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A Dummies Guide to Leaf Blowers

pile of leaves.

If you’re looking for a more efficient way to remove leaves than raking, leaf blowers are great. They can save you lots of time as well as effort. Especially if you’ve got a large yard that takes lots of time to rake. In this article, we’ll be giving you a dummies guide to leaf blowers to help you feel more comfortable with these great pieces of hardware.

A Brief Leaf Blower History Lesson

Leaf blowers were a tool devised in the drier regions of the USA. Including California, where water shortages meant that water could not be used to sluice away fallen leaves. They were also devised for people who found using a broom to be difficult. This could either be for age, shortage of time or for the large volume of leaves to be shifted.

They soon developed various refinements, such as a reverse function. This allowed them to function as suckers. Obviously, a form of container, such as a bag, came with them, and straps to enable them to be carried on the shoulder were sometimes added. The blow vac was a modification of the blower developed to suck and shred leaves. This makes them turn into leaf mould more quickly, if you place them in the leaf mould bin.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Blowers

Blowers have the advantage that they make clearing leaves and grass much easier and quicker than using a broom, and furthermore, if they have a sucking and shredding function they can quickly turn leaves into usable mulch to go on your flower beds or around shrubs. The disadvantage is that they are banned in certain Californian cities on grounds that they are noisy and pollute the air.

Different Engine Types

Engine type is significant. The earliest blowers used two-stroke gasoline engines. This kind of engine is notoriously fuel inefficient and wastes a significant amount of fuel as air pollution. This engine is noisy and the decibel level from some two-stroke blowers was considered to reach levels dangerous to hearing for users and bystanders. Two-stroke engines are therefore becoming unattractive and dying out.

Some modern blowers have a four-stroke engine, the sort used in automobiles, and this is an improvement, but as gasoline becomes more expensive, they do not have a great future.

Far more modern are electric blowers. Some are powered by mains electricity via a cable, and these are suitable for domestic gardens. But very rightly popular are cordless blowers, which rely on battery power. They vary in weight, some being designed for lightness, and the electric motor is quieter than the noisier gasoline engines. Some blowers have a variable blowing speed, but this is an extra function not always necessary. You can also buy electric blowers with a fast charger, which is a useful extra if you have much to do. Electric blowers are the more environmentally friendly type.

Different Kinds of Blower

There are three broad types of leaf blower: handheld, backpack and walk behind blowers.

Handheld blowers are the lightest and most inexpensive type. A simple corded blower can be used to create a leaf pile, which you can then sweep up. But a handheld can also have a sucking and shredding function. This can collect leaves in a bag. This is a very useful tool. If you have a small urban garden or drive this kind of blower is all you need.

Modern backpack blowers are ergonomically designed to be easy on the user’s back, as carrying a load on your back is the safest and most efficient way of carrying it. Thus, the weight of the engine is taken by the user’s shoulders, lessening the danger of its causing back problems. But the downside of this is that the engine is near to the operator’s ear, a problem in particular with gasoline-powered engines. This makes ear protectors all the more necessary with this kind of blower. The ergonomic design, though, enables operators to work longer. Backpacks suit larger spaces, particularly those with paths on which wheels may be difficult to use, such as wooded areas.

The walk behind leaf blowers kind are wheeled and are especially suitable for large gardens with spacious lawns. They are, however, the most expensive of the three kinds and they need a bit more storage space than the other blowers, particularly the handheld ones do.

Safety and Blowers

I will finish with some safety advice. Ear defenders are very important, as blowers can be noisy enough to damage hearing. However, if you are wearing ear defenders beside a busy road, be careful, for you might not hear approaching traffic. A face mask can prevent your breathing in dust, and microscopic particles from the ground. Some of which may be harmful to sufferers from respiratory problems, such as asthma.


  • Encyclopedia of Gardening, Royal Horticultural Society, 2002

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