Gardening Articles: Care :: Tools & Equipment
Chipper Vacs Make Fall Cleanup a Snap (page 2 of 4)
by Bill Crosby
Shapes and Sizes
The most common type of chipper vac looks like a lawn mower with a chipper chute and an oversize debris bag. This is the type that Troy-Bilt pioneered, a category that's getting more players with more bells and whistles-features that might matter to you, and features that might not, depending on the particular characteristics of your landscaping.
Another category includes other types of machines modified to function as chipper vacs. Big walk-behind leaf blowers are simply modified to move air in the opposite direction, in instead of out. But with this and similarly adapted machines, you generally have to cart the material to it rather than rolling it over the material to be shredded.
In addition to the walk-behind models, one trailer-type chipper vac, which may appeal to gardeners with large properties, works with a riding mower. EasyRake's Regenerator line includes a trailer-mounted chipper vac that attaches to a mower deck with a custom boot (or connecting housing). Hoses from the boot conduct leaves through a shredder flywheel on their way to the trailer bin. The six models in this line all have a 3-inch chipping capacity and an optional hose kit. (For more information on the trailer-mounted model, contact EasyRake at (800) 777-6074.)
Is bigger better? "You have to choose a machine according to the type of trees you have and the size of your yard," said Greg Beltran, manager of the Troy-Bilt factory store in Rancho Cordova, California. "Bigger spaces need bigger machines."
Bigger certainly means more expensive, but neighbors can get creative when they see a common goal. "We know of a group in Davis, California, where all the neighbors in a cul-de-sac got together to buy one of these," said Steve Moger, a sales supervisor at Golden Eagle Distributing Corporation (a Crary Bear Cat distributor) in Rocklin, California.
Heights and Hoses
Height adjustments are critical with these machines. Properly set, a chipper vac can pick leaves off bark or gravel. But any vacuum can only pick up items that it can get a sufficient volume of air underneath. That's why lifting fine, dry pine needles is such a tough task for these machines.
The suction on the hose attachment is generally not as powerful as the suction at the chipper-vac snout. A hose attachment, however, is handy for things like picking leaves out of ivy. If you have the type of yard where you may frequently need a hose attachment, select a machine that has both an easy hose connection system and a unit that generates sufficient suction. Don't buy the hose kit if you can't get a demonstration before you buy, or ship it right back if it doesn't perform well at the types of tasks you had planned.