What To Look For When Buying A Leaf Blower

When it comes to yard care, a leaf blower is a great tool to have on hand. Here are a few things to consider when shopping for one.

by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: J. Keeler Johnson

When it comes to caring for yards and keeping them looking their best, a leaf blower is a great tool to have on hand. While you might think of it as a seasonal tool primarily used in autumn when trees start dropping their leaves, a leaf blower can also come in handy at other times of year. It’s useful at the beginning of spring for dealing with leftover leaves from the previous year, and it’s perfect for other types of debris, as well, including dirt, sand or grass clippings on outdoor surfaces like walkways, decks or patios.

But with plenty of leaf blower types on the market, it can be difficult to know which is most ideal for your needs. Here are a few things to consider when shopping for a leaf blower.

Gas Or Electric?

Like many small machines, leaf blowers can be powered by gasoline engines or electric motors, with each type offering advantages and disadvantages. In general, gasoline leaf blowers are significantly more powerful than electric leaf blowers, with higher CFM and MPH ratings (see below). Electric leaf blowers don’t require the maintenance of a gasoline engine and offer the convenience of being easy to start, but some models are corded and must be plugged into an electrical outlet, limiting their use to small areas. While many battery-powered models exist, the intensity of running a powerful motor means that the battery won’t run for very long at full power before needing a recharge.

What Are CFM & MPH Ratings?

The power of a leaf blower is measured using two numbers: the CFM rating and the MPH rating. The CFM (cubic feet per minute) rating measures the amount of air moved by the air blower in a single minute, while the MPH (miles per hour) rating measures the speed of the air coming out of the blower. Both numbers are important, and while they are interrelated (a high rating in one area doesn’t do much good with a low rating in the other), the CFM rating is generally more significant. Look for a CFM rating in the 300 range if you want a small blower for simple tasks; for large yards and extensive projects, you’ll want a larger CFM rating—at least 500 if not significantly higher.

Handheld, Backpack Or Wheeled?

Leaf blowers come in three different styles, with each being suited to different tasks. A simple handheld leaf blower is the smallest and least powerful of the three styles, but it isn’t very expensive and can be perfect for small yards and simple jobs. Backpack leaf blowers are worn on your back, taking some of the weight off your arms and allowing you to use the leaf blower for a longer period of time. Wheeled leaf blowers, as their name implies, are larger units designed to be pushed around on wheels. Because you don’t have to support the machine yourself, wheeled leaf blowers can be much more powerful than handheld or backpack units, making them the ultimate choice for large yards with a lot of leaves.

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