The earth rotates, seasons change, and leaves fall. They fall everywhere. On the roof, the deck, the sidewalk, the driveway, and the lawn. If you have a large property, raking can be exhausting and back breaking work.
Enter the leaf blower. This makes easy work of cleaning the yard and more time for doing things you actually enjoy. Most leaf blowers are small and either handheld or backpack style. Today, we’ll be focusing on providing you with a comprehensive guide to smaller leaf blowers and how they function.
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An introduction to gas leaf blowers
In the late 1950’s, a Japanese company created a backpack style fogging appliance that gradually morphed into what is now known as the traditional leaf blower, but did not see real success until the late 1970’s and 1980’s.
Interestingly enough, the frequent drought-like conditions in California and other dry states in part facilitated the success of the leaf blower. Water use for lawn care and gardening activities was not permitted. Dry, deaf leaves continued to pile up, so a solution was needed.
Because of these drought conditions in southern and westerly states, as well as the other more unorthodox uses of leaf blowers, sales have skyrocketed in the last 30 years.
Unorthodox uses included anything from construction projects to more niche hobby projects. Indeed, an individual even created a hovercraft style device from a leaf blower, which was featured on the Brainiac cable television series.
How they work
Centrifugal force. This is the key that turns the crank, the cream of the crop; this is what makes a leaf blower blow with such strength. This concept is essentially the force output from the center of a spinning object.
The engine powers a fan (or compeller, as it’s officially known) within the leaf blower, which gathers air from a vent to the rear of the machine. Because the tunnel of the leaf blower is so small, it compresses or compels the air forcefully down the tunnel, which results in the extremely high speeds of your leaf blower. It’s really that simple.
There are a few things to look out for: CC output, which is the power rating of the engine. The higher the CC rating, the more fuel your leaf blower will require. Another is the air speed, which is of course how fast the air comes out of the tunnel. Lastly, keep an eye out for an adequate Cubic Feet per Minute rating. This measures how much air is passed through the nozzle, or tunnel, per minute.
These working in tandem together will result in a powerful, only moderately fuel hungry leaf blower with a high air speed.
Environmental & practical concerns
As quickly as they rose in popularity in the US, they were just as quickly realized to be somewhat of a controversial gardening tool. Of course, all gas powered devices from motor vehicles to lawnmowers produce some kind of emission depending on the size and amount of gasoline and oil required to run it.
More specifically, the two-stroke engine requires a mixture of gasoline and oil, but up to a third of this harmful mixture is actually not burned off through the exhaust, and so produces a different kind of emission: aerosol. This is essentially the equivalent of steam or fog, but a toxic one. Breathing this in in the long term, of course, has been linked to cancer, asthma, and other serious respiratory health concerns.
Not only were these very harmful emissions a concern, but noise was also a huge concern and still is. Some neighborhoods even prohibit the use of leaf blowers to this day. Because of the power in such a small package, noise levels can reach and surpass 90 decibels, which is an extremely unsuitable amount of noise, and requires ear protection at the very least for those who work in landscaping and gardening professions.
Due to the aforementioned, it’s natural that a handful of residential areas in California specifically successfully moved to ban the use of leaf blowers all together. However, most communities have strict ordinances as to when they can be operated and maximum noise levels.
Manufacturers have answered this call with the creation of more sophisticated, quieter machines, but their primary mechanism of operation remains the same. Fortunately, most product labels on leaf blowers now have their decibel ranges listed so that you can stay informed and make the best choice for you and your neighbors!
Leaf blowers: Pros and Cons
Gas powered leaf blowers are extremely durable, with an average life span of 10 years if they’re treated well and regular changing of oil filters and oil/gas mixture is looked after. They also last much longer than their electric motor counterparts as far as daily jobs go, and are full of power. Whatever yard work needs doing that has a gas powered leaf blower involved, you can rest assured it will be done quickly and efficiently.
As we’ve covered, these bad boys can be exceedingly noisy and have been known to cause hearing damage for those in the landscaping industry, something that you cannot recover naturally. Of course, more safety equipment is used today, but this fact remains.
