Photo: Debbie Wolfe for Bob Vila
Most of us associate chainsaws with the earsplitting growl of a 110-decibel motor. Thanks to quantum leaps of innovation in cordless power tool technology, quieter battery-powered models are now becoming more competitive with the telltale buzz of a gas-powered chainsaw.
Among these battery-powered chainsaws, there are three categories: light-duty, heavy-duty, and heaviest duty for everything from small branches to large tree trunks. Through hands-on testing, we used all the chainsaws on the following list in real-world applications to determine which is best for different uses. Whether you’re doing light pruning or chopping fallen trees, this guide can help you determine the best battery chainsaw for your projects.
- BEST OVERALL: Husqvarna Power Axe 350i With Battery Charger
- RUNNER-UP: Milwaukee M18 Fuel 16-Inch Chainsaw Kit
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Echo eForce DCS-5000 56V 18-Inch Battery Chainsaw
- BEST FOR CUTTING TREES: Stihl MSA 140 C-B Battery Chainsaw Kit
- BEST FOR HOME USE: Ego Power+ 16-Inch Chainsaw
- BEST LIGHT-DUTY: DeWalt 20V MAX XR Compact 12-Inch Chainsaw
- BEST COMPACT: Makita XCU03Z 36V LXT 14-Inch Brushless Chainsaw
- BEST MINI: Stihl GTA 26 Battery Garden Pruner Kit
- BEST FOR YARD WORK: Ryobi 40V HP Brushless 18-Inch Battery Chainsaw
- BEST ENTRY-LEVEL: Worx 20V Power Share 10-Inch Cordless Chainsaw
- BEST FOR FIREWOOD: Greenworks 80V 18-Inch Cordless Battery Chainsaw
- BEST TOP-HANDLE: Echo eForce DCS-2500T 56V 12-Inch Chainsaw
- HONORABLE MENTION: DeWalt Flexvolt 60V MAX Brushless Chainsaw Kit
- ALSO CONSIDER: Black+Decker 20V 10-Inch Cordless Chainsaw
Photo: Debbie Wolfe for Bob Vila
How We Tested the Best Battery Chainsaws
This test of cordless chainsaws included DIY and professionally branded tools of varying voltages, bar lengths, and applications. Rather than having each tool compete directly against one another, we picked applications where the tools were best suited. The three categories were: 1) heaviest duty for firewood, logs, and downed trees; 2) heavy-duty for downed trees, branches, and logs; and 3) light-duty for very occasional use.
In the field, we cut hardwood trees downed from a recent storm. We tested each battery-powered chainsaw for balance (cutting branches in the crowns of the trees), power, trigger response, switches, chain removal, and particularities and unique features that made certain tools stand out.
Photo: Debbie Wolfe for Bob Vila
Our Top Picks
In order to select the best battery chainsaws, we tested some of the most popular chainsaws from reputable power tool manufacturers. While some battery-powered chainsaws are created for DIY use and others for light professional use, we put all the saws through their paces in the field. The following are some of the best battery chainsaws by category.
Husqvarna’s Power Axe 350i 40-volt (V) chainsaw takes our top spot, thanks to high scores on performance, safety, and operator comfort. In addition to the 18-inch guide bar and efficient brushless motor, this saw comes equipped with numerous details that minimize downtime and reduce user fatigue.
The Power Axe features a relatively lightweight build for an 18-inch chainsaw, weighing just 14.2 pounds with the battery, bar, and chain installed. Push-button power-boost mode allows the saw to preserve its charge during normal cutting and increase output for larger, harder cuts. A tool-free chain-tensioning system eliminates the need for a scrench—a chainsaw tool that combines a screwdriver and a wrench—which means less downtime looking for tools and less clutter in the tool box. The 7.5-amp-hour (Ah) battery is compatible with all Husqvarna battery tools, improving overall outdoor power efficiency.
The Husqvarna Power Axe made fast, powerful cuts with minimal vibration and maximum battery life, giving us 75 minutes of power before we had to recharge. In our tests, it delivered the best overall performance in terms of general cutting ability in different work settings and boasted the best design for user comfort. The combination of the quiet motor and the Husqvarna X-cut chain made for a satisfyingly efficient workday. Simply put, it cuts hardwood logs like a hot knife slicing through butter.
The saw’s narrow motor housing and unique horizontal battery installation positioned the saw’s center of gravity closer to the body than other models. This configuration greatly enhanced balance and stability for safer, more comfortable chainsaw work, whether bucking logs in an open area or navigating obstacles while limbing the crown of a downed tree.
