Choosing the right Blower for your garden

Leaf blowers are a great addition to your set of garden tools. They replace the rake for clean-up tasks in autumn and are great for keeping the driveway, lawn and garden beds clear.

Many smaller leaf blowers intended for home use are electric models, some of which are battery powered while others use power cords. Electric leaf blowers tend to have less power than their petrol-powered counterparts, but they also make less noise and are somewhat less awkward to use because there is no need for a fuel tank. Small, cordless leaf blowers are great for small yards with few trees.

Larger and more powerful leaf blowers rely on petrol for power. Typically, these blowers have two-stroke engines, but manufacturers also produce leaf blowers with four-stroke engines in order to cut down on emissions. These blowers tend to make more noise than electric blowers, but they have substantially more power and are best suited for heavy-duty tasks. A good petrol machine will be easy to start, comfortable to use and have throttle so you can control the jet of air.

You can purchase either a Blower or a Blower-Vac, and both types come in petrol or electric models. Blowers with Vacuum settings can actually take in debris and direct it to an attached bag for easy disposal. Some also include a mulching function that can turn the debris into mulch for shrubs and gardens. Even if the mulch is not to be used, shredding the debris greatly reduces its volume and thus makes disposal easier. If a blower includes a mulching function, its reduction ratio describes the number of bags of debris it can convert into a single bag of mulch. Typical reduction ratios range from 8:1 to 16:1.

Most blowers designed for personal use are simple, handheld units. Leaf blowers such as these are fine for smaller tasks, but the weight of the machine can become troublesome if it is to be used for an extended period of time. As such, professionals prefer ergonomic backpack blowers with handheld wands. Putting the weight of a relatively bulky leaf blower on the user's back makes it easier to keep cleaning for hours on end.

Picking the right leaf blower for a job requires an understanding of the size of the area to be cleared, the type of debris to be cleared, and the surrounding circumstances. In general, the larger the area to be cleared, the more powerful the blower needs to be.

Even small leaf blowers have fairly substantial power requirements, so cordless leaf blowers can't be used continuously for extended periods of time. Battery life varies from blower to blower, of course, but in general a cordless blower can only be used for up to 15 minutes before it needs to be recharged. That is fine for small jobs such as clearing driveways, decks, and patios, but it is not enough time to clear even a fairly small yard.

Electric leaf blowers with power cords can run for an indefinite period of time because they do not need to be recharged. However, use of these devices is limited by the length of the cord. An electric blower can clear any area that is within about 40m of an electrical outlet easily enough; beyond that, extending a cord becomes impractical and potentially dangerous.

Petrol-powered leaf blowers offer an unmatched combination of portability and power. If it is necessary to clear an area that is more than 40m from an electrical outlet and requires more than 15 minutes of clearing time, this type of blower is the only viable option.

It is also worth noting that electric leaf blowers tend to make less noise than petrol-powered blowers and are generally preferred for use in residential areas and other places where keeping the noise level down is important.

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
  • 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.