Use your electric leaf blower to remove leaves this fall, then bust it out again for yard cleanup next spring.
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Although there are many ways to remove leaves from a lawn, the quickest, quietest, and cleanest way is to use a cordless leaf blower. Just slide in the battery and pull the trigger. We’ve got nothing against using a rake. They are quiet and provide you with some great exercise. And we love gas-engine blowers when you need the power required to remove a thick layer of damp or frozen leaves from tall grass. But, even then, battery-powered leaf blowers are catching up to some gas-engine models.
Really, nothing makes short work of autumn leaf removal the way a battery leaf blower does. There’s no preparation such as mixing or pouring fuel—and no hassle trying to start a machine that hasn’t been used in 12 months. They make little noise and certainly don’t spew out exhaust fumes. You don’t come in from a morning’s work smelling like burned gasoline. And many cordless leaf blowers are small and light, which makes them especially well-suited for leaf removal on small yards where one battery charge will probably be enough to see you through the job. And, next spring, you’ll be glad that you bought one of these power tools when it’s time to whisk buds and winter-deposited debris off of sidewalks, decks, patios, and driveways. Furthermore, these battery blowers are indispensable in the summer for clearing grass clippings.
We know how important these tools have become to lighten your autumn workload, so we put a range through our testing process to find out which are the best. Read on for some quick info on the tops models, followed by buying advice and in-depth reviews.
Electric leaf blowers will remove a scattering of light leaves from normal-height grass and sweep pavement of grass clippings. For ankle-deep piles and damp leaves, or to move lawn debris like twigs and nuts, choose one with more voltage and air speed. For anything deeper, or if you’re frequently contending with wet or semi-frozen leaves, prioritize higher air speed and volume (cubic feet per minute). Some of these machines can go through a couple of batteries in a morning’s work, depending on the size of your yard and the leaf cover. Outfit yourself with two batteries and consider a third for really tough conditions. But if your property measures in acres instead of square feet, you’ll probably be better served by the oomph of a gas engine.
To put these cordless blowers through the gauntlet, we blew leaves and hay off of grass (employing a small gas-engine leaf blower for comparison). Next, we measured continuous run time with the machines set to maximum power. Then came our air-speed test; we used a MGL Avionics Stratomaster Vega air-speed indicator (anemometer) for an airplane and built our own testing apparatus, gauging the air speed 6 inches from the tip of each blower tube. We also measured sound levels right at the operator’s position and 75 feet away. Our last evaluation, the sawdust erosion test, was perhaps the most telling. We taped off a large area of pavement and covered it with a thin layer of sawdust, then blew the leaf blowers horizontally over the pavement, leaving an impression of the shape of the air stream. After all that, the electric leaf blowers below came out on top.
More and more, we’re seeing battery-powered equipment that rivals or exceeds the performance of their gas-powered counterparts. This cordless leaf blower is a case in point. We measured airspeed at 134 mph and found, combined with the volume of air (650 cfm, claimed), that it easily blasted leaves from our test area when we were standing still. Stepping forward while sweeping back and forth cleared the area in seconds. Our sawdust test revealed a focused air stream, with sharp edges, extending beyond the end of our test area. While the run time may seem short, bear in mind that’s on the turbo setting. In use we’ve learned that it’s rare to continuously hold down the turbo button, or even the trigger. A more realistic run time (without turbo locked on) is at least 27 minutes. And we could have probably extended the run time further, because the LB6504 features a dial that allowed us to set and hold the air speed at the lowest setting useful for whatever task we were doing, and use the trigger or turbo button to boost speed when needed. This vastly extends run time and reflects more realistic yard work.
If your over-arching requirement is a quieter handheld blower, the Ryobi should be on your shortlist. Fortunately, that doesn’t come at the expense of leaf-moving power. The bright yellow-green blower has enough for dry leaf cover, removing grass clippings and leaves from paved surface, and for cleaning out the garage or dryer vent. No, it’s not the most powerful leaf blower we’ve used, but it’s certainly one of the quietest and most pleasant. Other features that contribute to its ease of use are a well-positioned latch to the left of and above the adjustable-speed trigger, a booster button for more air output, and a detachable nose cone made out of rubber that concentrates the air speed up to 190 mph. The cone’s circumference is marked with the air speeds that it will produce at three intervals (from base to the tip): 190, 175, and 160 mph. You could slice the cone at any of the two intervals (175 and 160), shortening it to provide less air speed.
One of the lightest cordless leaf blowers, the BL80L2510 can still legitimately replace a gas-powered unit. With our anemometer, we clocked the air speed at a respectable 127 mph, which falls in the middle of the range for handheld gas blowers. The tube tip is tapered at the end, creating a little narrower, focused air stream, which was evident in the pattern left in our sawdust test. We also noted more precision when blowing leaves out of our test area, which we cleared in seconds, taking just a couple of steps. Run time is fair—considering the 2.5-Ah battery—compared to other models. Greenworks offers 80-volt batteries up to 5 Ah, which would significantly lengthen how long you can use the BL80L2510 in one shot. And if you already have a battery from another tool of theirs, use it and buy just the leaf blower without batteries to save some cash.
