Photo: Debbie Wolfe for Bob Vila
The best electric chainsaws allow for quick and easy cutting. Just plug the saw in or snap in a battery and you’re ready to go.
Electric chainsaws are lightweight and quieter than traditional gas models, yet they are often on par with their gasoline-powered counterparts in terms of cutting ability. Plus, electric chainsaws require very little maintenance—just an occasional sharpening of the chain and a quick topping off of the bar oil.
After researching more than 50 chainsaws from a dozen brands, we tested the top ones to help find the best options for various budgets, uses, and other features. Below are our top picks as well as some considerations shoppers looking for an electric chainsaw will want to consider before buying.
- BEST OVERALL: Stihl MSA 140 C-B Battery-Powered Chainsaw
- RUNNER-UP: Makita XCU03PT LXT Brushless 14-Inch Chain Saw Kit
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Oregon CS1400 16-Inch Corded Electric Chainsaw
- UPGRADE PICK: Husqvarna Power Axe 350i With Battery Charger
- BEST HEAVY-DUTY: Oregon CS1500 18-Inch Corded Electric Chainsaw
- BEST LIGHT-DUTY: Black+Decker LCS1020B 20V 10-Inch Cordless Chainsaw
- BEST FOR PRUNING: Echo eForce DCS-2500T 56V 12-Inch Top Handle Chainsaw
- BEST FOR HOME USE: DeWalt DCCS620P1 20V MAX XR 12-Inch Chainsaw Kit
- BEST FOR FIREWOOD: Greenworks Pro GCS80421 80V 18-Inch Cordless Chainsaw
- ALSO CONSIDER: Echo eForce DCS-5000 56V 18-Inch Battery Chainsaw
Photo: Debbie Wolfe for Bob Vila
How We Tested the Best Electric Chainsaws
We researched the most sought-after electric chainsaws in their respective categories and discovered that the best models are determined by their type, power output, weight, and other special features. Some shoppers favor cordless electric chainsaws for their maneuverability and ease of use, while others choose corded electric chainsaws for unlimited runtime and durability. As for cutting power, our picks can complete light- to heavy-duty work, with up to 80 volts (V) or 15 amperages (amps) of power.
We selected and tested electric chainsaws from across the spectrum of types and sizes. Rather than putting them in a head-to-head competition, we evaluated each according to its intended purpose within a typical day’s work. We limited smaller chainsaws to yard cleanup, shrub removal, and branch-cutting duties, while we used the larger saws to fell several dead trees and cut them into firewood.
We evaluated each saw and scored them 1 through 5 on criteria such as aggressive cutting, low noise, low vibration, maneuverability, safety, and ease of use. Each of the saws in our test group could make a smart buy for a particular reason, or for many reasons. Anyone shopping for an electric chainsaw will find one or more reasonable choices ahead.
Our Top Picks
After previewing specifications and customer ratings online, we tested these chainsaws for ourselves. Check out the results in the following reviews. Whether looking for a small chainsaw for occasional cleanup projects or a heavy-duty tool for daily use, chances are a few good options in our lineup of the best electric chainsaws will suit your needs.
Our top pick comes from a revered legacy brand, and it’s packed with performance details and user comforts that make it one of the best compact chainsaws—gas or electric. The Stihl MSA 140 C-B battery-powered chainsaw weighs just 8.6 pounds and comes equipped with a 12-inch guide bar. An efficient brushless motor, compact build, and efficient narrow-kerf chain make it a great choice for pruning, yard cleanup, and light tree work.
The kit includes a bar sheath, ¼-inch PM3 saw chain, AK 30 36V battery, and AL 101 battery charger. The saw runs up to 45 minutes per charge. One of the quieter saws we tested, it’s a great choice for working in neighborhoods. But it also produces high torque with very low vibration for efficient cutting and a comfortable user experience.
We enjoyed the overall performance of the MSA 140 C-B. It worked smoothly and efficiently for well over an hour per charge, including stoppage between cuts. Relative to the other saws we tested, almost no vibration transferred through the handles, and the narrow saw body gave it better balance than most of the others.