- Voltage: 40 volts
- Bar length: 18 inches
- Weight: 14.2 pounds
- 18-inch guide bar is well sized for a wide range of chainsaw tasks
- Noticeably lower vibration than any of the other saws we tested
- Quick tool-free chain-tensioning system minimizes downtime
- High-efficiency brushless motor cuts aggressively and extends battery life
- Power-boost mode increases motor output on demand for tougher cuts
- Long bar; is not the best option for selectively pruning dense branches
- At 14-plus pounds, a bit heavy where numerous high cuts may be required
Get the Husqvarna battery chainsaw at Lowe’s.
When maximum cutting power is required for taking on overgrowth in a yard, a heavy-duty battery-powered chainsaw is needed. This chainsaw can make up to 150 cuts on a single charge and won’t bog down when faced with a tough cut. Its 16-inch blade is capable of cutting through trees with trunks up to 14 inches in diameter. It also has a two-bolt blade housing and an included chainsaw wrench.
Designed with professional landscapers in mind, this chainsaw features Milwaukee’s cutting-edge battery technology with its M18 Redlithium high-output battery. During our hands-on testing, this saw was just about as close to gas power as a battery chainsaw can get, with great chain speed, nice balance, and plenty of power and runtime.
This formidable power source provides 50 percent more power and operates 50 percent cooler than a standard 18V battery pack, making this saw somewhat comparable to a 40-cubic-centimeter (cc) gas-powered chainsaw. All that power does come at a cost. Weighing 17.3 pounds with the included battery (13.9 pounds without it), this is one of the heavier battery-powered chainsaws.
- Voltage: 18 volts
- Bar length: 16 inches
- Weight: 17.3 pounds
- Powerful commercial-grade tool is capable of heavy-duty cutting tasks
- Designed for professional landscapers’ needs; as powerful as agas-powered chainsaw
- Innovative, high-performance battery technology
- 150 cuts per battery charge for long or tough tasks
- Heavyweight construction may cause some fatigue
Get the Milwaukee battery chainsaw kit at Ace Hardware or The Home Depot.
Budget shoppers in need of a general-purpose chainsaw will find lots of value in the Echo eForce DCS-5000. The saw is equipped with an 18-inch guide bar and chain, an efficient brushless motor, a convenient side-access chain tensioner, and onboard tool storage. It is powered by a 56V 2.5Ah lithium-ion battery.
This is a great saw for all kinds of yard work, such as storm cleanup, cutting firewood, light tree removal, and pruning. At 14.8 pounds, it’s one of the heavier saws on our list, but not the heaviest–comparable to many gas-powered chain saws. The narrow, well-balanced saw body brings the center of gravity close to the operator. Combined with cushioned grips, it helps to reduce user fatigue over time.
We really liked this saw’s aggressiveness. It cut slightly faster than the Husqvarna Power Axe, but the battery didn’t last quite as long. Our top-performing battery chainsaws ran up to an hour per charge, while the Echo eForce lasted roughly half of that. Still, the 18-inch Echo battery chainsaw was also the least expensive of the large models we tested, making the value much better than average.
- Voltage: 56 volts
- Bar length: 18 inches
- Weight: 14.8 pounds
- Budget-friendly price for this level of cutting power and performance
- Cuts quickly and aggressively, even in dried hardwoods
- Flip-lever cap makes it easier to top off the bar and chain oil
- 18-inch guide bar and chain tackles a wide range of property maintenance tasks
- Less runtime than the top competition (about 30 minutes per charge)
- A bit more vibration in the handles than some of the other models
Get the Echo 18-inch battery chainsaw at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Chain Saws Direct.
Working on standing or fallen trees requires a nimble, efficient chainsaw. The Stihl MSA 140 C-B chainsaw is the right tool for the job. Weighing just 8.6 pounds and equipped with a 12-inch guide bar, this saw’s compact, lightweight build makes accessing hard-to-reach work areas a little easier and allows you to perform detailed tree work with ease.
The Stihl MSA 140 B-C comes ready to work, with a bar sheath, narrow kerf saw chain, AK 30 36V battery, and AL 101 battery charger. It runs up to 45 minutes per charge. The quiet brushless motor is great for working in neighborhoods or for maintaining low noise levels out in the woods. It produces high torque and very low vibration, delivering efficient cutting performance and excellent operator comfort. The balanced design helps to boost working stability and maneuverability.
