Electric or Petrol Leaf Blower - Which Is Right for Me?

by:Jiali     2020-08-06
The battle that will be fought out in the car market in years to come is already being waged in the sales markets of many other, albeit smaller, outdoor machines.
Not the least of these is the leaf blower market, and within that its subsidiary blower-vacuum sector. Here of course the electric share of sales is considerable because battery technology has eroded the main electric machines' position, and the main machines at the more powerful end have eroded the petrol blowers' share due to concerns of noise and pollution.
When it comes to a straight fight between fossil fuel and electric power (which of cause is largely fossil-fuel derived at present) we are largely discussing the relative merits of mains electric motors versus 2-stroke petrol (gasoline) engines. Cordless blowers, although hugely improved from a few years ago, are not really competitive on sheer power grounds.
We should spare a thought, however, for the meatiest of the cordless machines: among a fairly small gathering possibly the most notable is the Ryobi One + OBL 1802. This light, quiet machine packs a quite impressive 120mph / 193 km/hr air flow and can be powered by the company's cross-compatible Li-ion or NiCD battery packs and charger (but beware that the machine does not come with one of these as standard so you need to buy a pack or have one already). If you want a green machine that is unlikely to annoy the neighbours then this may be for you.
More likely to compete head-to-head with the petrol boys are the corded blowers. These are in most cases actually hybrid machines that can, at the flick of a switch, go from 'blow' to 'suck' and collect leaves, debris and dust into the blades of their cutter that reduces the material by 10 times or so in volume terms.
These really use their mains power and you need to beware of their prodigious output, which can put a strain on your household electricity supply: at 2000W to around 2700W peak output these machines are twice as energy-hungry as a modern air conditioner and may cause your bill to be afflicted by excess power charges.
No surprise then that they can generate air speeds every bit as ferocious as those of the petrol vac-blowers, at up to 320 km/hr.
You might think that an electric motor would be lighter than a petrol one but in fact the dry weight of the petrol machines is generally less than the mains ones. Adding fuel obviously levels things up, but there is no convincing winner on the weighing scales.
Mulching ratios are similar in the vast majority of cases at 10 to 1, and collection bags are 40 or 45 litres regardless of power source (but watch out for the occasional 35 litre bag if long uninterrupted working time matters to you).
There is an isolated case where development of a mains machine seems to be ahead of its petrol brother: Ryobi are achieving an excellent 15:1 mulch ratio for their electric 2000W blower-vac, with a 45 litre bag, but their comparable 26cc petrol device with the same 320km/hr output claims 12:1 and only has a 40 litre bag. Still a good set of figures, though.
For all their muscle and relative quietness (e.g. Black & Decker electric 93dBA: McCulloch 2-stroke 103.9dBA) the mains machines do of course have their 'Achilles cord'. It need not be too much of a safety concern so long as you take care and you fit an RCB for protection against shocks in the event of a broken cord. It is a safer operation by far than running a mains-powered hedge trimmer or chain saw.
Far more of an issue is your intended scope of operations. Given a 10 metre lead supplied and a suitable, approved 13A extension cable, you have a pretty good 60 metre working reach from every power socket in your house or garden outbuilding. That may be enough for most domestic, suburban users.
If you live in the country, or are fortunate enough to have a large garden, you are more likely to choose a petrol leaf blower with or without a vacuum option, as is your preference.
And if you are worried about negative publicity that has surrounded some of the 2-stroke blowers, you can opt for the Makita 4-stroke, which has overcome the issue of being able to use the device at any angle including upside down: this has traditionally been the party piece of the 2-strokes. This model also claims to be the world's lightest 4-stroke at just 4.4kg.
Alternatively, Hitachi has engineered a 2-stroke engine they call the Pure Fire which meets the demanding US Phase 2 and Euro Stage 2 emissions regulations. The total machine weight is even lighter than the Makita at 3.9kg.
For the demands of the commercial user the typical handheld blower can be a pain in the back (and elsewhere), so a sensible Health & Safety choice is the backpack machine. Again there is a 4-stroke Makita option, a clean Hitachi, and also a Ryobi that has a 12V battery for electronic touch starting: thus saving on all the further strain inflicted on users by pulling recalcitrant cord starters. These are another major cause of defections to the electric cause.
Finally there are wheeled machines to push along, or even ones that are self-powered like lawn mowers. These collect leaves and dust as they travel. The Billy Goat range includes some of the most rugged of the breed.
Despite the encroachment of electrics, the petrol machines survive: spurred on by Governments and State lobbyists, the commercial end of the petrol-powered leaf blower market is clearly making big strides in terms of noise, dust collection, and emissions. No-one should write them off for a long time to come.
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