Leaf Blowers – Effective Tools for Leaf and Debris Cleanup

Did you know that one of the worst springtime causes for ER visits is slippage from natural hazards? You’d think the melting snow was to blame. But in reality, the worst hazards are damp and decaying leaf matter and debris hidden under the winter scenery. They tend to create slippery dangers everywhere as the meltwater runs.

Any house-proud, responsible homeowner knows it’s far better to make sure the risk never occurs in the first place… but who enjoys raking? It’s one chore none of us claim to love. Fortunately, raking can now be a thing of the past. With a leaf blower at hand to make this arduous task simple and also, free your time up for better things.

It’s hard to know what the right leaf blower for your needs could be. However, in a market that’s saturated with options. Fortunately, you have us on hand with all the reviews, tricks, and secrets you need to know to make you the savviest user ever. By picking the right type of leaf blower, and refining your technique, you can save hours of back-breaking labor (and costly experiments) and spend your time enjoying your garden instead of fighting with it.

Leaf Blower Buying Guide

leaf blower buying guideLet’s take a closer look at the finer points of choosing, owning and using a leaf blower. The more you know about your new tool, the better a ‘relationship’ you and your leaf blower will have, and the more satisfying your results and the unit’s operational lifespan will be.

Things You Should Consider When Looking for a Leaf Blower

The key to having a positive experience with your leaf blower is, of course, ensuring that you buy the right match for your garden, to begin with. Here are the two key categories you want to consider when buying a leaf blower. Match them well to your needs, and you will be on the way to great results.

Leaf Blower Styles You May Want

Leaf blowers come in a variety of styles, each of which may suit you and your garden the best. Let’s take a look at some of these below.

  • Handheld Leaf Blowers

    Handheld leaf blowers are the type that likely springs to your mind if you think of leaf blowers. They typically resemble a long tube, with a motor body behind it. Most good varieties will come with a shoulder strap, to ease the weight of the unit as you work, and should at least feature an ergonomic body design to make it easier to operate one-handed.

    These are best for intricate gardens with many nooks and corners, leaf blowers you will want to multitask easily (with other attachments) for things such as gutter cleaning and snow-blowing, and where you have limited storage space and need to keep things neat. They’re also great for smaller jobs, as there isn’t much set-up required, although the more powerful handheld units such as those we reviewed above are suitable to medium and large yards too.

  • Backpack Leaf Blowers

    These leaf blowers are similar to handheld units, but here the intricate engine-works (and any collection bags) will sit on your back, comfortably looped on with shoulder straps, with only the blowing apparatus in your hand. These are typically higher capacity blowers, allowing you to cover more ground and work for longer times than handheld units.

    While domestic versions exist- we looked at one above- these are typically used by people with shops, fields, unfenced yards or high-output, working garages to clear. They’re typically strong enough to handle twigs, small branches, metal shavings, and pebbles as well as leaves, so they aren’t a great choice for delicate flower gardens or areas with decorative rock gardens you wish to preserve. They do pack a wicked punch, however, for semi-commercial use.

  • Walk-Behind Leaf Blowers

    It’s rare to use a walk-behind leaf blower in a domestic setting. They’re more suited for agricultural and industrial uses, extra-large lots without fences or tight corners, and other large-scale applications.
    Walk-behind blowers are super-convenient, as you carry none of the weight of the unit, and this allows them to pack a serious punch, but they lack the dexterity needed for most domestic or fenced lots, cannot be multi-tasked to other maintenance work, and can actually be too strong for use at home. They’re typically found in the possession of professional clearing crews- your gardening contractor may not even have one!

What Leaf Blower Power Options Do I Have?

leaf blower typesAs well as physical styles, you have a few power options to consider when choosing yourself a leaf blower. Here are the pros and cons of each style for you to consider.

  • Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers

    Gas powered leaf blowers were the original leaf blower style, and they have decades of solid design behind them. They have an intimidating learning curve for the beginner user, however, due to the heavy maintenance and usage needs of a 2-stroke engine. They are still the most heavy-hitting and effective leaf blower class, however… but only just.

    Corded leaf blower technology is fast catching up. However, for large sites they still get the job done best, as once running you are free to carry them everywhere without ever running out of power (provided you have enough fuel on hand).

    Be prepared to learn how to correctly balance the fuel/oil ratio for the 2-stroke engine for years of smooth running, however, or be prepared to pay a premium for pre-mixed fuel. You will also need to be able to do engine maintenance like spark plug changes.