We were very pleased with this saw’s performance, but not totally surprised since it comes from Stihl. The MSA 140 C-B was arguably the best small chainsaw we tested, working smoothly and efficiently for well over an hour per charge, after accounting for stoppage between cuts. It vibrated less and felt better balanced than any of the other saws in our test, with the possible exception of the Husqvarna Power Axe. The short blade and light motor made it much easier to make chest-high cuts compared to the heavy-duty saws. This could be an excellent limbing saw for serious woodcutters or a primary yard maintenance chainsaw for any homeowner.
- Voltage: 36 volts
- Bar length: 12 inches
- Weight: 8.6 pounds
- Lightweight, balanced, easily maneuverable design for hard-to-reach work areas
- Extended running time; up to 45 minutes per battery charge
- Fast cutting action with low vibration makes chainsaw work less tiring
- The 12-inch bar is ideally sized for pruning branches or limbing fallen trees
- Too small for heavy-duty felling and bucking of larger trees
- Slow 3-hour charge time with the included AL 101 battery charger
Get the Stihl MSA battery chainsaw at Ace Hardware or Stihl.
With a 16-inch bar, high chain speed, and 5Ah 56V battery in a well-balanced saw, the Ego can make wood chips in downed branches, downed trees, and a stack of firewood. In our field tests, the saw delivered good runtime cutting in hardwood. The battery exchange is user-friendly, and the battery gauge is bright and easy to read. The trigger and release switch both work well, too.
This battery-powered chainsaw has a soft start, meaning there’s a slight pause before the chain reaches full speed. Compared to gas-powered chainsaws and some other battery chainsaws, this is a noticeable feature that takes some getting used to. It’s not a detriment for many users, but it is different. Once it’s going, it’s going, and this unit can process some smaller downed trees, branches, and firewood.
The oil filter screen is a generally good feature to help keep chips and debris out of the oil reservoir, but if the bar oil is viscous (as it can be in cold temps), it makes adding oil a slow process because the oil needs to pass through the small apertures of the filter screen. With its 56 volts of power, this tool has a big, heavy battery that’s hungry to make chips.
- Voltage: 56 volts
- Bar length: 16 inches
- Weight: 16 pounds
- Powerful and aggressive tool with 16-inch bar; suitable for downed trees, branches, and firewood
- Good cut capacity and runtime; suitable for small and large cutting
- Water-resistant construction with IPX4 rating
- Soft start takes some getting used to
- Oil filter can slow adding oil into reservoir
Get the Ego Power+ battery chainsaw at Amazon, Ace Hardware, Lowe’s, or Acme Tools.
Some of us don’t require the power needed to topple tall oaks like a lumberjack. We need a chainsaw that can handle light-duty work, like cutting up small trees after a storm or pruning overgrown branches.
A small saw is very handy for lots of light-duty items, and at 9 pounds, it is also small enough to wield easily. Its balance made working with the saw easy, but it had difficulty in larger and denser material. Surprisingly from a pro brand like DeWalt, we found this tool’s chain speed to be low. However, this compact 12-inch chainsaw is large enough to cut through logs up to 10 inches in diameter with its powerful brushless motor.
With its no-tool chain-tension adjuster, you won’t have to slow down to make adjustments or lube the chain. This chainsaw is available for purchase on its own or with a battery and charger.
Read our full review: DeWalt 20V MAX XR Compact 12-Inch Chainsaw
- Voltage: 20 volts
- Bar length: 12 inches
- Weight: 9 pounds
- Affordable tool compared to similar options available
- Lightweight design won’t cause fatigue during use
- Brushless motor runs smoothly and provides up to 90 cuts per charge
- Made for light-duty work only
Get the DeWalt compact battery chainsaw at Amazon, Ace Hardware, or The Home Depot.
Makita’s chainsaw features a dual-battery 18V design and a brushless motor, and despite those extra batteries, this chainsaw still weighs just 11.35 pounds. The 14-inch bar makes it suitable for cutting through trees up to 12 inches in diameter.
During our tests, the compact saw performed with great speed and good balance. To sidestep a trigger-release switch, which can be annoying, Makita employs an on/off button. While it works, the onboard electronics go to sleep if the saw is inactive for a few minutes, and the button needs to be pressed again. But if the necessary time has not elapsed, then it is still active, so it can become annoying in a different way. It also has a built-in lock-off that prevents the saw blade from accidentally starting. Overall, this saw is firewood ready and agile with great chain speed.