The short bar helped when working selectively around dense branch growth, and the lightweight motor made it easy to cut branches at chest height without causing excessive back and shoulder strain. This could be an excellent primary yard maintenance chainsaw for anyone, or a backup limbing saw for serious woodcutters.
Read our full review: Stihl MSA 140 C-B Battery-Powered Chainsaw
- Power source: 36V lithium-ion battery
- Bar length: 12 inches
- Weight: 8.6 pounds (including battery)
- Lightweight, balanced design for outstanding work stability and safety
- 5.2 amp-hour (Ah) battery powers up to 45 minutes of cutting per charge
- Efficient ¼-inch PM3 saw chain cuts quickly with low vibration
- Ideal bar size for cleaning up debris, pruning branches, or limbing fallen trees
- Undersized for heavy-duty felling and bucking of larger trees
- 3-hour recharge time with the included charger could end the workday too soon
Get the Stihl electric chainsaw at Ace Hardware or Stihl.
Makita’s cordless chainsaw is an example of the brand’s innovation. It features a dual-battery 18V design, doubling the maximum power and runtime of a standard single-battery chainsaw. Despite those extra batteries, this chainsaw still weighs in at less than 12 pounds, making it easy to handle.
The brushless motor allows its batteries to distribute more power to the saw than a standard motor, making it as powerful as some gas-powered chainsaws and one of the best battery chainsaw options. With a 14-inch bar, this is a good chainsaw for cutting through trees up to 12 inches in diameter.
Makita’s rechargeable chainsaw also packs plenty of other features like an auto power-off function that shuts the saw down to save battery life when the saw is idle for too long as well as a built-in lock-off that prevents the saw blade from accidentally starting.
In our tests, the Makita’s chain speed was excellent. The tool’s overall balance was pretty good, but the battery configuration had a widening effect on the motor housing, so the center of gravity was farther from the user’s body. This made it slightly less maneuverable than our top pick, but still better than average.
Instead of a mechanical trigger-release safety switch, this saw uses an on/off power switch that would time-out after a certain period. While awake, a single press of the button activated the saw, but after a few minutes of inactivity, it required two pushes: one to wake up the electronics and the other to power the saw on or off. This was not a deal breaker by any means—just a quirk that some users might not love.
This saw offers excellent cutting power and a good size/weight balance without becoming too heavy during occasional extended use. It’s a really good pick for general work around the house.
- Power source: Two 18V lithium-ion batteries
- Bar length: 14 inches
- Weight: 11 pounds (with battery)
- Dual-battery design and efficient brushless motor deliver up to 30 minutes of cutting time
- Auto power-off and lock-off features help to prevent accidental startup
- Offers heavy-duty gaslike power without the pull starts, loud noises, or exhaust fumes
- Battery efficiency, plus batteries are interchangeable with all Makita LXT 18V power tools
- Battery power can drain quickly when cutting thicker branches or tree trunks
- Shorter runtime per charge compared to some of the others we tested
- On/off switch operation is not intuitive and requires extra attention
Get the Makita electric chainsaw at Amazon, The Home Depot, Acme Tools, or Makita.
The Oregon CS1400 packs numerous feature upgrades for such a budget-friendly saw. As a corded electric saw, it offers unlimited runtime wherever there is access to a power outlet. It comes equipped with a heavy-duty 15-amp motor and uses a toolless chain-tensioning system, allowing you to adjust the chain to the proper tension and lock it back into place with ease. One of the best features of this rigid chainsaw is how quiet it is when cutting while still providing plenty of power to get the job done.
To preserve the bar and chain, the automatic oiler distributes oil onto the parts. This helps preserve a sharp chain, keeps the chainsaw lubricated, and prevents it from wearing out prematurely.
In terms of raw cutting power, the Oregon CS1400 performed as well as any other saw we tested. Although heavier than many of the other tested saws, the weight added stabilizing downward pressure for smooth bucking/sectioning cuts.
That being said, we also noted that the saw was not as easy to operate on its side, as is needed to fell a tree. The heavier weight and the need to manage the power cord made it less maneuverable in densely branched tree canopies, too. But, it’s a great choice for making lots of vertical cuts in a relatively clear workspace, as in cutting cordwood to length.
