When your yard work extends to jobs like cutting up fallen tree limbs or trimming some fence posts to size, nothing comes in quite as handy as an electric chainsaw. The best of these tools let you take a quick and easy approach to the job: Unlike their gas-powered counterparts (generally favored by tree trimming and wood cutting pros for heavy-duty, all-day use), with electric chainsaws, you simply plug the tool in or snap in a battery and you’re ready to go.
Electric models are also lighter weight and quieter than gas models, yet are often on par with them in terms of capability. Plus, electric chainsaws require very little maintenance—just an occasional sharpening of the chain and a quick topping off of the bar oil (used to keep the chain cool and cutting efficiently).
Ahead, read our top tips for understand and navigating the options—and don’t miss our roundup of top-favorite picks among the best electric chainsaw options available.
- BEST OVERALL: Greenworks 40V 16-inch Chainsaw
- BEST FOR LIGHT DUTY: WORX WG303.1 Electric Chainsaw
- ALSO CONSIDER: Oregon Corded Chainsaw
What to Consider Before Buying an Electric Chainsaw
You needn’t be a lumberjack to add a chainsaw to your tool kit. But you do want to purchase the right one for your needs—and that means an understanding of your options. Here’s a primer.
Corded vs Cordless
Whether or not to go cord-free is your top priority decision when it comes to an electric chainsaw. Think about the size of your property and how you plan to use the saw. If you’re felling trees back in the woods, you’ll need a battery-operated saw.; if you’ll be cutting firewood rounds in your driveway, a corded saw will do the job.
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 or 12 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 (where 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, the sweet spot for chainsaws is 14 or 16 inches.
The power in electric saws is rated by amperages. An amp-rating describes how much power the saw can draw before the internal components will overheat or start breaking down. An 8-amp saw can be considered light-duty, while a 12-amp is for medium-duty work, and a 15-amp is the heaviest duty of electric chainsaws.
Matching your uses to your power needs can help ensure that you’ll enjoy using your saw. Choosing an underpowered saw for cutting up dense hardwood logs will surely frustrate you as it bogs down and overheats. Conversely, using a heavy-duty saw for limbing a fruit tree might be hard on your back due to its increased weight.
Keep in mind that with battery-powered saws, much of the power rating is based on the voltage of the battery used (20v or 40v, for example), not the amp-hour (Ah) rating on the battery. 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 should look for batteries with higher amp-hour ratings in the 6Ah or 8Ah range. For quick jobs, a 4Ah battery should provide plenty of run time.
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.
The most convenient way to go is with an automatic oiler, which will continuously lubricate the bar during use, as long as you remember to keep the on-board 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, but these outdated systems are less likely to be found nowadays.
Chainsaw chains are known to 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 tool-less tensioning systems: 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.
Tools are not toys—and any chainsaw can be dangerous if it’s not operated correctly. Fortunately, the same safety features available on gas-powered saws can be found in electric models. Manual chain brakes mounted in front of the grip, keep the user’s top hand protected and allow you to quickly engage the brake by rotating your wrist forward. Some saws also come with clutches that quickly disengage the chain when the trigger is released; this prevents a free-spinning chain from catching the user off guard after the cut. Low-kickback chains are also available.
Pro Tip: “Kickback” happens when the uppermost portion of the bar’s tip makes contact with a log, causing the saw to “kick” back towards the user, potentially making contact between the user and the spinning chain. To 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. Using the tip is an advanced technique for regular saw users, and even they fall victim to kickbacks from time to time.
Our Top Picks
The Greenworks 40V 16″ Brushless Chainsaw is a capable cordless chainsaw that makes an excellent foundation for folks building an outdoor tool set. It features an automatic oiler, a tool-less chain tensioner, and a chain brake for safety. The chainsaw operates on Greenworks 40V interchangeable battery system (a real benefit if you’re already invested in other Greenworks tools).
- Automatic oiler
- Safety chain break
- Impressive battery life
- Great with other Greenworks tools
- May not handle larger trees
If you’re looking for a reasonably priced, light-duty electric chainsaw, check out this 16-inch corded option from WORX. This less-is-more model features the basics: a 14.5 amp motor, a chain brake, automatic oiler, and tool-less chain tensioning. It’s also fairly lightweight at only 11 pounds. The chainsaw is best suited for light-duty work, largely because the majority of its components are plastic, which reduces durability. And because replacement parts aren’t easy to find, heavy-duty use that breaks something can render this saw useless.
- Easy to maneuver
- Evenly balanced
- Quiet operation
- Plastic parts are less durable
- Hard to find replacement parts
Oregon’s 14-inch electric chainsaw features a chain brake for safety, an automatic oiler, and an easily adjusted tool-less chain tensioner. Its 15-amp motor will let you tear through thick and dense hardwoods, and the saw boasts a convenient cord-hook inside the handle to keep the plug from pulling out of the extension cord. The only drawback? It weighs in at more than 12 pounds—not light for an electric chainsaw.
- Ideal for thick and dense hardwood
- Rivals gas units in terms of power
- Corded for prolonged use
If shoppers are looking for a reliable cordless chainsaw, consider the Greenworks Chainsaw, which is even better as an addition to more Greenworks products that all share batteries. If looking for a unit that can work all day without having to swap batteries, the Oregon Corded Chainsaw is a great heavy-duty option.
How We Chose the Best Electric Chainsaws
The best electric chainsaws can rival their gas counterparts without the toxic fumes, loud noise, or complicated maintenance procedures. Our list of recommendations features several of the best electric chainsaws in the market, each able to suit a different preference. In our research we looked at size and power, offering a range of options—both lightweight and heavy-duty—to satisfy a variety of shopper requirements.
We are also aware of the ongoing debate surrounding corded versus cordless units, and we’ve provided our top picks in both categories. Additionally, all of our recommended units include chain tensioning, automatic oiling, and chain stop safety features.
Q. How long do electric chainsaws last?
If cared for properly, an electric chainsaw can last for 10 years or longer. Depending on how often it’s being used, this may vary.
Q. Can you mill with an electric chainsaw?
Electric chainsaws can suit small milling projects, but are quickly outmatched by thermal chainsaws for larger pieces of wood.
Q. Do electric chainsaws work well?
With today’s advanced battery technology, most electric chainsaws can match a gas unit in terms of power output, without users needing to suffer all of the added maintenance and upkeep of a gas unit. Neighbors will also appreciate a quieter electric unit.
Q. Do electric chainsaws overheat?
If the chainsaw is starved of air or lubrication, it can start to overheat. As long as users are aware of these issues, overheating can easily be avoided. Most units also feature automatic lubrication systems to help with this issue.
Q. Are electric chainsaws more dangerous?
All chainsaws (both gas and electric) have their inherent dangers—it’s a sharp spinning chain after all! While it may be true that less-powerful electric units will suffer from fewer kickback issues compared to gas chainsaws, this is still something to be careful of no matter how powerful the chainsaw is.
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