The Best Leaf Blower, Gas, Cordless or Electric?
Thinking about purchasing a leaf blower for some home or commercial cleanup? If you are, there are plenty of options out there, with a slew of companies vying for your business. What’s more, regardless of the company or store you opt to do business with, there are several types and styles of leaf blowers available for purchase.
These include both gasoline and electric-powered blowers, with the latter category being further broken down into two different types: electric, corded leaf blowers, which run on AC (alternating current) power; and cordless leaf blowers, which are powered via battery-electric power, also known as direct current (DC).
If you’re in the market for a leaf blower, the following Buyer’s Guide, in which we will introduce you to some of the specifics regarding gas, corded and cordless leaf blowers, will help you make the most educated buying decision for your particular situation and workload; and perhaps even educate you on the subtle and sometimes overt differences and similarities among the three types of blowers.
Corded Electric Leaf Blowers: What You Need to Know Before Buying
Corded leaf blowers, also known as “Corded Electric Leaf Blowers,” are electric powered tools/blowers that receive their power via an electric cord that is plugged into an Alternating Current (AC) socket. Limited by the length of the cord itself in terms of the distance it is able to cover, these leaf blowers can be the perfect option for families with small yards and lawns. They are not recommended, however, in situations where the leaf blower must cover a large area.
Because corded leaf blowers rely on AC-electrical power, they tend to be much quieter than the noisy gas-powered leaf blowers, and they put out no harmful emissions. Additionally, corded leaf blowers tend to be very lightweight and easy to start and operate, making them perfect for everyone in the family, regardless of age or physical strength.
Here are the best selling corded electric leaf blowers on amazon.
The Dual Function of Some Corded Leaf Blowers
A good number of the corded leaf blowers on the market today have a dual function: blower and vacuum. Not only can these blowers clean your yard through outward air flow (blower), they can also be transformed into vacuums at the flip of a switch, making them perfect for small spaces where leaves and debris tend to accumulate. This versatility and dual functionality makes this type of electric leaf blower very attractive to some homeowners.
The vacuum function of many corded leaf blowers enables users to transform up to 20 bags of leaves into a single bag of mulch—mulch which can then be disposed of or used in your garden.
While some dual-function corded leaf blowers require a tool to switch between the blower and vacuum function, many of today’s models can be easily switched from a blower into a vacuum via a toggle switch that simply reverses the air flow.
How They Work and What to Look For
As mentioned above, corded leaf blowers rely on AC current for power, generated by a cord that is plugged into a regular wall socket. These types of blowers have fewer moving parts than their gas-generated counterparts, the most important of these parts being the “Impeller.”
The impeller in an electric leaf blower generates the air flow needed to blow the leaves and debris from your driveway or patio. In models that double as a leaf blower and a vacuum, the impeller is also the part that mulches up the leaves as they are sucked into the machine. This helps to reduce the amount of space these leaves take up, enabling users to fit more leaves into the attachable vacuum bag.
Impellers in corded leaf blowers can be manufactured with metal or plastic materials. Therefore, if you intend to use your corded leaf blower as a vacuum for at least half the time, we recommend you select a blower with a metal impeller.
Because the impeller is used to mulch up the leaves, choosing one that is made of metal will increase your leaf blower/vacuum’s longevity and keep it working at peak performance for the life of the machine. Metal impellers are known to hold up better than their plastic counterparts, especially in instances when you accidentally vacuum up pieces of debris that are not as malleable as leaves, such as rocks, nuts, bolts and other harder materials—materials that could chip or even irreparably damage a plastic impeller.
The Maintenance of a Corded
Have you ever owned/operated a gas blower with a two-stroke motor? If you have, you may already know how unpredictable and frustrating these engines can be—failing to start or even conking out mid-job. With gas blowers, you also have to mix the gas with oil before putting it into the tank, perform general maintenance like changing the spark plug and cleaning the carburetor; and yank on a recoil rope each time you want to get the machine started.
Corded, electric leaf blowers can help you avoid all of this pesky maintenance, and you won’t have to store messy oil and gas in your garage. These types of blowers have virtually no maintenance because they have fewer moving parts. As a user, all you will ever have to do is plug the machine into a regular wall socket, and as long as there is power going to that socket, your leaf blower or leaf blower/vacuum will be ready to enjoy.
Gas Powered Leaf Blowers: What You Need to Know Before Buying
Gasoline powered leaf blowers offer many advantages—benefits that distinguish them from the corded and cordless electric models. However, there are also a few disadvantages to owning a gas powered blower, including their bulky weight and maintenance.