- Power source: 15-amp household electrical outlet (15-amp motor)
- Bar length: 16 inches
- Weight: 12.2 pounds
- Relatively affordable compared to battery models with similar features
- Can easily handle thick and dense hardwood; ideal for large yards
- Heavy-duty cutting power equivalent to that of midsize gas chainsaws
- Corded for prolonged use; no need to worry about refueling or recharging
- Requires a nearby electrical outlet and a heavy-duty extension cord (not included)
- Heavier and less maneuverable than most cordless chainsaws
Get the Oregon CS1400 electric chainsaw at Amazon, Lowe’s, The Home Depot, Acme Tools, Northern Tool + Equipment, or Oregon.
The Husqvarna Power Axe 350i 36-volt chainsaw includes performance, safety, and comfort features a cut above the others on the list. The 18-inch guide bar and X-cut chain complement a low-vibration brushless motor, delivering best-in-class performance.
This saw weighs a relatively modest 14.2 pounds with the battery, bar, and chain installed. For extended battery life, push-button power-boost mode increases output for larger, harder cuts, while normal mode preserves the charge during normal cutting tasks. A tool-free chain tensioner eliminates the need for a chainsaw tool and keeps downtime to a minimum. The 7.5Ah battery works with all Husqvarna battery tools, boosting total power efficiency.
Even the chain is better than on other saws. The Husqvarna X-Cut chain is built to higher standards than the typical saw chain in terms of material, heat treatment, and design of the individual cutters and links to maximize sharpness, cutting efficiency, and durability. It even comes prestretched to eliminate the break-in period typical of a new saw chain.
It is difficult to describe the difference between a low-vibration chainsaw and other saws, but we felt the difference immediately in the Husqvarna Power Axe. The features that minimize vibration transfer through the handles, namely the X-cut chain and the smooth operating motor, also helped to boost battery life. This translated into a lighter, more capable saw that made more cuts per watt-hour than some of the cheaper saws built on bulkier platforms.
The Power Axe cut up seasoned oak logs into firewood lengths quickly, smoothly, and quietly. And when we were climbing up the crown of a fallen tree, we moved around at will making all the necessary cuts. The narrow saw body and lightweight build made it much more maneuverable than other 18-inch saws, and it outworked the others in pure cutting ability, too. It gave the best overall performance of all the saws we tested, with the possible exception of our top pick, which is built for lighter work. Those in search of a high-performance saw for all types of cutting scenarios would do well to consider the Power Axe.
- Power source: 36V battery
- Bar length: 18 inches
- Weight: 14.2 pounds with chain and battery
- 18-inch guide bar is the right size for general-purpose cutting tasks
- Much lower vibration than the rest of the saws in our test group
- Fast toolless chain tensioner cuts downtime and boosts productivity
- High-efficiency brushless motor reduces vibration and improves battery life
- X-Cut chain eliminates need to break chain in; retains sharpness longer
- Heavier and more tiring than a compact chainsaw for light-duty cutting
- 18-inch bar is less articulate for selective cuts among dense branches
Get the Husqvarna electric chainsaw at Lowe’s.
When it comes time for heavy-duty tree cutting, a longer bar and a bigger motor are necessities. The CS1500 chainsaw from Oregon features an 18-inch guide bar and chain, a powerful 15-amp motor, toolless chain tensioning, a chain brake, and an automatic oiler. It uses plug-in power for unlimited clean and quiet runtime and comes with a durable plastic scabbard for bar and chain safety when not in use.
The saw also self-sharpens—activating the sharpener simply involves lifting a small finger-engaged lever. Oregon’s patented system sharpens the PowerSharp chain in just 3 to 5 seconds. Between the power, long bar length, and automatic features, this is the most capable corded saw on the market, meant for heavy-duty work.
In our tests, the Oregon CS1500 stood out as a rugged saw with several notable conveniences. The saw offered plenty of power and speed to cut up a 13-inch-diameter oak log. It made vertical bucking cuts cleanly and aggressively every time, but the power cord limited maneuverability in brushy areas.
