batteries, cordless blowers use NiMH and NiCd batteries, while lead acid batteries are not used anymore - if you do find cordless leaf blower powered by lead acid battery, skip it.
For more about batteries which can be found in various cordless tools, please check Types of Small Rechargeable Batteries article.
- operating time under full power and performances under full power (air speed, air volume).
- weight of the unit - weight depends on battery, too. Too small battery and unit can be extra light, but operating time can be very short (under 5-10 minutes). Large battery can provide power for 20-30 minutes, but can increase the weight of the unit significantly.
- spare battery - some models come with extra battery or one can purchase such battery. While one uses cordless unit with one battery, another battery is in the charger. Note that even lithium batteries often require more time to charge, than they can operate in the unit under full load.
- additional tools - some manufacturers (DeWalt, for example) have standardized battery types for all their products and battery purchased for cordless leaf blower/vacuum can be used in cordless drill, for example, and vice versa. In such case, it is wise to invest in larger, and more expensive lithium ion batteries.
There are so many similar units on the market today that describing just a fraction of them would require entirely new site.
If you are interested in leaf blowers and vacuums, check this Amazon link for the most up-to-date list of the most popular leaf blowers/vacuums/mulchers (link opens in the new window).