    Best use:
    Use on medium to large gardens with lots of intricacies, where power isn’t available, or the lot is large.

  • Electric, Corded Leaf Blowers

    There was a time when electric, corded leaf blowers were a noticeable second to the technology of gas-powered blowers, but rest assured that gap has closed sharply. Driven by a demand for quieter, more earth-friendly garden tools, the modern electric leaf blower is well up to the task of cleaning even large fenced yards.

    As they are linked to your mains power, there’s no power limit as with battery-charged blowers, so they occupy a very pleasant middle ground. You will never run out of power, or be forced to wait for battery packs to charge. However, the convenience and electric boost come at a cost- you will have to run an extension from the mains power to your leaf blower wherever you wonder. This means you need to have sufficient cord on hand, and the cord can be annoying in intricate spaces- and a tripping hazard for the unwary.

    That aside, there’s no hassling with engine maintenance or fuel/oil ratio. In fact, there’s almost no maintenance needed at all! Simply keep the unit clean and free of dust and damp, and it will be ready to use at the literal flick of a button. They’re lighter and easier to use than gas counterparts.
    [table id=8 /] Best use: Suitable for all homes, but due to the cord best used in less intricate gardens where you won’t find yourself trapped in a tangle. Great for areas with a homeowners’ association.

  • Cordless/Battery Leaf Blowers

    The latest in leaf blower technology, there’s no doubt that the cordless leaf blower offers the ultimate in convenience. As the battery technology is still fairly new, there are limitations to consider. Firstly, they run down fast- unless you are also willing to invest in a few sets of spare batteries, chances are you will have less than 30 minutes of use time, and charging time can vary from 90 minutes on the top brands right through to 5 hours.

    That said, they are incredibly eco-friendly, and have many of the same advantages of corded leaf blowers without the downside of the trailing cord. That said, they aren’t (yet) quite as powerful as their corded cousins. As with all electric leaf blowers they’re far more lightweight than gas counterparts and produce considerably less sound and no unhealthy, carbon-filled emissions.

    Maintenance is slightly more than a corded counterpart due to the batteries, but still minimal.
    For smaller yards, light-duty, first-time (or limited mobility) users or those who want electricity but need the ability to take the unit anywhere, a battery leaf blower can be the best choice- and the technology is set to strengthen with new developments, too.
    [table id=6 /] Best used: These are great in small to medium yards.

Now you have all the information you need at your fingertips to make the right style and power choice for your garden, let’s take a look at some more intricate details to owning, maintaining and using a leaf blower.

Leaf Blower vs. Broom: Does It Matter?

best leaf blowerThe short answer to this one? Yes, it does- and you’ll be far happier wielding a leaf blower then spending tons of your time off with a broom and rake. It’s not just about the time saved, however. With even the best yard brush, you will notice fine leaf litter, hair and dust can remain behind, no matter how hard and level your surface may be.

The same occurs with raking leaves, even if your area is very small. You will be left with missed leaves and fine debris which you cannot efficiently clear from the area. Plus, you can damage wanted plants far more easily.

As a leaf blower uses wind power to remove everything, you will receive a far cleaner job, with even ultra-fine dust particles removed. This goes for using a vacuum attachment to your leaf blower too. Nor are you left trying to clean, de-fuzz and repair a friction-damaged broom head either.

It’s also important to note that there’s nowhere a leaf blower cannot reach. Where you may have awkward corners that won’t allow a broom head, the air stream will blow out even the tiniest nooks and crannies. On a wooden surface, a blower will also ensure that dirt is blown clear of the planks, rather than settling into the cracks.

Garden Care

Leaf blowers can, in fact, be a far better choice for decorative outdoor paving and hardwood, as there’s also no risk of scratching as there is with a sturdy outdoor broom. You’re exerting no meaningful downward friction on the surface so there’s no opportunity for a tool to create damage. Even though the downward push of the air can be quite forceful, any debris which may otherwise scratch the surface is also free to spring up into the air rather than gouge your finish and can be swept along in the air current without causing chaos to the surface underneath.

It’s also good to note, provided you don’t use an overpowered blower or blowing setting on the area, an air blower can provide a lot more finesse for cleaning over wanted decorative gravel and pebbles. The secret lies in a balanced airflow that’s strong enough to lift clear leaf litter and small twigs/debris, but keeping the setting low enough that it doesn’t have the power to roll, disarrange or blow out your wanted decor.

