In many parts of the country, ’tis the time for trees to start showing signs of crimson and gold. Yet while fall foliage is beautiful on the trees, it’s much less attractive when it’s littering your lawn. Resist the rake! This backbreaking chore makes you stiff and sore, then saddles you with bags full of leaves to haul away. This year, why not use a leaf blower to make short work of all that seasonal litter? There are a wide variety of styles and sizes of leaf blowers on the market today, ranging from light-duty handheld units to heavyweight professional-grade models. Read on to learn about the different types of leaf blowers and their relative strengths so you can hone in on the best blower for your lawn-care needs.
Size: Small, handheld leaf blowers—usually sporting a shoulder strap—are suitable for homeowners who have an average-size suburban lot and a few trees. Larger, backpack-style models are ideal for those with bigger properties or yards with many trees. Wheeled, walk-behind blowers are generally used by the pros or by homeowners with a substantial amount of wooded property. It is important to take the total weight of the blower into account before purchasing—while a larger model may be more powerful, it will probably also be more unwieldy.
Power: Leaf blowers are rated by cubic feet per minute (CFM), a measurement of the volume of air that is pushed through the unit. Blowers with higher CFM ratings can move more leaves at a faster rate. Another important rating, the power output of a leaf blower, is measured in cubic centimeters (cc) for gasoline-powered motors; amps (A) for corded electric blowers; and volts (V) for cordless, battery-powered blowers. Miles-per-hour (MPH) ratings, yet another indication of a blower’s power, measure the speed at which air exits the unit.
Fuel Type: There are three different types of power systems for leaf blowers:
- Gasoline: Gasoline-powered leaf blowers are typically the most powerful—ideal for properties of a quarter acre or more—and come in two-cycle or four-cycle engines. Two-cycle engines run on a blend of oil and gasoline, and offer a good balance between power and weight; four-cycle engines run on gasoline alone but tend to be heavier than two-cycle engines and also require regular oil changes. Note that these models produce exhaust that contains carbon monoxide and other pollutants and therefore should always be used outdoors or in a well-ventilated space.
- Corded Electric: Corded electric units are lightweight, portable, and quieter than their gasoline-powered counterparts. Light-duty electric sweepers can handle driveways, decks, and patios, while higher-powered electric blowers can take on yards up to a quarter of an acre. Corded electric blowers provide steady power without the weight of a battery; however, because the cord restricts mobility, they are used primarily for small yards or areas near the house.
- Battery-Powered: Showcasing many of the same advantages as an electric model, cordless battery-powered blowers also offer excellent mobility. The batteries, however, add a little weight and need to be recharged periodically. Some cordless leaf blowers use batteries that are interchangeable with other power equipment or accessories, including string trimmers, hedge trimmers, and chain saws. If you have several such battery-powered tools, or if you have a particularly large lawn, it may be in your best interest to keep some extra batteries on hand.
Noise: The most frequent complaint about leaf blowers is that they are noisy. Many gasoline-powered models emit 90 to 102 decibels during use; electric and battery-powered units typically range from 65 to 78 decibels. Some local municipalities have enacted laws capping leaf blower noise at 65 or 70 decibels at a distance of 50 feet away, so it might be a good idea to check your local ordinances before purchasing a leaf blower. A unit with variable speed settings, which allow you to adjust the airflow and movement of debris, can also help with noise control. Always wear eye and ear protection and a dust mask while operating a leaf blower.
Accessories: A vacuum and/or shredding or mulching attachment is a highly desirable feature that enables you to shred leaves so they can be used as mulch in garden beds, thereby reducing yard waste. Some vacuum-capable models include larger-diameter chutes or tubes that help collect leaves. Reduction ratios—such as 10:1 or 16:1—indicate the number of bags of leaves that a blower with mulching capabilities can reduce to one bag.
While there are a tremendous number of leaf blowers available, both in stores and online, we’ve done our homework to narrow the field for you. Taking into consideration the criteria listed above as well as reviews from actual users like yourself and ratings from leading consumer testing sites, we identified the top-rated leaf blowers on the market today, one in each category: gas-powered, battery-powered, and handheld.
Husqvarna 350BT 50.2cc 2-Cycle X-Torq Gas-Powered 180 MPH Midsize Backpack
This powerhouse received a whopping 4.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon, praised by many owners for its ease of use. In the words of one reviewer: “The time we save clearing leaves makes me wish we’d bought it a long time ago.” This gas-powered blower has a 50cc, two-stroke, CARB-compliant motor rated at slightly over two horsepower, ideal for large yards with many trees. It’s rated at more than 690 CFM but has a somewhat high noise rating of 104 decibels—although at 50 feet away, the decibel rating falls below 70, making it compliant with noise ordinances in many municipalities. Weighing in at 22.5 pounds, the Husqvarna distributes its weight evenly for a comfortable afternoon of yard cleanup through its supportive backpack and wide shoulder straps. Available on Amazon; $320.
Toro 51609 12-amp Variable-Speed (up to 235) Ultra Blower Vac
The Toro was rated as the “Best Bang for Your Buck” by BestReviews.com and received 4.3 out of 5 stars from Amazon shoppers. The electric-powered Toro 51609 Ultra boasts a 12-amp motor with a variable-speed control conveniently mounted on top of the casing. Output ranges from a relatively gentle 112 MPH to a top-end figure of 235 MPH. The unit carries a rating of 390 CFM and a vacuuming and mulching ratio of 16:1. Plus, a quick-release latch lets you convert the blower into a vacuum in no time flat. At 67 decibels, the Toro falls within the noise restrictions of most municipalities, and the blower’s 7.5-pound weight makes it comfortable and easy to use. Available on Amazon; $90.
Black & Decker LSWV36 40V Lithium-Ion Sweeper/Vac
This battery-powered, cordless unit received the top-ranked Gold Award from TopTenReviews.com for its efficient and easy-to-use design, and Amazon users appreciated that its battery life was “much better than expected.” The Black & Decker is powered by a 40-volt lithium-ion rechargeable battery and features variable speed options for maximum control. The blower is rated at 85 CFM and easily converts to vacuum mode. In addition, the blow tube has a built-in scraper to help remove leaves and debris from hard surfaces. Weighing in at 5.4 pounds, this blower is light enough for almost anyone to use for extended periods of time, and the electric motor is quieter than that of many other models. Available on Amazon; $143.