Gardening Articles: Health :: Health

Leaf Blowers Go Green (page 2 of 4)

by National Gardening Association Editors

The Big Problems: Noise and Pollution

Measuring noise is problematical because sound-measuring devices can't account for the total effect of a sound on our nerves. The small two-stroke engines that power blower-vacs usually take most of the blame for the irritating racket they make. But it turns out that the blowers-- distinctively shrill whine is largely due to the fan's sucking air through a small tube.

Sound levels are reported using the method established by the American National Standards Institute and known as ANSI B175.2. It measures sound in decibels at 50 feet. But for a real-world test, ask your dealer to start up two or three competitive models with similar noise ratings. You may notice a distinct difference among otherwise similar blowers.

Two-stroke engines are powerful for their weight and inexpensive to manufacture, but these advantages are also disadvantages: They are inherently dirtier and noisier. Manufacturers such as Echo utilize unique sound attenuation technology for the PB-46LN. Others have designed larger mufflers, rubber-isolated engine mounts, and spring-mounted handles. Some, like Husqvarna with its E-Tech engine, have developed low-smoke oil and redesigned the combustion chamber and muffler in order to reduce emissions. Both Honda and Ryobi have designed smaller, quieter, and less polluting four-stroke engines that will soon serve to power blower-vacs.

Measure the oil-gas mixture for two-stroke engines accurately. Too much oil produces excess smoke and reduces engine life. (Most manufacturers offer handy, pre-measured bottles of oil that can be mixed into 1- or 2-gallon containers of gasoline.)

Electric blower-vacs. In response to the backlash against gas-powered blower-vacs, corded electric models are now more powerful than ever, some of them even surpassing their gas-powered brethren, and with less weight. The biggest drawback to these units is that you're limited to 100 feet from any outlet, or the motor can be damaged. A few cordless battery-powered blower-only models are also available, but they tend to be heavy and have limited run times.

Blower Etiquette and Safety

Whether they're gas or electric, use blower-vacs considerately and responsibly. Naturally, it is important to comply with any local ordinances or regulations that affect blowers or power equipment. If blower-vac use is not regulated in your area, consider following the typical guidelines of operating them only between 9 A.M. and 5 P.M. weekdays and Saturday. Also remember to minimize the high-pitched whine by using lower throttle speeds. For safety's sake always wear eye protection and ear protection. Never point a blower-vac toward a pet or another person, and don't operate them at all until bystanders and especially children are clear.

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