- Voltage: 18 volts per battery
- Bar length: 14 inches
- Weight: 11.35 pounds
- Dual-battery design and brushless motor provide ample power and runtime
- Runs for up to 40 minutes with 4 batteries
- Auto power-off and lock-off features for user-friendliness and safety
- Trigger-release switch takes practice
Get the Makita battery chainsaw at Amazon or The Home Depot.
Mini chainsaws, like the Stihl GTA 26, bridge the gap between bypass pruners and conventional small chainsaws. Built for one-handed precision cutting, this garden pruner weighs just 2.7 pounds. The 4-inch guide bar and chain easily remove branches up to 3 inches in diameter. Those searching for an alternative to loppers or a manual pruning saw will appreciate how quickly and easily this pruner gets the job done.
In addition to its lightweight, compact design, the Stihl GTA 26 mini chainsaw features ergonomics to minimize wrist torsion and hand fatigue. The ambidextrous pistol-grip handle is augmented with an upper hand grip on top of the saw for added stability. The bar and chain are removable, with tool-free tensioning for easy maintenance. Plus, this saw needs no bar oil. Just squirt a little of the included machine oil onto the chain before each use for smooth cutting action. The kit includes the saw and battery, charger, and multi oil, all packed in a handy bag.
This little saw definitely has the potential to make gardening and landscaping much easier. We used it to clean up fallen limbs after a storm, to remove low-hanging tree branches that get in the way while mowing, and to prune a few red twig dogwoods. The blade cuts quickly and cleanly, with very little vibration transferring through the handle. We preferred to use both hands when the cuts needed to be precise, but one-handed cutting worked just fine when we were just cleaning up debris.
At its list price of nearly $170, this tool might be a bit spendy for some shoppers. They could purchase a really good manual pruning saw and probably a nice pair of handheld pruners for that price. But for those who desire the speed, convenience, or mobility assistance this tool has to offer, it may be worth the investment. Although battery life was limited compared to other chainsaws on the list—20 to 30 minutes depending on the material—this little tool made it much easier to cut off any branch less than 4 inches in diameter.
- Voltage: 10.8 volts
- Bar length: 4 inches
- Weight: 2.7 pounds
- Small 4-inch bar quickly and cleanly removes small branches
- Lightweight; ergonomically designed for 1-handed operation
- LED display indicates tool status and charge level to help you manage your work
- Retractable chain guard adds a layer of protection against flying debris
- Premium price point for a pruner
- Runtime is limited to 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the material being cut
Get the Stihl GTA battery chainsaw at Ace Hardware or Stihl.
Ryobi’s 18-inch-bar 40V chainsaw hits on all the criteria needed to be a top battery chainsaw. It delivers top chain speed, an instant-response trigger, and superb power. It has a traditional two-bolt chain housing, and not only does it come with a chainsaw wrench, but it also comes with an onboardchainsaw wrench that stows in the handle.
Through our hands-on testing, we found that it has top chain speed for working larger branches and logs. Even when it was deep in larger cuts—where other saws could be slowed down as more teeth were engaged in cutting wood—the Ryobi powered through. It has great runtime, which is ideal for work not adjacent to an electrical source, like a tree or large branch downed way in the back corner of a large yard. Battery exchange is a snap, and it even has aggressive bucking spikes.
The unit also ships in a blow-molded carrying case, which is ideal for field use. Not only can the saw be easily transported, but so can spare chains, the battery and charger, and a bottle of bar oil.
The saw is well-balanced, and the trigger release and trigger work seamlessly. The battery delivered outstanding runtime with a terrific power-to-weight ratio. Plus, the included 40V rapid charger charges Ryobi 40V batteries four times faster than Ryobi’s standard charger, model OP403A.
- Voltage: 40 volts
- Bar length: 18 inches
- Weight: 16.4 pounds
- Best power and chain speed through wood fiber
- Great power-to-weight ratio for ease of use
- 5Ah battery charges in 50 minutes with included rapid charger
- Includes onboard wrench, storage box, and rapid charger
- Chain tensioning and replacement require a tool
- More noise and vibration than the Husqvarna Power Axe
Get the Ryobi battery chainsaw at The Home Depot.
This compact saw’s low chain speed and slim 20V battery combined with its light weight and nice balance make it suitable for someone who doesn’t need or has never run a heavier-duty chainsaw. With its small bar, small battery, and low chain speed, the Worx struggled in tough material during our hands-on testing. However, like other light-duty saws on this list, this chainsaw is well suited for the occasional job of cutting a downed branch, kindling, or a small log. Plus, the compact design makes it easy to store between uses, taking up little shop, shed, or garage space.
