OK. But do I need a leaf blower?
Think about it. It’s that time of the year again. Remember when the trees shed their leaves and your lawn disappears? And while it’s tempting to let nature do its thing, your lawn – covered in slimy rotting leaves – won’t thank you for it. So best get out there and get busy with the rake…
OR take advantage of the increasingly on-trend garden must-have, a leaf blower.
It may seem like an extravagance but – depending on your garden size – it could save you hours of repeated toil as ‘waves’ of leaves magically return and undo all your hard work. All autumn long…
Of course, using any kind of powered machinery in the garden brings its own environmental concerns… And raking is great exercise… But it may be that once you’ve watched your neighbour wipe their lawn leaf-free in ten minutes you’ll be wishing you could do likewise.
Cordless versus corded
The first consideration in picking your blower is whether to go corded or cordless.
Corded blowers are usually less expensive than cordless options and will deliver consistent and powerful service all day (and all night, if you’re really keen). Of course there’s the inconvenience of swinging around a power cable (of occasionally questionable length) to contend with, but it’s up to you as to how much of a hardship this will be.
If you’re currently using a corded lawn mower, for example, then you’re already used to the ‘hassle’. Also you can be sure that everything you need to get started will be right there in the box – no (surprisingly expensive) batteries and bespoke (i.e. useless elsewhere) chargers to buy too.
Cordless blowers are rather more hi-tech. Using the latest lithium batteries (go for units of 4Ah or 5Ah to deliver the power and run time you need) they’ll clear a large lawn on a single 4 or 5 hour-long charge and allow you to go thrashing through bushes and undergrowth with no strings attached.
Cordless blowers are often lighter and easier to swing around too, so – with the correct instruction – even the kids and the less able can get involved in the garden ‘fun’.
Petrol leaf blowers versus electric leaf blowers
In the world of cordless, the biggest drawback to going electric is that blowers are pretty power hungry beasts and will flatten even the largest, state-of-the-art battery in around 20-30 minutes of use – i.e. much faster than you may be used to with your current brand’s weekend-long performance in your jigsaw or drill-driver etc.
Plus, the price you pay (literally) is that your dream unit that may appear keenly priced… But suddenly gets expensive once you factor in the battery and its charger (sometimes included – sometimes not – check the listing before purchase). Hi-tech battery and charger sets can often cost as much as the blower itself.
Petrol blowers on the other hand will run all day long, but do be aware of messy fuelling (2-stroke motors require careful, safe mixing of oil and petrol) and high noise levels. And if burning fossil fuels is a no go for you, then petrol – of course – simply isn’t an option.
The sweet-spot for electric is if you’ve already invested into a manufacturer’s battery ‘system’ and already own batteries and a compatible charger from an existing purchase. A drill or saw or so on. That way you can often go for a ‘body only’ or ‘bare’ option blower, buying just the business end and re-using your power components (battery… charger… or both) to save cash. Just be sure to check that the blower is compatible with your existing battery but – generally speaking – if it’s the same make and voltage (18V being the most common) then you’re on the right track.
And you can always save more cash by buying look-alike compatible batteries and chargers from more affordable makes, but this usually comes with a hit to power and run time. You get what you pay for.
Garden vacuuming and more
Oh and watch for features such as ‘brushless’ too. A brushless motor has less moving parts (that don’t rub together) and so should last longer and give better performance and battery life too.
Also ‘scraping’ actions. A blower’s scraper mode gives a more powerful, sharper, focussed, ‘turbo boost’ mode that will take moss and mould off smooth surfaces, allowing you to use your blower for basic patio cleaning etc.
The final consideration is that that – at last – after years of simply blowing, the latest models also offer vacuuming too. Hallelujah! So rather than simply shifting the leaves into an off-garden pile or compost heap or for placing in a garden bin – you can actually collect them in a bag in one fell swoop.
However, vacuuming performance is often not as powerful as blowing and requires much more careful (i.e. slow) use to do properly. It’s surprising how sticky and persistent a single leaf on grass can be… Also you’ll be amazed at how large and heavy a wet pile of them quickly becomes when you’re lugging them around in a massive bag suspended under your blower…
Oh, and beware any blower with a vacuum option that then offers a collection bag the size of a shoebox… Common sense really.
We’d suggest therefore that if you’ve anything like a ‘large’ garden then you’re better off blowing. But ten square meters of patio or astroturf? Vac away.