Gas powered leaf blowers, depending on the model and engine type you choose, tend to be very powerful—much more powerful than electric blowers (although some of the cordless models are catching up in the “power” category—as we will explain in the final section). Because of the high octane power of gas leaf blowers, they are often the first choice of professional gardeners and landscapers—people responsible for maintaining the greenery of several residences and businesses—as well as for customers whose yards are very large and thus require the freedom of movement that a gas powered leaf blower affords.
Types/Styles of Gas Powered Leaf Blowers
There are essentially three types of gas-powered leaf blowers: handheld blowers; handheld leaf blower/vacuum combos; and backpack-mounted gas powered leaf blowers. Below we will briefly describe each of these types.
Handheld Leaf Blowers. Gas vs Electric Leaf Blower
The handheld gas-powered leaf blowers are often the choice of homeowners with a large yard (backyard and front lawn)—so large that a corded, electric leaf blower would not be sufficient to get the job done thoroughly, as some large yards have areas that are inaccessible to corded electric models.
The attractiveness of a handheld gas-powered leaf blower vs an electric blower, lies in the fact that it is powerful enough to complete large jobs, yet portable enough to ensure that you—as the operator—will be able to easily complete the job without overexerting yourself.
Although handheld gas powered leaf blowers tend to be a bit heavier than the electric models (both corded and battery operated models), they typically range from 15-20 pounds, making them light enough for the average homeowner
Power is the main draw for those purchasing a handheld gas powered leaf blower, as these machines can usually generate between 175-225 miles per hour in terms of air speed. This makes them the perfect weapon against not only dried leaves, but also against heavier debris, such as caked on dirt and other particles whose weight may make them immune to less powerful electric models.
Like all gas-powered leaf blowers vs the handheld models, gas models can sometimes be difficult to start (using the recoil rip cord). However, for personal use around the yard, these tools—and the advanced power they offer—can save you hours in time when measured against time-consuming sweeping or raking—in which all the power must be generated by you.
Dual Function Gas Powered Blowers and Vacuums
The second category of gas-powered leaf blowers is the dual-function leaf blower that doubles as a leaf and debris vacuum.
Much like the corded, electric dual-function leaf blower we explained in the previous section, the gas-powered leaf blower/vacuum relies on the impeller to chop down the vacuumed leaves, turning up to 18 bags of leaves and debris into a single bag of garden-ready mulch.
And like the corded two-function tools, we recommend you select a gas powered leaf blower/vacuum with a metal impeller (rather than plastic), which will not only ensure maximum mulching, but also improve the effectiveness and longevity of these popular garden machines.
Again, we also recommend a gas powered leaf blower/vacuum with a tool-less conversion, meaning that it can be switched from a blower to a vacuum using only a toggle switch.
Backpack-mounted Gas Powered Leaf Blowers
The final category of gas powered leaf blowers is the backpack mounted leaf blower. This model typically has more power than the handheld models, and is therefore usually purchased by commercial gardeners and landscapers, as well as by individuals with a VERY large area to maintain.
You have no doubt seen the backpack-style leaf blowers being used by professionals in your community. These machines feature a harness and shoulder straps, thus freeing up the hands to control the accelerator and the direction of the air flow. Backpack, gas-powered blowers also tend to have longer air tubes that taper towards the bottom, allowing users to pinpoint certain areas and direct the strong air flow to thoroughly clean up leaves and debris.
Backpack blowers are not limited to commercial gardeners or landscapers. In fact, homeowners with a lot of land to maintain can benefit greatly from these types of tools—benefit from the stronger motor and the ease of use.
You can find our in depth Husqvarna 360 BT review here. This is a very capable and popular model of backpack blower from the very highly rated manufacturer, Husqvarna. This company also manufacture many other items of machinery, including chainsaws, lawn trimmers, snow blowers and garden tillers, to mention but a few.
Gas Powered Leaf Blowers: Two-Cycle Engine or Four-Cycle Engine
Most gas powered leaf blowers manufactured today have a two-cycle engine, also known as a two-stroke engine, although there are some models that come with a four-cycle engine. Below we will describe the basic differences between the two types of motors.
Two-Cycle Engines are typically much lighter than their 4-cycle counterparts, and they have a greater power to weight ratio (twice the power), meaning you can get more power from a smaller and, most importantly, lighter blower. Two-cycle engines require users to mix oil and gas before pouring the fuel into the fuel tank, and they are generally much easier to maintain than four-cycle engines.
Because two-cycle engines offer a greater power to weight ratio when compared to a four-cycle engine, and are much lighter than the latter, they make ideal motors for handheld leaf blowers.
Here are the gasoline powered bestsellers on amazon.