- Voltage: 20 volts
- Bar length: 10 inches
- Weight: 6.2 pounds
- Lightweight and well-balanced design won’t cause fatigue
- Easy to use compared to some of the other models
- Compact for storage or transport
- Not for heavier use; mainly suitable for small branches and firewood
Get the Worx battery chainsaw at Amazon or Lowe’s.
With its massive 80V battery and brushless motor, this cordless chainsaw is one of the most powerful chainsaws in the group of battery chainsaws tested. Even with its formidable size, it’s firewood ready. Well-balanced for bucking (cutting logs), it has a big cut capacity and can make serious chips. The battery exchange is easy, but it flew through its charge in just 20 minutes. It can cut a lot with its 18-inch bar, and it consumes a lot of power doing so.
As long as there are other charged batteries on hand or time to recharge, this quality brushless chainsaw can do the work. Its battery needs 30 minutes for a full recharge. It has a traditional two-bolt chain housing, but there is no chainsaw wrench included. With steel bucking spikes, an electronic chain brake for safety, and a weight of less than 11 pounds, this chainsaw is easy to handle. The Greenworks 80V is available with the battery and charger or as a tool only.
- Voltage: 80 volts
- Bar length: 18 inches
- Weight: 13.8 pounds
- Brushless motor and 18-inch bar are suitable for large jobs that can be done quickly
- Safety features include bucking spikes to prevent kickback and an electronic chain brake
- Charges quickly in 30 minutes, making it suitable for tackling multiple projects
- Only runs for 20 minutes of constant cutting
- No chainsaw wrench included
Get the Greenworks battery chainsaw at Amazon.
Top-handle chainsaws have long been prized by arborists for their maneuverability when working in densely branched tree canopies. The lightweight and compact Echo eForce DCS-2500T further improves on older designs by replacing the pull-start two-cycle engine with a robust electric motor. The 12-inch bar and 7.3-pound body make this little saw a great choice for anyone who appreciates big power in a small package.
A 56V 2.5Ah lithium battery powers this saw for up to an hour or more of strong and capable cutting. Adjusting the chain requires a scrench, which is included with the saw, but the process is simplified with a side-access tensioner. Tree climbers will also appreciate the built-in harness loop to securely attach the saw to a carabiner.
In our tests, the Echo top-handle chainsaw produced more torque and chain speed than any other small chainsaw saw, as well as some of the bigger saws. It truly cuts with gaslike power. The aggressive cutting action may take novice users somewhat by surprise, so we recommend holding on with both hands until you get accustomed to it.
The saw was lightweight, well-balanced, highly maneuverable, and cut fast. It transmitted some vibration through the handles, but not as much as some of the others. The only downside to the saw was that chain tensioning and maintenance required the use of a tool.
- Voltage: 56V
- Bar Length: 12 inches
- Weight: 7.3 pounds
- Extremely lightweight and maneuverable for a 12-inch chainsaw
- Accommodates both 1-handed and 2-handed operation
- Top-handle design makes the saw more compact, more maneuverable, and easier to store
- Good torque and blade speed for fast cuts up to about 10 inches in diameter
- 1-handed operation increases the chance of accidents; not recommended for novices
- Chain maintenance requires a tool, but there is no onboard tool storage
- Premium price point for a compact, battery-powered chainsaw
Get the Echo 12-inch battery chainsaw at The Home Depot, Acme Tools, Chain Saws Direct, or Forestry Suppliers.
This capable cordless chainsaw from DeWalt is one of the most powerful battery chainsaws on the market. It’s suitable for felling trees up to 14 inches in diameter or cutting firewood. Coming in at 13.2 pounds with a chain brake for protection from kickbacks, this chainsaw is also easy to handle despite its long 16-inch bar.
Powered by DeWalt’s 60V MAX battery system, this saw easily spit out some wood chips during our field tests. It is well-balanced for working in the crown of a downed tree or processing firewood. It has a good battery life of about 30 minutes and an electric brake that stops that chain upon releasing the trigger.
Tool-free chain adjustment makes this chainsaw a low-maintenance model, enabling you to work without interruption. Like other cordless chainsaws, it comes with a rigid bar scabbard to protect the chain when not in use. It includes a charger and a 3Ah battery (a 2Ah is also available). Overall, it’s a good firewood-ready saw.