As well, they can be quite cumbersome. While small gas leaf blowers are compact, they’re certainly heavy, and have a lot of components squished into such a small space. As well, if you’re not comfortable switching out the gas or gas and oil mixture this might not be the tool for you.
Specs & features
Something to take note of is engine size and style with leaf blowers. Some use a four stroke engine, and some use a two stroke. We will get in to the differences between them shortly, but here’s a brief education on them first:
A ‘stroke’ is essentially when the piston moves within the engine between the valve and the bottom. The terms ‘top dead center’ and ‘bottom dead center’ are commonly used to identify the points that the piston moves between. TDC is nearest the valve, and BDC is furthest from it. More specifically, a stroke is the movement between TDC and BDC and how it completes the combustion process to provide power to your leaf blower.
Did you know?
We won’t get too automotive with explaining how exactly the combustion process works, but essentially intake (piston moving up to allow air into the chamber), compression (intake valve closes to trap gasses within the chamber), combustion (spark plug ignites trapped gas), and finally exhaust (the byproduct of the ignited gasses is released through the exhaust valve).
Two-stroke engine: a two stroke engine is the simpler of the two, of course – but has more power. Like its name indicates, a two stroke engine only needs two movements between TDC and BDC to complete the full combustion process. These require a mixture of gasoline and a special kind of mixing oil, as there is no separate compartment for oil and the engine must be lubricated to function. These engines are lighter and easier to fix, but create what may be an irritating buzzing sound, and overall are louder.
Four-stroke engine: a four stroke engine is slightly more sophisticated, efficient, and requires slightly less fuel, and provides more durability. During each revolution, two strokes occur, a compression and exhaust stroke and then followed by a return stroke each time. They also do not require mixing of oil, as there’s a separate compartment provided for oil. This may prove easier for individuals not comfortable mixing gasoline and oil, as it does require a degree of care and precision. They are heavier and more complex to fix, but also much quieter than their two stroke counterparts.
Handheld: handhelds are arguably the most efficient as well as economical leaf blower, especially coupled with gas power instead of electric. The job is done quickly and without fuss, and these are definitely very light with most weighing under 10 pounds.
Backpack: backpack models are more costly, but offer more power and better weight distribution. This makes them better for longer jobs or commercial use. However, they are heavier and most weigh up to 20 pounds.
How can I reduce the impact of my leaf blower?
Be sure to choose a leaf blower with a reasonable decibel range, firstly. However, even this will still likely be disruptive. Try to pick a reasonable time of day to start leaf blowing, and don’t carry on for hours if you can help it. Between 10:00am and 4:00pm is likely the best time range, with this being more flexible on the weekends.
Is the small handheld or small backpack style better?
It depends on the job at hand. If you are after longer, larger jobs frequently a backpack model is definitely more suitable as well as ergonomic. If you’re using it for occasional small jobs, a handheld is likely the best option. Ultimately it comes down to your preference!
Why do I have to mix gas and oil for some models, and how much do I need?
Two stroke engines require the gas and oil mixture due to having no separate oil reservoir. Take care to read the manufacturer’s instructions for more details on how much gas and oil your leaf blower requires and at what exact ratio, but the generally accepted gas to oil ratio is 40:1.
Take note that the oil required is not engine oil, but a specific type of oil designed to mix with gasoline for the purpose of lubricating the pistons. If the pistons are consistently not lubricated properly, your blower won’t be long for this world.
How much gas does a leaf blower require, and what type?
Firstly, the type of gas you need at the base level is your plain jane, run of the mill regular unleaded. The same that you would put into your sedan before taking off to work for the day. Very simple to acquire. However, some consumers recommend using premium gasoline.
As far as how much you need, it depends on the engine, but typically you’ll want to get 2 to 2.5 gallons.
Leaf blowers are great for commercial use and for home landscaping and hobby projects, some even have a vacuum function for quick clean up jobs. They definitely beat out the rake in terms of effort output and time saved!
Be sure to follow your local rules and guidelines for noise limit and leaf blower usage. As long as use of them is permitted in your community, you’re respectful of your neighbors and purchase a low noise machine – you will be as happy as a clam come autumn!
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Last update on 2020-10-23 / Most affiliate links and/or Images from Amazon Product Advertising API