Four-Cycle Engines work similar to an automobile motor, in which regular, unmixed gasoline is poured into the fuel tank, and the oil goes into the crankcase. Four-Cycle Engines tend to be more fuel efficient than two-cycle engines, getting more blowing time out of each fill-up.
Four-cycle engines CAN BE more powerful than a two-cycle engine, but to achieve this power a larger motor would be necessary—and larger motors are prohibitive in handheld leaf blowers that must be carried for long periods of time.
Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers and Emissions
The final point we will make about gas powered leaf blowers has to do with the emissions they produce, which can be harmful to the environment. Many states have enacted legislation in the form of emission standards. These standards are aimed at curbing the pollution produced by some of these gas powered tools. If you live in one of the many states that have passed these emission standards, make sure you look for a gas-powered leaf blower that is emission compliant under your state’s regulations.
Cordless Leaf Blowers: What You Need to Know Before You Buy
Cordless Leaf Blowers, like the corded models, are electric-powered machines, but instead of being powered by AC or alternating current power, these machines are powered by a direct current (DC) battery that is fully rechargeable, instead of an extension cord that is plugged into a socket. Because of this electric setup, battery powered leaf blowers are far less restrictive than their corded cousins, allowing operators to roam freely to any part of their yard or garden without being tethered by a cord.
Like corded leaf blowers, the battery pwered cordless types of these tools are handheld and very lightweight, especially when compared to bulky gas-powered leaf blowers, making them easy to operate for longer periods of time. Some people refer to these type of blowers as wireless leaf blowers.
Of course, cordless leaf blowers have the disadvantage of losing power when the battery dies. In fact, after a charge most leaf blowers will only stay powered for about an hour, but that is usually long enough to tackle small jobs around the house. Unlike the batteries that power some other garden tools, such as lawn mowers, the batteries in cordless leaf blowers tend to charge very quickly, usually going from dead to fully charged in 30-60 minutes depending on the type and size of the battery.
Below we will take a look at some of the specifics regarding cordless leaf blowers, including the different types of batteries that can charge and operate these machines and their maintenance. We will also spend some time talking about the brushless motors that are often used to power cordless leaf blowers, and the benefits of having that type of motor in your blower.
You can find the top selling list of cordless blowers on amazon here.
Cordless Leaf Blowers and Batteries
As we mentioned before, the batteries that are used to operate a battery powered leaf blower can typically hold a charge for 45-60 minutes, and can recharge in as little as 30 minutes to an hour, depending on battery type and size.
Homeowners with larger yards could benefit greatly from purchasing a backup battery for their machine—a battery that can be charged as they operate the blower using the other battery. That way, when the primary battery runs out of juice, all you will need to do is attach the backup battery and continue on with the project.
One very big advantage of purchasing tools from the same range from a given manufacturer is that the batteries and chargers will be able to be used for all the tools in the range. This can make an overall set of tools cheaper to buy than an equivalent corded set, as you don't need to buy another battery and charger every time you buy a new tool, rather just buy the bare tool which is far cheaper.
Once you have 2 or 3 batteries, that will probably be enough to run your whole range of cordless tools.
We're very big fans of cordless tools, (as you can probably tell), especially when coupled with a brushless motor, the power available can often exceed that which is offered by a low amp corded tool. We usually would buy a battery with more amp hours, as this will give you a greater run time between charges.
Cordless leaf blowers come with one of two types of batteries—a Ni-Cad Battery or the newer (and more preferable) Lithium-Ion Battery. Below we will take a closer look at each type.
A very popular model from a very well regarded manufacturer, DeWalt, is the DCBL720P1 20V Max 5.0 Ah Lithium Ion XR Brushless Blower model which you can find a review of here. DeWalt also make a whole suite of tools for that 20V Max range which are awesome!
Rechargeable Ni-Cad Batteries—or Nickel-Cadmium Batteries—are much like the household batteries used every day to power things like TV remotes, a cordless mouse or keyboard, or a flashlight. Ni-Cad Battery-powered leaf blowers are typically the least expensive on the market, but this does not mean they are the best.
Ni-Cad batteries are relatively heavy, which in turn will make the leaf blower heavier and more bulky to operate. Moreover, operators will tend to notice quite a drop-off in power and performance as this type of battery runs down to the end of its charge. Therefore, unless affordability is your sole concern when purchasing a cordless leaf blower, we recommend you skip over those blowers that come equipped with a Ni-Cad battery, and instead opt for one that uses the Lithium-Ion battery—that we will explain below.
Lithium-Ion Batteries are the most recent and indeed revolutionary innovation to cordless leaf blowers (and other cordless yard tools). Lithium-ion batteries are manufactured and sold in a variety of different voltages, including 18-volts, 20-volts, 24-volts, 40-volts, 56-volts, and even 80-volts.