- Voltage: 60 volts
- Bar length: 16 inches
- Weight: 13.2 pounds
- Excellent battery life; runs for 30 minutes per charge
- Electronic brake for added safety when in use
- Auto-oiling feature prevents malfunction and keeps the model running
- Tool-free chain-tension adjuster for user-friendliness
- Chain-tension system may be hard to get used to or adjust
Get the DeWalt brushless battery chainsaw at The Home Depot.
This affordable model from Black+Decker is an excellent option for those budget-conscious DIYers who need a chainsaw for light-duty use only, as well as for those who don’t have a lot of experience operating a chainsaw.
This small saw has both a short bar and a tiny battery. Combined with a low chain speed, it is for very occasional use: processing a downed branch, maybe removing a shrub or two, or cutting kindling.
With an overall weight of 9.3 pounds, it’s easier to manage than larger cordless chainsaws. User-friendly features include a tool-free chain-tension adjuster and an automatic bar-oiling system. This Black+Decker cordless chainsaw is sold on its own or with a battery pack and charger.
- Voltage: 20 volts
- Bar length: 10 inches
- Weight: 9.3 pounds
- Lightweight and easy to handle; won’t cause fatigue when in use
- Tool-free chain-tension adjuster for user-friendliness
- Available as tool only or as a kit, with charger and battery
- Suitability limited to light-duty work
- Runs for only about 10 minutes
Get the Black+Decker battery chainsaw at Amazon, Ace Hardware, The Home Depot, or Target.
What to Consider When Choosing a Battery Chainsaw
Most DIYers base their purchase of a cordless power tool on the size and brand of the battery. While battery power is important, there are other factors to consider when shopping for the best cordless chainsaw, including guide bar and chain length, motor type, and weight.
Cordless tool technology has made quantum leaps into outdoor power equipment territory that has been, until recently, totally dominated by gasoline-powered tools.
Battery chainsaws use lithium-ion batteries as a power source. Unlike their predecessors, which required up to 12 hours to recharge, lithium-ion batteries produce more power, can recharge in as little as 1 hour, and they’re lighter to boot. With multiple lithium-ion batteries, it’s easy to keep the woodcutting going by simply rotating batteries.
When shopping for a battery-powered chainsaw, there are a few things to look out for that can help you determine how often it needs a recharge. To rate how powerful they are, batteries use voltage. Some cordless chainsaws use multiple 18V batteries, while others use single 20V batteries. High-end battery chainsaws use 40V and even 80V batteries.
The higher-voltage saws with bigger bars and batteries can process more timber and have chain speeds (which refers to how quickly the chain moves around the bar) nearing that of gas-powered saws. Plus, they can—with multiple batteries—handle bigger jobs like downed trees whose diameters don’t exceed their bar lengths. However, if there is a need to dismantle a downed 80-foot oak or black walnut tree, it isn’t the place for a battery-operated saw. While many of the saws in this test delivered near-gas power, they didn’t deliver it for long—and some didn’t even come close.
Although runtimes vary depending on use and the chainsaw’s size, expect to get about 20 to 30 minutes of intermittent use out of a cordless chainsaw before it needs a charge. For those who already have an arsenal of cordless power tools, consider buying a chainsaw of the same brand to use the batteries interchangeably among cordless tools.
Battery chainsaws use standard motors or brushless motors. As is the case with the motors in other cordless power tools, brushless motors are more efficient because they create less friction. This equates to a longer runtime before the battery needs recharging; less friction also means better motor power. A brushless chainsaw is typically about 85 to 90 percent efficient, whereas one with a brushed motor is around 75 to 80 percent efficient.
Matching the uses to power needs can help ensure that using the saw is productive and enjoyable. Choosing an underpowered saw for cutting up dense hardwood logs will surely frustrate you as it will bog down and overheat. Conversely, using a heavy-duty saw for limbing a fruit tree might be hard on your back due to its increased weight.
With battery-powered cordless chainsaws, much of the power rating is based on the voltage of the battery used, not its Ah rating. A battery’s Ah rating has more to do with how long the battery will run. For prolonged uses (felling trees or cutting logs into firewood rounds), a DIYer benefits from a battery with higher Ah ratings in the 6Ah or 8Ah range. For quick jobs, a 4Ah battery can provide plenty of runtime.
The chainsaw’s bar, the long metal piece that guides the chain, determines its cutting capacity. A chainsaw can cut trees with a trunk 2 inches less in diameter than the guide bar’s length. Due to power limitations, battery chainsaws have bars 18 inches and shorter; for general DIY use, the sweet spot for cordless chainsaws is 14 or 16 inches.