Overall, a leaf blower provides a faster, better job than any broom or rake, and can do so without damaging your underlying surface, missing key spots, trapping dirt in paving/board cracks, and much more.

Alternative Uses for a Leaf Blower

Did you know that leaf blowers can have many alternative uses? Many brands offer a whole range of attachments to assist you in day-to-day garden activities. Look out for the following:

  1. Gutter cleaning attachments: Why fight with cleaning your gutters every year? Simply blow them out with concentrated air that will let you reach every bend and kink.
  2. Snow blowing attachments: Use the more concentrated/flatter nozzle of your blower to help you clear snow from your paths in winter. Do be aware it won’t melt or remove ice, however, and be careful.
  3. Shredding/mulching: Many of the units in our reviews also come with mulching and shredding options. This allowing you to recycle waste for use in the garden as compost. Save dollars while you work!
  4. Cleaning tasks: You can use a leaf blower to dry vehicles and also, clean vents/filters in the home.
  5. Removing dust and spider webs in storage areas: Banish pesky pests and give the area a good clean with your leaf blower at your side.
  6. Laying wire: Attach wire you need to run through conduit to a light anchor like a piece of foam, and blast it through!

We bet you weren’t expecting your leaf blower to be so useful for other home tasks, were you?

Are Leaf Blowers Hazardous to Your Health?

A leaf blower needn’t be hazardous to your health if you pick a good blower and know how to operate it properly. Obviously, if you decide a gas leaf blower is a right choice for your garden, you do have two facets to consider:

  • The carbon emissions/exhaust fumes
  • Noise

Both of these could, potentially, have detrimental effects on your health- but do understand this is far more likely for a gardening contractor working upwards of 8 hours a day on top of the equipment, not a homeowner using it for a few hours once a week. However, it’s always wiser to be safe than sorry, so let’s learn to use a gas blower smartly.

  • Safety First

    First of all, consider investing in a basic air filter mask if you wish to reduce your exposure to any exhaust fumes. These should be minimal anyway, as you are working in an open space. Don’t use your gas-powered leaf blower indoors, or in any space that isn’t well ventilated. Don’t crouch down over it as you use it, even more- make sure you are always drawing breath away from the outlet valve of the unit. If you, at any point, feel dizzy or light-headed, take a break.

    Electric leaf blowers don’t produce any hazardous fumes at all, making them a cleaner and safer alternative. The noise can still get a little irritating for the operator if you are working on a large space, so don’t be afraid to invest in workman’s earplugs if you wish (more on that in the ‘FAQ’ section. Add a pair of safety goggles (for sun exposure and for flying debris) and a dust mask (if your lot is dusty) to complete your safety preparations.

  • Mind Your Step

    Corded leaf blowers do have a small trip risk, so make sure to practice proper awareness of the cord as you work, and keep pets and small children who may interfere with, trip over or tangle with the cord indoors as you work. Try not to wrap yourself, even your feet, in the cord as you work in case of a broken cable causing a short, and always check your equipment over afterward to make sure there are no breaks in the cable housing.

    Always use a safe, properly housed electric point, and change/discard the plug if it is damaged. Lastly, make sure you know where the kill switch (gas) or cut off switch (electric) is on your unit in case of emergency.

    Beyond that, there are very few risks to using a leaf blower. Do be sure to inspect all equipment regularly, maintain engines and units per your user manual. Also, check for obvious worry points like cracked housing, fraying electrical cord, and loose buttons. Operate it only in a sensible manner, and do not use electric models in the rain, or allow cords to trail in ornamental ponds/water features while operating.

Are Leaf Blowers Really That Noisy?

leaf blower reviewsYou’ll notice that we’ve mentioned noise an awful lot in the guide so far.
Certainly, it does matter. The good news, however, is that not all leaf blowers are terribly noisy.
Remember that the original category of leaf blower was the 2-stroke engine type, the gas-powered blower.

Due to everything 2-stroke related, these engines can be a little loud to run. Now imagine you’re a homeowner in a neighborhood where a cleaning and gardening crew sweep into your neighbor’s property bright-and-early on a weekend morning. You’d probably get more than a little annoyed at the sound of revving engines, right?

