Gardening Articles: Landscaping :: Lawns, Ground Cover, & Wildflowers

Leaf Blowers Go Green (page 3 of 4)

by National Gardening Association Editors

Buyer's Guide

All hand-held blowers consist of a small gasoline-powered engine (usually two-stroke) or electric motor connected to a plastic fan that pulls in outside air and forces it through a small-diameter tube at high velocities. This velocity is measured two ways: in cubic feet per minute (cfm) and miles per hour (mph). Cfms can be measured at different points resulting in different numbers. (In the listing of various blower-vacs below, the cfms are measured conservatively in the "pipe," "tube," or "blow-mode.")

Some fans are side-mounted, but on most newer models they are bottom-mounted, a design feature that makes for an easier-handling machine because there's no twisting action caused by the spinning fan.

Manufacturers of blower-vacs are highly competitive and tend to make inflated claims about power and reduction ratio. For most tasks, a 150-mph air velocity will serve your needs. Except for comparison purposes, this measure is meaningless by itself. A blower's nozzle opening could be reduced to the size of a straw and conceivably blow at 275 mph--good for cleaning out a computer keyboard, but because of the high pressure, it would perform poorly for blowing leaves.

What is more significant is how much air the unit is moving, in cubic feet per minute. A blower capable of 250 cfm or more (in the "pipe" or blow mode) is a powerful blower.

A reduction ratio of leaves to mulch of at least 10:1 is respectable, but you'll probably need to use the unit in the vacuum mode and see for yourself if the amount of reduction suits your needs. Remember, most of these units are designed to mulch only leaves and grass, not small twigs and branches.

Quieter, cleaner blower-vacs

*Electric Blower-Vacs

Black & Decker: The Super Vac 'N Mulch is available in two models, the BV1000 ($70), which includes a collection bag, and the BV2000 ($80), which collects leaves in the container of your choice. Both feature a 10:1 reduction ratio and five-bladed fan designed to reduce clogging. Both produce 68 dBA, and both are rated cfm/mph: 480/190. For information: (800) 544-6986, or www.blackanddecker.com.

Ryobi: The RESV1300 Mulchinator Vac includes the unique ability to easily switch between blower and vacuum modes by simply moving a control lever. Vacuum and blower tubes are permanently attached. Sound level not available. Rated cfm/mph: 350/150. Price: $90. For more information: (800) 345-8746, or www.ryobi.com.

Toro: The QuieTech Superblower Vac is powerful for an electric blower model yet boasts a 10:1 reduction ratio and a noise level of 63 dBA. The leaf bag conveniently empties from the bottom instead of the side. Rated cfm/mph: 270/195. Price: $70. For information: (800) 237-2654, or www.toro.com.

Weed Eater: All Weed Eater blower-vacs capable of 16:1 reduction ratio carry the name "Barracuda." Both electric and gas models are available (see below). The two electric Barracudas are models 2595 ($50) and 2570 ($40). They differ only in that the former includes the vacuum accessories; none are dBA rated. Rated cfm/mph: 405/195. For information: (800) 554-6723, or www.weedeater.com.

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