The self-sharpening feature was uniquely helpful. After cutting 40 slices off the hardened oak log, we pulled the PowerSharp lever for 3 seconds while squeezing the trigger. Then we inspected the saw teeth before attempting more cuts. The teeth were visibly sharper than before—shiny with no nicks—and the saw moved faster and produced larger sawdust shavings than prior to sharpening. This feature saves at least 10 minutes of hand sharpening, or $10 to $15 and a trip to the hardware store for professional sharpening, for everyday wood cutting.
As with other corded electric chainsaws, the price of this model was much lower than cordless saws with similar cutting ability. In addition to the cost savings, it was “always ready,” with no need to charge or replace batteries. The electric motor has a long life expectancy that could make it a once or twice in a lifetime purchase for many users.
- Power source: 15-amp electrical outlet (15-amp motor)
- Bar length: 18 inches
- Weight: 12.6 pounds
- Features tool-free chain tensioning and automatic oiler for easy maintenance
- Self-sharpening feature; sharpens the chain in 3 to 5 seconds
- Long bar length suitable for a broad spectrum of heavy- and light-duty cutting tasks
- Heavier than comparable models; more difficult to operate for extended periods
- Power cord requires a nearby outlet and restricts mobility in dense, brushy areas
Get the Oregon CS1500 electric chainsaw at Amazon, Lowe’s, The Home Depot, Acme Tools, or Walmart.
This affordable battery-powered chainsaw from Black+Decker is an excellent option for those budget-conscious DIYers who need a chainsaw for light-duty use only, as well as those who don’t have a lot of experience operating a chainsaw.
Thanks to a smaller 10-inch blade, which is less likely to kick back, and an overall weight of just 6.8 pounds, it’s easier to manage than larger chainsaws. That’s not to say it isn’t powerful. This chainsaw packs plenty of punch with a 20V battery and can cut through branches up to 8 inches in diameter. User-friendly features include a tool-free chain-tension adjuster and an automatic bar oil system. This Black+Decker chainsaw is sold on its own or with a battery pack and charger.
This model proved to be surprisingly capable while removing a couple of overgrown juniper shrubs in our test area. The compact size and lightweight build made it easy to maneuver among the branches, with very little kickback. It produced some vibration, and the chain speed was slightly slower than some of the other small saws, but it did the job and it worked well in tight spaces.
The low price of this saw appears to be related to the small battery size (battery is not included), which limits runtime to about 15 minutes of work per charge—a design that simply gets the job done with possibly less durable components. One unique design feature that we liked, however, was the placement of the bar oil filler on top of the motor housing, just behind the handle. It eliminated the need to place the saw on its side for filling and made it easier to see the oil level while working. Overall, the saw felt and looked kind of cheap, and indeed it was inexpensive, but it definitely outworked its appearance for short jobs. It’s a good choice to have on hand for light-duty work.
- Power source: 20V battery
- Bar length: 10 inches
- Weight: 6.8 pounds
- 10-inch blade is highly maneuverable and generates low kickback
- Lightweight and easy to handle; ideal for prolonged use with less fatigue
- Tool-free chain-tension adjuster is easier than dealing with a chainsaw tool
- Affordable compared to similar options; ideal for occasional light work
- Power, bar length, and weight are not suitable for heavy-duty tree cutting
- Battery and charger not included; sold separately at most retailers
Get the Black+Decker electric chainsaw at Amazon, The Home Depot, Tractor Supply Co., Acme Tools, Black+Decker, or Walmart.
Top-handle chainsaws are the tool of choice for professional tree climbers who make their living pruning dense canopies. With its lightweight build and no-maintenance brushless electric motor, the Echo eForce DCS-2500T is one of the best top-handle saws available. It comes equipped with a 12-inch bar and chain and weighs just 7.3 pounds.
A 56V 2.5Ah battery powers the eForce top-handle chainsaw, driving an hour of tree work per charge. Chain adjustments require a chainsaw tool that comes with the kit, but with the side access tensioner, it only takes a few seconds. The saw also comes ready to climb with a built-in loop to clip onto a climbing harness.