Ten popular leaf blowers
Here’s our pick of what’s out there, covering all the bases and providing something for every lawn size, preference and ability.
DeWalt DCV100-XJ 18 V Li-Ion XR Compact Cordless Blower
DeWalt make a huge range of professional level tools all of which use their XR-branded 18V battery units and charger. It’s therefore an easy ‘family’ to buy into, with a single purchase including battery and charger allowing you to make subsequent matching buys without. Of course running five tools of a single battery will eventually lead to its own inconvenience, but you can take your time to decide how many batteries is enough for your needs.
Their DCV100-XJ is an amazingly lightweight unit, coming in at just 1.3Kg and it comes with two nozzles for increasing the length and focus of the jet of air produced. It also doubles as an inflator/deflator for blowing up airbeds and the like, making it a bit of an all-rounder.
The ‘bare’ unit is particularly keenly priced, but you can get it in a full ‘with battery and charger’ bundle too.
Ryobi RY18BLXA-140 18V ONE+ Cordless Brushless Blower Kit
Highly regarded in the gardening space, Ryobi offer a huge range of chainsaws, mowers, strimmers and electrical effort-savers that all use their (clearly branded) ONE+ battery system. So going cordless in your garden (and treating yourself to lots of new toys) has never been easier. Other manufacturers take note.
On the blowing front the Ryobi RY18BLXA is their well-priced, mid-level brushless model with scraper mode. It weighs 3.6Kg and comes complete with a simple clip on high-speed nozzle to increase the pressure/air-speed should you need a little more oomph at the business end.
And this set includes one ONE+ 4.0Ah battery and charger in the box – so everything you need to get started.
Or – if you already own a Ryobi ONE+ power unit – you can get it body only for significantly less.
VonHaus 3 in 1 Leaf Blower – 3000W Garden Vacuum & Mulcher
This one does the lot – and at an amazing price. It’s a blower, a vacuum and – thanks to it’s mulching capabilities – not only packs more leaves in the bag by chopping them finely while you’re vacuuming – at a ratio of 10:1 – but the resultant fine leaf mould is perfect for instant inclusion in your compost.
The 3000W of power makes it among the most powerful blowers in our selection but – as ever – vacuuming is a more delicate and time consuming process than merely blasting the leaves around.
It also comes in a surprisingly small package – perfect for the eco-sensitive – but as a result does require some basic assembly to get up and running.
Being a corded unit, that’s help keep the cost down to bargain level and it’s all ready to go out of the box with no batteries or charging or fuel required.
There’s the inconvenience of plugging it in and trailing a wire, of course, perhaps making it better suited to smaller gardens, but the included 10m lead is generous and an extension lead can of course give you greater range if required.
Stihl BG86CE Petrol Blower
If you seriously need extra oomph and infinite portability – and burning fuel doesn’t pique your eco worries – then a petrol blower is an option. All the freedom of a battery-powered cordless model – so feel free to wander around parkland… fields… allotments… anywhere remote where you need to tame some leaves – with non of the power and lifespan concerns. This Stihl model will comfortably blow all day on a single top-up and packs pro-level power to get the job done.
Of course there’s the issue of noise, and the small matter being sure to safely top it up with petrol and oil, but both stresses have been reduced to a minimum. It’s carefully engineered to keep irritating whines and vibration down and simple inexpensive ear protectors will keep you 100% safe.
As a two-stroke motor it does require the purchase of 2-stroke oil to mix with your regular from-the-garage unleaded, but there are measurers and containers to make this as unfussy and mess-free as possible. And Stihl’s own branded two-stroke fuel is easy to add (and a tankful lasts an age) if you’re not at ease mixing your own.
If you need the power to shift mountains of wet leaves then there’s only one way to go.
DeWalt DCMB562P1 XR Brushless Axial Blower
If you’re looking for the most modern and hi-tech take on electric leaf blowing and scraping we need to get back to DeWalt who’s range-topping DCMB562P1 features ‘axial’ technology to whip up a storm.
Looking more like a laser-canon than a garden tool, its heavier than some, at 5Kg, but that’s due to the unique Aerospike Concentrator that condenses the airflow and increases its speed, meaning that it’s instantly ready to offer scraper action without the need for any extra attachments or modes.