Smaller chainsaws, which have a 10-inch or 12-inch bar, are suitable for pruning. Small saws are lightweight and easy to use all day, and they’re useful for trimming limbs and small trees. They’re also handy at a campsite for cutting firewood to length (where allowed, of course).
Large chainsaw jobs, such as cutting down a mature tree, require a long 16-inch, 18-inch, or longer bar to handle the trunk’s large girth. Larger bars are most helpful for felling trees and cutting firewood. However, they’re heavier and less convenient for limbing trees than a smaller saw.
Bar oil helps the chain run smoothly in the bar’s grooves without overheating. Oiling prevents the chain from wearing out prematurely and the bar from burning from the speed of the chain. It also allows the saw to run at optimal speeds for the fastest cutting. Topping off the bar oil with each battery charge is an easy way to remember this task.
The most convenient way to go is with an automatic oiler, which will continuously lubricate the bar during use, as long as the onboard reservoir is kept full. Older options include a manual oiler (a thumb-operated plunger that releases oil onto the bar) and, most rudimentary, pouring oil over the bar by hand, but these outdated systems are not likely to be found nowadays.
Chainsaw chains are known to stretch with use due to a combination of temperature changes and centrifugal force. New chains stretch quite a bit due to the same factors as well as simply “breaking in,” and that’s totally acceptable. However, when a chain stretches, it can fit loosely on the bar or even skip off of the bar altogether—annoying, if not dangerous.
To account for stretching, chainsaw bars have a back-and-forward adjustment that takes the slack out of the chain. The most easily adjusted models come with toolless tensioning systems. These systems only require you to simply loosen a knob on the side of the bar by hand, twist the adjustment knob until the slack is gone, and tighten the bar up again—all without pulling out a single hand tool or having to tighten a chainsaw chain manually.
As with a standard chainsaw, capable cordless chainsaws have two handles: one in the rear that includes the trigger and a larger wraparound handle in the front for the guiding hand. On most chainsaws, the rear grip is almost in-line, behind the motor, where the operator can lever downward on the bar for more cutting power. Top-handle chainsaws have the rear handle above the motor for a more compact, more maneuverable design that is more compatible with working among dense branches. Given the danger inherent in using a chainsaw, the grip is crucial.
Chainsaw handles use rubberized grips that allow you to get a good hold of the chainsaw. The rear handle also incorporates the trigger that activates the saw and a safety switch that engages to shut off the saw should the user lose the grip on the rear handle. The front handle curves around the chainsaw, allowing you to hold the chainsaw in various positions for different cuts.
Tools are not toys—and any chainsaw can be dangerous if it’s not operated correctly. In addition to these features, proper use can help keep you safe when operating a chainsaw. Look out for the following safety features that make using a chainsaw safer:
- A blade guard is crucial for protecting the chain and preventing accidents when the chainsaw is not in use. This protective sleeve fits over the blade like a scabbard, protecting the blade and preventing accidental cuts when transporting or storing the chainsaw.
- Manual chain brakes mounted in front of the grip keep your top hand protected and allow you to quickly engage thechain brake by rotating your wrist forward. Their main function is to arrest the chain if the saw kicks back. This happens when the uppermost portion of the bar’s tip makes contact with a log, causing the saw to “kick” back toward the user, potentially making contact between the user and the spinning chain.
- Low-kickback chains are also available; they are specially designed to prevent the chain from digging too deeply into the wood. If the cutter of the chains gets too deep into wood, it can stop abruptly and cause kickback. To help avoid kickback, never use the tip of the saw for making cuts. Instead, cut using only the top and bottom sections of the bar until you become very experienced with a chainsaw.
- Clutches are found on gas chainsaws, not battery chainsaws. In gas saws, the clutch is an important safety feature that isolates the motor from the chain and prevents the chain from spinning at engine idle speed. Since electric motors only operate when the operator pulls the trigger, a clutch is unnecessary.
Other miscellaneous features may be found in the chainsaw market. Some may be irrelevant depending on a user’s needs, but others may provide a compelling reason to select one tool over another.
- Variable speed: While some chainsaws offer only a single speed, which simply allows the chainsaw to be turned on or off, higher-end chainsaws offer variable-speed controls. These chainsaws regulate the chain’s speed via a pressure-sensitive trigger, allowing you to optimize the chain’s speed for different types of cuts.