Although it comes at a premium price, the Echo top-handle chainsaw demonstrated top-end cutting ability in our tests. With its short bar and balanced design, it was very easy to maneuver for detailed cuts among dense branches. And it was aggressive for a small chainsaw. The saw sliced through 8-inch logs twice as fast as most of the other 10- to 14-inch chainsaws we tested.
The high torque and fast chain speed might catch inexperienced users off guard, which could lead to accidents or injuries. It’s best to use two hands for all cuts until becoming familiar with the saw.
- Power source: 56V battery
- Bar length: 12 inches
- Weight: 7.3 pounds (with battery)
- Lightweight and easy to maneuver within a dense tree canopy
- Well-balanced for operating with 1 hand or 2
- Top-handle design makes it more compact, more maneuverable, and easier to store
- High torque and blade speed make quick cuts up to nearly 10 inches in diameter
- Operating the saw with 1 hand increases chance of accidents; not recommended for novices
- Chain tensioning is not tool-free, and there is no tool-storage slot on the saw
- High price point for a small battery-powered chainsaw
Get the Echo eForce DCS-2500T electric chainsaw at The Home Depot, Chain Saws Direct, or Forestry Suppliers.
Those interested in an electric chainsaw that delivers power, endurance, and versatility might want to check out the DeWalt 20V MAX XR chainsaw kit, which comes with everything they might need. With a modest 9-pound construction, this chainsaw doesn’t cause fatigue while delivering up to 90 cuts per minute on a full charge with its 20V 5Ah battery and efficient brushless motor. It’s a great multipurpose choice for landscaping, yard cleanup, and demolition or construction projects around the home.
For added convenience and safety, this model comes with tool-free chain tensioning and a bar-tightening knob. Plus, all 20V DeWalt batteries are compatible with this model, allowing extended runtime. A lithium-ion battery and charger are included.
In our tests, the DeWalt DCCS620P1 battery chainsaw demonstrated high torque, but somewhat slower chain speed. The saw cut aggressively and rarely bogged down in tough material, but the cutting speed was a half step behind the top performers. Still, this chainsaw has a lot to offer in terms of versatility.
The compact size and lightweight build helped us clear out dense brush without becoming entangled or risking kickback. At the same time, the 12-inch bar allowed it to slice through 10-inch logs with ease, if not speed.
- Power source: 20V battery
- Bar length: 12 inches
- Weight: 9.2 pounds (with battery)
- Lightweight design is easy to operate for longer periods
- Low maintenance; brushless motor and auto oil function
- Powerful enough to tackle most yard work
- Limited 45-minute runtime; can be lower when cutting thick material
Get the DeWalt electric chainsaw at Amazon, The Home Depot, Acme Tools, or DeWalt.
With its massive 80V battery and brushless motor, this cordless chainsaw from battery-powered tool specialist Greenworks rivals many similarly sized gas-powered chainsaws.
Proving that a small carbon footprint doesn’t equate to wimpy, this formidable chainsaw can make up to 150 cuts before needing a charge, which equates to about 30 minutes of work time per charge. Its 18-inch bar length enables cutting through trunks up to 16 inches in diameter, so this saw is a great option for cutting firewood.
With its rapid charge capability—it needs just 30 minutes for a full recharge—the saw can easily have batteries rotated to avoid lags in your productivity. This model is loaded with performance features like steel bucking spikes and an electronic chain brake.
In our tests, the Greenworks Pro 80V chainsaw cut quickly and aggressively, but the battery runtime was not great. At 16 pounds, it was the heaviest saw of our entire group, which was helpful when cutting thick logs into sections, but less so when we were limbing a tree canopy.
We really appreciated the fast chain speed and high torque. The saw didn’t bog down in any of our cutting tests, even when we levered downward on the bucking spikes to add extra pressure on the bar. It cut everything at least as fast as any of the other saws, but the heavy weight, bulky motor housing and battery, and vibration in the handles sacrificed some operator comfort. Still, at the modest list price, it’s a highly capable saw worthy of consideration.