Innovations for Convenience

Leaf blowers certainly aren’t the loudest power tool on the market but used en masse they can get annoying- and the sound can travel. This has been the thrust behind the development of corded, and later cordless, models to step into the breach. Of course, these models will never be truly soundless- you are, after all, harnessing a really big fan and a condenser tube to blast debris, so it’s impossible for a truly soundless leaf blower to exist (so far, we’re sure science will help out soon enough).

Electric models, both corded and cordless, remain the industry leaders in quiet operation, significantly reducing the noise pollution from gas-powered blowers. This is why many homeowners’ associations will request (or require) that you use them.

How to Pick the Quietest Leaf Blowers

If you need the quietest leaf blowers, from personal preference or due to a homeowners’ association decree, then it’s important to understand how sound is measured first.

Look out for the decibel rating, expressed as dB, on any unit you are considering buying to see how it rates in the noisiness scale. For easy reference, 80 dB is equivalent to the noise from your garbage disposal, or from a moderate traffic flow outside the home.

It’s a good idea, for non-commercial uses, to try to stay below the 90-80 dB threshold, and it may be worth checking if your particular state or city has any guidelines for acceptable noise levels in the home. In general, if you operate your equipment after 8-am and before 8-pm, you should be in the clear, but it always pays to be polite.

Do be aware that sound ratings above 90 dB, when in sustained contact with your ears, are those responsible for hearing loss. Consider using a protective method while you work (more on this in the FAQ section below) for your own comfort and safety while gardening or clearing parts of the yard if your unit measures out louder than this and you have a large area to clear.

FAQs About Leaf Blowers

We’re sure you still have a few key questions to ask about leaf blowers. Don’t worry- we’ve also rounded up some of the most common leaf blower questions out there. So, you don’t need to do the work.

  • CFM? MPH? What’s good for a leaf blower?

    The power ratings can seem a little bewildering for leaf blowers, but the concepts are surprisingly simple. You would think it was all about wind speed, measured in miles per hour, but that only tells you how fast air comes out the nozzle- useless without an indication of the ‘shoving power’ of the air produced.

    CFM, or cubic feet per minute, gives you more info on this by indicating the volume of air coming out the tube in one minute. Hence, together, these two figures create a proper picture of what you will achieve. Obviously, the higher both are the better- but try to keep them well balanced rather than let one get too high.

    Remember, too, that it matters what you want to do. If you are blowing around bedding plants or over gravel, you actually want far less pushing power then if you are blowing under trees and need to dislodge pebbles and other heavy debris. Strong winds will shred your wanted plants and blow away small decorative stones.

  • How do I store/hang a leaf blower properly?

    You’ve spent your hard-earned money buying a leaf blower, now you want it to last as long as possible. Careful, respectful storage is a key component of that. Firstly, invest in a cover for your leaf blower so ambient shed/garage dust doesn’t clog it up.

    Next, make sure to store it correctly. For heavier handheld units, particularly gas blowers, you may want to rather opt for a shelf so the unit isn’t forced to support its own weight, creating stress on the handles.
    Otherwise, if your unit doesn’t have a specific hanging point, hang it with two supports through the handle and one under the tube, so the weight is well-distributed on the wall and unit both. Never hang a corded leaf blower by the power cord, as this will stress the electrical point, making it wear out quicker and potentially breaking the cord and creating an electrical fault.

  • How do I protect myself against long-term noise from a leaf blower?

    If you’re concerned for your hearing while operating a leaf blower, especially if you choose a high-end gas-powered blower, then be sure to pick up a set of workman’s earplugs the next time you are in your local hardware store. These will keep your hearing safe over long periods of use, without fully isolating you from the world in case someone needs your attention.

    While you are there, pick up a set of safety goggles too, especially if using a mulcher or vacuum attachment. They’re cheap, many types protect against UV damage from the sun too, and also, your body will thank you.

Wrapping up Your Knowledge of Leaf Blowers

There you have it! With our hand FAQs and this nifty leaf blower buying guide at hand, you now know everything there is to know about this important class of garden tool. Therefore, you can use it to help you determine the right leaf blowers on the market today and how to choose, use and maintain them.

You even have all the information (and some important points for you to consider carefully) before you decide which leaf blower will best suit you. Be sure to check out our handy range of reviews to determine the pros and cons of each unit so we can help you narrow down the best from the rest.

Our experts have found all the information you could possibly need on all the popular brands and types available today. As a result, you don’t have to waste your hard-earned leisure time to do so. Have fun using your new leaf blower- you’ll soon be an expert yourself!