Although leaf blowers that use a Lithium-Ion battery are slightly more expensive than those that use a Ni-Cad battery, the Lithium-Ion batteries have become very popular and preferable in leaf blowers for a variety of reasons, three of which we have highlighted below:
- Lightweight. Lithium-Ion batteries are very lightweight. In fact, most weigh just half of what a typical Ni-Cad battery weighs. This will in turn make the cordless leaf blower you purchase much easier to operate for a greater length of time.
- No Drop-Off in Power. Ni-Cad batteries experience a noticeable drop-off in power as they wear down. This can be very frustrating when trying to complete a leaf blower project. However, a Lithium-Ion battery experiences NO drop off whatsoever as the charge wears down. The power output of these batteries remains stable until it has completely died—just as a laptop computer with a Lithium-Ion battery remains stable until the charge is completely gone.
- Recharging. Lithium-Ion batteries not only tend to recharge faster than their Ni-Cad counterparts, they can be recharged three times as many times as a Ni-Cad battery before the battery needs to be replaced. Thus, you will be able to enjoy your leaf blower 33 percent longer using the same battery, which will ultimately save you money in the long run.
Maintenance on a Cordless Leaf Blower
With leaf blowers that are powered by small gas engines, users must endure the messy chore of mixing gasoline and oil for the gas tank, replacing spark plugs and dealing with issues surrounding the recoil rip cord, among other chores, all of which can be very frustrating and time-consuming.
However, with a cordless leaf blower, maintenance is actually a snap. As the owner of a cordless leaf blower, your sole chore is to make sure the battery is fully charged when you begin operating the machine. If you choose to have a backup battery, you should definitely allow that battery to charge while the primary battery is in use, ensuring there will always be at least one battery ready to tackle your leaf blowing chores.
Benefits of a Brushless Motor in a Cordless Leaf Blower
Most cordless leaf blowers sold today have a DC (direct current) “brushless” motor, as opposed to the brushed DC motor that was once the industry standard for cordless power tools like the leaf blower.
A brushed motor uses brushes and a commutator to supply electricity to the magnetic coils of the armature—this is what allows the leaf blower to blow the air. However, the action of the brushed motor can create friction, heat, and loss of energy at the point of contact, making them quite inefficient at times.
In cordless leaf blowers with a brushless motor however, manufacturers have done away with the commutator and brushes and thus, the friction generated on a more common motor. This design allows for a more efficient, cooler motor and less wear and tear on the same. With that in mind, the most noticeable benefits of using a brushless motor in a cordless leaf blower are:
- Less Maintenance. The brushless DC motor on a cordless leaf blower requires less maintenance, as there are never any brushes to be replaced.
- Longer Motor Life. Because the brushless motor on the cordless leaf blower tends to run cooler than those with a brushed motor, users can expect a longer motor life.
- More Power. Without the friction caused by brushes contacting the commutator, the cordless leaf blower with a brushless DC motor has more power than its brushed counterpart.
- Longer Run Time. For all of the reasons above, the Cordless leaf blower with a brushless motor typically has a longer run time on the same battery.
It has also been proven that brushless DC motors are much more efficient than all AC motors—those that use an extension cord, such as the corded electric leaf blowers. Brushless DC motors run cooler than AC motors, and because of their higher efficiency, brushless DC motors produce less heat internally which significantly extends the bearing system life and in turn extends the operating life of the motor and the entire brushless DC leaf blower package.
There are definitely benefits and drawbacks to each of the three main types of leaf blowers—Corded Electric Leaf Blowers, Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers and Cordless Leaf Blowers. The type and style of leaf blower you ultimately select should depend on a number of factors, such as the size and accessibility of the yard, the yard’s proximity to an AC power outlet, cost, dependability, power and longevity, among others.
If power is your main concern, for example, a gas powered leaf blower is probably your best option. However, for those with a small yard who would prefer to avoid the bulky weight and maintenance of a typical two-cycle gas blower, a corded or cordless model might be the perfect option.
Remember, if you do opt for an electric powered leaf blower - either corded or cordless - be sure to select one with a metal impeller (rather than plastic) and a lithium-ion battery (rather than a Ni-Cad battery). The metal impeller will help ensure the longevity of your blower or leaf blower/vacuum combo; and the lithium-ion battery will ensure you do not lose power until the battery has completely run down.
We also recommend choosing a battery powered cordless leaf blower with a “brushless” motor, as these tend to run cooler and more efficiently than those with a brushed DC or AC motor; and in gas-powered leaf blowers, a two-cycle engine will give you a better power to weight ratio and thus a lighter and more efficient blower.