- Power source: 80V battery
- Bar length: 18 inches
- Weight: 16 pounds (with battery)
- Long 18-inch bar and chain are suitable for big jobs like felling and bucking
- High-torque motor and fast chain speed facilitate heavy-duty wood cutting
- Good runtime-to-charge-time balance: 30 minutes of runtime, 30 minutes to charge
- Modest price point for a heavy-duty battery-powered chainsaw
- The heaviest saw among our tested group; 3.5 pounds heavier than the lightest 18-inch saw we tested
- Chain tensioner feels a bit less robust than we like for heavy-duty work
Get the Greenworks electric chainsaw at Amazon or Greenworks.
Those in need of an inexpensive all-purpose chainsaw will appreciate the Echo eForce DCS-5000. It features an 18-inch guide bar and chain, efficient brushless motor, side-access chain tensioner, and onboard chainsaw tool storage. The included 56V 2.5Ah battery powers up to 200 cuts per charge.
This saw is an ideal choice for a wide range of chores, including yard cleanup, cutting firewood, removing small and midsize trees, and pruning. At just over 14.5 pounds, it’s one of the heavier saws we tested, similar to many gas-powered chainsaws. The narrow saw body places the center of gravity close to the operator for better control and less fatigue.
In testing, the Echo 18-inch battery chainsaw demonstrated fast, powerful cutting ability. It ran about 40 minutes per charge, compared to an hour for our longest runners. Because of the Echo’s faster, more aggressive cutting ability, total work done per charge was equalized.
This was also the most affordable of the 18-inch chainsaws we tested, making the value better than average. The prices of the other saws in our lineup averaged about $50 higher than this one. As we have often noted with Echo products, performance is one tier below the top while price remains a bargain, making it a really nice value for those who like to get more than they pay for.
- Power source: 56V battery
- Bar length: 18 inches
- Weight: 14.8 pounds
- Budget-friendly price for this level of cutting power and performance
- Flip-lever oil 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 40 minutes per charge
A bit more vibration in the handles than some of the other models
Get the Echo eForce DCS-5000 electric chainsaw at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Chain Saws Direct.
What to Consider When Choosing an Electric Chainsaw
Lumberjacks aren’t the only ones who need to have a chainsaw in their tool kit. Many homeowners need them, too, especially if they have a yard with trees that have branches in need of regular trimming. Shoppers will want to have a good understanding of the options available ahead of buying one. Here’s a primer.
Photo: Debbie Wolfe for Bob Vila
Corded vs. Cordless
Whether or not to go cord-free is a top-priority decision when it comes to an electric chainsaw. A shopper looking to buy one will want to think about the size of the property and how the saw will be used.
If felling trees back in the woods is what it’ll mainly be used for, a battery-operated saw will be a great choice. Most electric chainsaws that are battery-powered typically have a charge of up to 2 hours.
A corded saw will do the job if it’ll mostly be used to cut firewood rounds in the driveway. While cord lengths vary, this option is generally a bit more limited, requiring you to stay close to a power outlet.
When it comes to electric chainsaw sizes, the main difference is the length of the bar. The bar—sometimes mistakenly referred to as the blade—is the part of the saw that supports the chain, which actually does the cutting. Bar lengths on electric chainsaws come as small as 10 inches (sometimes even shorter from niche manufacturers) and as large as 18 inches.
Small saws are lightweight and easy to use all day. They’re useful for trimming limbs and small trees. They’re also handy on a campsite for cutting firewood to length (if allowed, of course). Larger bars are most helpful for felling trees and cutting firewood. They’re heavier and less convenient for limbing trees than a smaller saw, though. For general DIY use, many consider the sweet spot for chainsaws to be around 14 or 16 inches.
The motor power in corded electric saws is rated by amps. The amp rating describes how much power the saw can draw before its internal components overheat or break down. An 8-amp electric chainsaw is best for light-duty jobs, while a 12-amp is meant for medium-duty work. A 15-amp is the heaviest-duty type.