- Anti-vibration: A certain amount of vibration is inevitable, but better chainsaws use special engine mounts to reduce it. Spring-mounted handles further insulate the user from vibration.
- Spring-assist starting: Some chainsaws have spring-assist starting, which reduces the pulling force needed to get the tool going.
- Extra batteries: Certain chainsaws come with an extended-life battery and/or extras to extend runtime. Batteries can be replaced during long sessions.
The Advantages of Owning a Battery Chainsaw
For the right user, cordless chainsaws—and the tech behind them—deliver. If it’s cutting firewood or a downed branch or even a small tree there’s no rush to remove, there’s a lot to like in this cordless chainsaw category.
Among the numerous advantages of owning a cordless chainsaw are the convenience and lower maintenance than with standard gas chainsaws or corded chainsaws.
There is no need to go through the tedious process of mixing gas for a two-cycle engine to power a cordless chainsaw, nor do you have the inconvenience of running a long power cord for an electric chainsaw. Simply keep the battery on the charger, pop it into the chainsaw, and you’re ready to go. Plus, if you have other battery-powered tools from the same manufacturer, you can use the same batteries for your other tools.
There also isn’t the need to maintain a battery-powered engine. If you only use a chainsaw on occasion, a gas-powered engine requires regular maintenance, or it can be difficult to start when you need it.
Gas chainsaws can be difficult to operate. They use pull starters to get the engine running, requiring significant effort, especially if the engine is cold. They also tend to stall if the throttle is engaged too quickly. Battery chainsaws won’t stall, and they start with the push of a button.
- They do not require long extension cords or special fuels.
- They are easier to maintain than gas-powered chainsaws.
- They can use the same batteries as other cordless tools of the same brand.
- They are easier to start and don’t have the stalling issues that plague some gas-powered chainsaws.
If you’re still wondering about battery-powered chainsaws, read on for answers to the most cutting questions about chainsaws.
Q. How do I choose a chainsaw size?
When it comes to chainsaws, a general rule of thumb is that they should be at least 2 inches longer than the thickness of the tree or limb you are trying to cut. With that in mind, when shopping for a chainsaw, consider the types of jobs for which you’ll be using the chainsaw.
If you’re planning on using the chainsaw primarily for pruning and removing young trees, a 10-inch or 12-inch chainsaw should suffice. For larger jobs, consider purchasing a 16-inch or 18-inch chainsaw.
More than just the capabilities of the saw, the battery platform that you already own may be a big factor in choosing a chainsaw.
Q. How long will a battery-powered chainsaw last?
A battery-powered chainsaw typically runs about 30 to 40 minutes with intermittent use depending on the battery’s size.
Q. How do I maintain a battery chainsaw?
There are several measures you should follow to maintain a chainsaw:
- Check the bar oil with each battery change. Lubricant is necessary to keep the chain smoothly rotating around the bar and through the wood. Nothing will thwart your chainsaw job more than a dry blade, which will immediately dull the chain.
- Keep the chain sharp. A sharp chain not only improves the cutting power of the chainsaw but also prevents dangerous kickbacks. Backup chains are useful, too.
- Clean the saw blade after each use. Make sure to remove any debris or sawdust. Built-up debris can easily clog the oil hole, preventing lubricant from reaching the blade.
- Tighten loose nuts, bolts, and screws. Chainsaws vibrate a lot, and all of that vibration can shake fasteners loose, negatively impacting the chainsaw’s operation.
Why Trust Bob Vila
Bob Vila has been America’s Handyman since 1979. As the host of beloved and groundbreaking TV series including “This Old House” and “Bob Vila’s Home Again,” he popularized and became synonymous with “do-it-yourself” home improvement.
Over the course of his decades-long career, Bob Vila has helped millions of people build, renovate, repair, and live better each day—a tradition that continues today with expert yet accessible home advice. The Bob Vila team distills need-to-know information into project tutorials, maintenance guides, tool 101s, and more. These home and garden experts then thoroughly research, vet, and recommend products that support homeowners, renters, DIYers, and professionals in their to-do lists.
Meet the Tester
Mark Wolfe is a writer and product tester with an extensive background in the nursery and landscaping industry. For more than 20 years, he mowed, edged, planted, pruned, cultivated, irrigated, and renovated beautiful landscapes. Now he tests and writes reviews about the latest outdoor power equipment, hand tools, lawn-care products, and other outdoor living goods.
Additional research provided by Tony Carrick and Mark Clement.