Some folks attack the autumn leaf piles the old-fashioned way: with a rake, some sweat, and perseverance. Others—particularly those with large yards and lots of trees—get help from a leaf blower, which can move the leaves more efficiently into piles and make easier work of the raking.
Leaf blowers consume more energy in terms of gasoline or electricity, but they save on human energy (and aching backs). They can also be used in other seasons—to clear light snow or debris from a driveway, for example. Some models can even clean gutters.
A good starting point in selecting a leaf blower is to consider the size of your yard. The more leaves you have, the more powerful a blower you’ll need. The smaller leaf blowers have advantages in that they’re lighter, quieter, and easier to maneuver, with less vibration. Bigger, more powerful blowers are heavier and noisier, but are better-suited to big lots and can move a lot more leaves.
Hand-held blowers range from about 5 to 25 pounds, with power ratings of from 350 to 600 cubic feet of air volume per minute.
Noise, pollution cause backlash
Some communities have restricted the use of gasoline-powered leaf blowers because of the noise and pollution they create. Some communities either ban their use altogether or limit the hours in which they can be used, so neighbors aren’t jolted from sleep by the roar of a blower firing up at 7 a.m. on a Saturday. Check to see what restrictions your community might have.
Some people also worry that leaf blowers can contribute to air pollution, in part by spreading carbon monoxide, dust, and airborne particles that can exacerbate asthma or other respiratory diseases.
They are also—there’s no escaping this—really loud, especially the more powerful models. It’s smart to wear good ear protection and goggles to be protected from sticks, rocks, or other debris the blower might kick up.
Electric best for small yards, gas for big jobs
For smaller yards, consider an electric blower, although some come with cords that can limit mobility and make for tricky maneuvering around trees or other obstructions.
Gasoline-powered blowers are generally heavier, more powerful, and may require a pull-cord to start. Back-pack blowers with a hand-held wand may require a mixture of oil and gasoline to operate, but they generally have more oomph than the hand-helds.
Some of the most potent leaf blowers come on wheels—a good alternative for a large lot, although a heavy-duty, 100-pound blower can be hard to push uphill.