Its scraper action is a boon for clearing paving and patios and can even shift stones, soil and gravel from an over-spilled driveway. So rather than reach for that low-tech broom, why not give it a blast instead?
Part of DeWalts XR 18V family, it’s ready to fit in with your existing DeWalt tools and comes in ‘battery and charger included’ form so one box does it all.
Hyundai HY4B76 Petrol Leaf Blower
Bring out the big guns… The Hyundai is our pick of the keenly-priced backpack models, placing all the weight of the unit on your back rather than your arms, meaning you can comfortably work all day without arm fatigue. A simple pistol grip allows you to aim and fire at your leafy target and while the 12Kg total weight sounds imposing, once strapped on it’s easy to forget and get on with leaf blasting with the absolute minimum of bulky intrusion.
It’s man and machine in perfect harmony. And – bonus – it’s more than a bit ‘Ghostbusters’ too, right?
And while it is a petrol unit – which brings eco-worries with it – this is a 4-stroke motor (rather than 2-stroke) and so a) doesn’t have that same shrill 2-stroke buzz – so less noise – and b) doesn’t require any special fuel or mixing with oil. Simply fill it up from your petrol station jerry can and you’re all good.
Perfect for all larger and leafier gardens or parks.
WORX WG518E Air Turbine Corded Leaf Blower
The WORX unit brings you the air-blasting power of a petrol blower with the lightweight swing-ability of a much sleeker model. It’s corded so best bring along your extension lead (and be prepared for the occasional knot) but that only means zero worries about lifespan and no dirty/smelly/noisy petrol to worry about.
It’s 4.3Kg which isn’t the lightest, but is a good indication of the 120mph plus air-shifting power on board and once again, you plug it in and go – no ‘hidden’ costs for batteries and chargers.
If you need the power and can handle the cable, it’s well worth a look.
Makita DUB363ZV Brushless Blower and Vacuum
Want a cordless blower and vacuum with all of the pluses and no minus? This Makita could be the one, being part of the toolmaker’s giant range incorporating everything you need for indoor and outdoor maintenance.
The DUB is of course entirely cordless – delivering the portability you need – and, by virtue of being electric, there’s no two-stroke racket or fuel to worry about. Instead the power comes from not one but TWO of Makita’s 18V power packs, meaning 36V of power and air displacement right up there with the petrol blowers.
And there’s the power to vacuum too, with a large, shoulder slung bag catching the mulched product of your labours.
The only downside is that it only comes without batteries and charger and – requiring two batteries means – that your outlay and charging times just doubled. However, if you’re already invested in Makita-world and possess their 18V batteries and charger, then adding their top of the range blower to match is a bit of a no-brainer.
Bosch Home and Garden 06008B1070 Universal Garden Tidy
Delivering a premium brand and performance, the ability to blow and vacuum and doing it all at a great price means that we had to recommend the Bosch for smaller and medium gardens.
They’ve worked hard to reduce the noise level to below 100dB (99dB, in fact) with their ‘ProSilence’ system and well-thought out additions such as a larger, less clog-able nozzle when vacuuming and a robust metal (rather than plastic) fan mean that it’s built to last.
Unlike the Makita above, the leaf bag isn’t shoulder slung, so that 1800W 4.7Kg unit will get heavier as you vac. But the three speeds for blowing and vacuuming mean that you can vac on gravel – lifting leaves and moss – without hoovering up most of your driveway too.
It’s a corded unit (8m in length) which – as we’ve discussed – has both its advantages and disadvantages. And if you need more power for larger jobs there are 2300W and 3000W versions too.
Milwaukee M18 FBL-0 18V Leaf Blower with 2 x 5.0Ah Batteries & Charger
You may not be familiar with the Milwaukee brand but – surprise – they’re big in the States, offering a huge range of power tools for professionals that are known for their built-to-last, no-nonsense approach to getting the job done.
Their simple take on the blower therefore couldn’t be simpler. Its in-line design with air intake and outlet in a single channel (with the motor mounted within) means minimum design fuss, with great balance and maximum air speed. It’s as fast as the petrol models with 120mph airflow at the higher of its two speeds.
And there’s no cord and no petrol. AND this pack offers TWO 5.0Ah batteries and a fast action charger meaning that it basically overcomes the one drawback of high-powered cordless by delivering a non-stop way to clear even larger gardens without running out of juice. Just change packs at the half-way line.