This cordless leaf blower makes a lot of sense for people that already own tools in Milwaukee’s M18 Fuel platform, since the batteries are completely interchangeable. It’s available as a “tool only” or with a large, 8-Ah battery, which yielded a continuous run time of 14:45 during our testing. The M18 has two ranges indicated by rabbit and turtle icons, each controlled by the same variable speed trigger. It took us longer to clear the leaves in our test area with the Milwaukee, but it was easier to carry, being roughly 1.5 pounds lighter than any other model we tested. It did take a bit longer to move the leaves, the reason for which we discovered in our sawdust test. While the shape of the air stream was similar to other handheld blowers, it was a little smaller in both length and width. This isn’t really a fault, but a limitation of the lower voltage compared to other models. So the M18 might not be ideal for large properties with heavy leaf coverage. It is, however, great for clearing out gutters, sweeping the driveway, blasting debris tracked into the garage or leftover from projects, and clearing sidewalks, porches, patios, and small yards.
Don’t be misled by this DeWalt’s low air speed. It’s well-shaped and productive, capable of carving its way through debris. And we found it was easy to use in a sweeping motion to brush leaves aside. Its brief run time, however, suggests that the tool is best on small patches of leaves or for jobs like construction-site cleanup or sweeping out the garage. Its design for these purposes is clear, judging by the hefty skid plate below the blower housing and battery that should help this cordless leaf blower withstand rough-and-tumble use.
We liked many things about the XBU02; chief among them is the fact that the blower takes the same 18-volt batteries as other Makita power tools. It also has a comfortable trigger and balance that causes the machine to hang in your hand at the perfect angle. In the leaf test, we found that its focused and somewhat narrow airstream is highly accurate and ideal for cleaning up edges without disturbing whatever’s next to them. However, it didn’t sweep the area as clean as other, more powerful machines. If you use it on serious leaf cover, you’ll have some cleanup ahead of you with a mower or maybe a rake to finish the job.
At first glance, CAT’s Cat 60V 700CFM Leaf Blower appears to be a stout machine with a wide blower tube and tip. This is usually the case with blowers that move a significant volume of air, and the claimed 800 cubic feet per minute is just that. We clocked airspeed at 115 mph, and with that much air, moving that fast, the CAT cleared a wider swath than most in our sawdust erosion test. Like many models in our testing, the controls include a standard trigger, cruise control dial, and turbo boost button. The 60V 800CFM blower is a bit heavier than some models, in part due to CAT’s larger battery format—which is generally the case with higher speed blowers. While the CAT easily cleared debris around the hard surfaces of our testing area, it should also do well on stubborn leaves in or on grass. We’ll update this fall with leaf blowing impressions, as soon as we have leaves to blow.
This Greenworks is the lightest and most compact of the backpack blowers we tested. Its run time was a modest 19 minutes (at full “Turbo” power). At that setting, the blower’s air stream forms an effective leaf-moving zone—even if it appeared to be weaker on the outside edges. The machine also scored high marks for its comfortable and highly adjustable shoulder straps, an ergonomic handle, and the 90-degree elbow that connects the impeller housing to the flexible blower tube. That elbow permits the blower tube to pivot straight up, so it takes up less space when you store the BPB80L2510 in the garage or shed.
Ridgid has recently added the 18V 510 CFM Leaf Blower to its line of cordless outdoor power equipment. The 18V Leaf Blower is currently available as a tool only—which makes it most useful to folks already on the Ridgid cordless platform. We measured airspeed at its highest setting, at the blower tube tip at 101 mph, which is respectable—blowing a long, clear strip in our sawdust erosion test. The blower speed is controlled with a trigger, a cruise control lever that holds the speed wherever it’s set, and a turbo boost button to help dislodge stubborn leaves tangled in the grass. We used a 4.0 amp-hour battery for testing run-time, which ran for more than 15 minutes on the turbo boost setting—in practice, using only the speed needed at any given moment, the run-time would typically more than double. As our testing took place in spring, we’ll update the Ridgid’s leaf blowing prowess in the fall when the leaves start to drop.
The Denali 20V 400CFM Leaf Blower isn’t the most powerful model we tested, but it is easily one of the most affordable. And, if you already have other Denali cordless tools, this blower shares the same battery, so having another one—or more—will extend your run-time. The 20V Leaf Blower was simple to use during testing, with just one dial to control air speed—just set it where you want, and boost with a push of the thumb if you need more power. Our sawdust erosion test revealed a fairly focused stream of air, but that can be made wider with an included fan shaped blower tube tip. We found the run-time set to maximum speed to be fair, and within the range of many other models tested. The Denali 20V easily blew off walkways, patios, and driveways, and it will certainly blow leaves. Due to our testing this spring season, we haven’t had an opportunity to blow heavy leaf cover, yet, but we will as soon as fall rolls around.
Roy Berendsohn has worked for more than 25 years at Popular Mechanics, where he has written on carpentry, masonry, painting, plumbing, electrical, woodworking, blacksmithing, welding, lawn care, chainsaw use, and outdoor power equipment. When he’s not working on his own house, he volunteers with Sovereign Grace Church doing home repair for families in rural, suburban and urban locations throughout central and southern New Jersey.
Brad Ford has spent most of his life using tools to fix, build, or make things. Growing up he worked on a farm, where he learned to weld, repair, and paint equipment. From the farm he went to work at a classic car dealer, repairing and servicing Rolls Royces, Bentleys, and Jaguars. Today, when he's not testing tools or writing for Popular Mechanics, he's busy keeping up with the projects at his old farmhouse in eastern Pennsylvania.
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