Networx

Posted by Jordan Laio | Sep 23, 2011

Leaf Blowers: The Great Debate

Can you be an environmentalist and still use a leaf blower?

Big Mind Zen Center/FlickrWhen the clocks switch back that means fall is here. For those who live in areas populated by deciduous trees, that means it will soon be leaf-wrangling season. Organically-oriented farmers and gardeners across the country will be hoarding this supply of free detritus and adding it to their compost piles. Others will be gathering this bounty of biological material and sending it to the dump.

Either way, the question comes up: How to wrangle those leaves?

Many people have answered that question with leaf blowers.

Now, there is an assumption in the “green” community that leaf blowers are evil incarnate, environmentally speaking. 

Traditionally that may have been true. According to Wikipedia, leaf blowers were first introduced as “agricultural chemical spraying machines” and were later adapted to simply blow leaves. Their legacy was further besmirched because for many years leaf blower manufacturers employed noisy two-stroke, smoky, gas-powered engines.

This type is still sold today. For instance, the Husqvarna Gas Powered can be bought online for $180. The reason people still like them is their portability and ability to really get the job done. This is an especial boon for elderly homeowners who feel the need to do their own yard work and would be strained by using a rake, or by homeowners who need the range provided by a gas-powered blower.

However, because of the noise and pollution, leaf blowers have been banned outright in some cities and fall under noise regulations in many others (although apparently not everywhere – I can hear a leaf blower outside my residence as I type this, which is quite annoying). According to NoNoise.org, various  regulatory bodies from the World Health Organization to city municipalities recommend an average daytime outdoor noise level of 55-60 dB. Traditional leaf blowers weigh in at 70-75 dB from 50 feet away.

If that were the end of the discussion, we could conclude that leaf blowers do more harm than good in most cases. However, because of the problems with gas-powered blowers, manufacturers have introduced newer electric versions which produce less noise and no noxious fumes. Not to mention they run on electricity instead of fossil fuels (unless your electricity is provided by fossil fuels).

So that's great, right? Get thee to the leaf blower emporium and buy an electric model!

Not so fast. First of all, there are two types of electric blowers: corded and cordless. The cordless blowers run on battery packs that will eventually wear out and end up in a dump or river somewhere, an important consideration for the green-minded individual. Compare that to a rake, which provides exercise during its use and when it's done (assuming it's a wood-and-metal rake) will break down and return its material to good old mother earth, no harm done.

Another consideration is that cordless versions like the Black & Decker Cordless Electric Broom ($70) blow for about 15 minutes and then take a couple hours to fully recharge.

Your best bet (if your bets are only placed on leaf blowers and not rakes) in terms of environmental impact, functionality, and noise pollution is a corded electric blower. For instance, the Toro Electric Blower ($70) is one of the highest rated by users on Amazon.com. It's as powerful or more so than a gas-powered blower. It runs on electricity and spews no fumes. And it's rumored to be “quiet,” for a leaf blower.

Their main (perhaps only) drawback is that they're restricted by their cord.

What do you think? Can you still call yourself green and use a leaf blower? How will you be gathering your leaves this fall?

Jordan Laio is a Hometalk - http://www.hometalk.com - writer. Read more articles like this one - http://www.networx.com/article/leaf-blowers-the-great-debate - or get help with your home projects on Hometalk.com.

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