Leaf Blowers or Leaf Vacuums - Which One Do You Need?

by:Jiali     2020-08-15
To blow or not to blow? that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The leaves and droppings of outrageous nature,
Or to take arms against a pile of sweepings,
And by vacuuming end them?
(with apologies to the Bard of Avon)
There is no doubt that the invention of the leaf blower has revolutionised the management of public parks and streets by increasing the productivity of workers in the horticultural sector.
No longer is cleaning of leaves, twigs, fruits, berries and other detritus left to a man with a broom: he (or she) can now round up the waste with a powerful blower ready for collection. Householders too have got onto the bandwagon and are now increasingly armed with a leaf blower to keep their leaf fall under control.
But as the leaf blower has become a permanent fixture, voices have been raised in criticism of machines that are permanently in 'blow' mode. What happens on a windy day? The pile of leaves gets redistributed in a never-ending battle between man and nature.
Others point to the destructive nature of the powerful wind that is created if it is applied indiscriminately near plants, and also there are health concerns about the potentially dangerous dust that is generated, particularly in dry climates.
Walk-behind mechanical leaf collectors, now largely museum pieces thanks to leaf blowers, always came with bag collectors for the leaves. Why should blowers not have this capability? The argument was that they need to be able to suck as well as blow.
Thus it was that 'Blower Vac' vacuum devices appeared, complete with gathering bags and impellors that cut to pieces and compact the debris into mulch to spread over flower beds or to start the composting process. You would be forgiven for thinking that it was 'game over' for dedicated blowing devices. Life however is rarely that simple.
The blowers are lighter, cheaper and simpler to operate. There is no need to stop and empty bags at regular intervals. Even with a typical 10:1 'mulching ratio' (i.e. the amount of leaves is reduced to a tenth of its original volume)an operator would be stopping frequently to empty a 35 to 45 litre mulch sack as is supplied with most handheld vacuum machines.
To cope with this issue there are professional vacuum machines that are wheeled and you either push them or they may have drive power. This gives you serious collection capability such as 200 litres in the case of the Warrior or a huge 282 litres in the Billy Goat machines. With this comes a weight that will be too much for most domestic users but may be attractive to those who are lucky enough to have a large place in the country.
Less bulky blower-vacs come with devices to make operation easier, such as a head with a roller that runs on the ground and makes collection easier on hard surfaces like patios, paths and drives. It also saves you from back pain. This feature is fitted on the open end of the telescopic nozzles of electric machines like the Flymo Scirocco 3000W, Draper 2200W and the Ryobi 2400W.
Another handy feature can be found on the Black & Decker 2600W. It has a scraper end that allows you to deal with wet leaves and ground-in soft material: this is normally the province of a dedicated leaf blower.
While at Ryobi, they have found a way to squeeze the mulch down by 15:1 instead of the near-universal 10:1, by means of clever blade design. This of course lessens your trips to the compost heap.
All vacuum blowers also allow you to spare delicate plants by avoiding the 'blow' setting when you are adjacent to them.
So is all this vacuum blower development sounding the death knell for simpler blowers? Judging by the number of machines of both types on offer,apparently not. The majority of machines in the petrol sector are blow-only devices, and this bears out the preference of the commercial market. There has been quite a lot of work done to lessen the controversial noise levels of leaf blowers in the street, which are now proscribed by law in certain US states. When you add a vacuum sucker and cutter blades you bring the noise back up again.
In the domestic market that largely favours electric machines, the machines are quieter and are less of a nuisance to neighbours: some will carry on keeping things simple with a blower, while others, and probably an increasing proportion, will go for the added versatility of a vacuum/ blower.
Once you have made your choice it only remains to say, in the immortal words from the Indianapolis 500 starter, 'Gentlemen and Ladies- start your engines' (but never after dusk, and give a thought to your neighbours)...
Custom message