With battery-powered saws, the power rating is usually based on voltage and not the amp-hour rating. A battery’s Ah rating has more to do with how long the battery will run than the power output. For prolonged uses (felling trees or cutting logs into firewood rounds), a DIYer will want to look for batteries with higher ratings in the 6Ah or 8Ah range. For quick jobs, a 4Ah battery should provide plenty of runtime.
Bar oil helps the chain run smoothly in the bar’s grooves without overheating. Oiling prevents the bar and chain from overheating and wearing out prematurely. It also allows the saw to run at optimal speeds for the fastest cutting.
The most convenient way to go is with an automatic oiler, which will continuously lubricate the bar during use, as long as users remember to keep the onboard reservoir 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. These outdated systems are less likely to be found nowadays.
The links of chainsaw chains stretch with use due to a combination of temperature change 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 that allow you to 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.
Any chainsaw can be dangerous if it’s not operated correctly (here are guidelines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration). Fortunately, when comparing electric and gas chainsaw models, the same safety features are available.
Manual chain brakes mounted in front of the grip keep the top hand protected and allow you to engage the brake quickly by rotating your wrist forward. Some saws also come with clutches that quickly disengage the chain when the trigger is released, preventing a free-spinning chain from catching you off guard after the cut.
Low-kickback chains are also available. “Kickback” happens when the uppermost portion of the bar’s tip makes contact with a log, causing the saw to “kick” back towards you, potentially making contact between you and the spinning chain. To avoid this, the tip of the saw should never be used to make cuts.
Tips for Using an Electric Chainsaw
Anyone who buys an electric chainsaw will want to learn how to use it and take care of it properly and safely. Wearing protective clothing (long-sleeve shirts and pants), safety goggles, gloves, chainsaw chaps, a helmet, and boots to prevent injury are all important. Operators will also want to consider wearing hearing protection as chainsaws tend to be loud, especially when cutting through hard materials. Here are a few additional tips to ensure safe use:
- Chain tension should be checked ahead of use. This can prevent the chain from becoming loose or detaching while operating the electric chainsaw. Many models come with tool-free chain tensioning, but users can also pull the chain down from the guide bar and then release it. If the chain returns to position, it is ready to use. If not, the chain is too loose.
- The bar and chain should be oiled to ensure the chains flow through the guide properly.
- While cutting, light pressure should be used.
- After use, the safety lock should always be set.
In this guide, we offered all of the guidance shoppers need ahead of buying an electric chainsaw. Sometimes, questions about safety, use, and maintenance remain, especially among shoppers looking for the best electric chainsaw to trim or fell trees in their yards. Here are our answers to the most common questions about electric chainsaws.
Q. Are electric chainsaws safer than gas chainsaws?
Yes, electric chainsaws are safer. They have shorter bars (18 inches at most) and slower chain speeds, reducing the odds of dangerous kickbacks. They also run only while cutting.
Q. Can electric chainsaws cut trees?
Electric chainsaws are usually best suited for cutting tree limbs and pruning. Larger models (around 16 inches) can also cut down small trees.
Q. How lightweight do chainsaws come?
Small chainsaws weigh anywhere between 6 and 20 pounds. The weight depends on their power source, how many batteries they use, and their construction materials.
Q. How do I choose a chainsaw size?
A 10- or 12-inch chainsaw works best to prune branches or remove very small trees. A 16-inch or 18-inch chainsaw is a better choice for larger ones.
Q. How long do electric-chainsaw batteries last?
Depending upon the model, most electric chainsaws will run for 20 minutes to up to 2 hours. Rechargeable batteries lose efficiency over time. They will need to be replaced after about 500 charge cycles, or between 5 and 10 years, depending on storage and use patterns.
Q. How do you lubricate an electric chainsaw?
Place the electric chainsaw—power off, unplugged, and cool—on a flat surface. Remove the oil-filler cap and put the funnel in. Then, pour the oil till it reaches the filler mark.
Q. How do I maintain a chainsaw?
To maintain a chainsaw:
- Check the bar oil regularly, ensuring it’s lubricated.
- Keep the chain sharp.
- Clean the saw chain, guide bar, and drive sprocket after each use.
- Tighten loose nuts, bolts, and screws.
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 a 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 Tom Scalisi.