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How to Choose a Leaf Blower

A leaf blower, also called a power blower, can take some of the grunt work out of clearing fallen leaves and other yard debris. Besides blowing, many handheld models can vacuum and shred what they pick up. Some communities are cracking down on blower noise so take that into consideration.

Handheld blowers, especially the electric models, are relatively lightweight. The best electric handheld blowers continue to outperform their gas-engine counterparts for less money. That also makes them a logical choice if your arms are weak or tire easily. But handheld models are not up to sweeping a large area or sucking up a large pile of leaves. For sheer power, you're likely to prefer a gas-powered backpack or wheeled blower. Nearly all the gas-powered blowers we tested meet the tougher new California emissions standards. Use this leaf blower guide to choose the right one for you.

Be courteous and safe

Gas blowers are noisy enough to require hearing protection, and even electric blowers can annoy the neighbors. So avoid using these machines early or late in the day. Some localities restrict their use to certain hours and seasons of the year, so check your town's ordinances. Along with ear protectors, wear goggles and a dust mask when blowing or vacuuming. And keep people and pets away from the work area.

Electric handheld blowers

These corded models typically weigh seven pounds or less and are designed for one-handed use. No-hassle pushbutton starting and zero exhaust emissions are pluses, as is power that meets or beats gas handheld versions. But the power cord limits your mobility and can create a hassle around trees and other obstacles. Consider an electric blower where a power outlet is within 100 feet of the work area.

Gas-powered handheld blowers

These are also designed for one-handed use, and there's no power cord to tangle or limit your mobility. The best approach the best electrics in performance. But you need to yank a pull-cord to start the engine. Gas engines require periodic tune-ups, and they're loud enough to warrant hearing protection. Gas-powered handheld blowers tend to be heavier than electrics; most weigh 7 to 12 pounds. Most models have two-stroke engines that require mixing fuel and oil, and the four-stroke models, while cleaner, have also been relatively heavy.

Gas-powered backpack blowers

These blowers typically add power over handheld blowers. They weigh 15 to 25 pounds-up to twice as much as gas-powered handheld blowers. But your back and shoulders, rather than your arms, support the weight. Like handheld gas models, they're noisy. They can't vacuum or shred. And they cost more than handheld blowers.

Gas-powered wheeled blowers

These offer enough oomph to quickly sweep a sizable area. Their large four-stroke engines require no mixing of fuel and oil. But wheeled blowers can't vacuum or shred. They're bulky and weigh 100 pounds or more, so they're relatively hard to maneuver and push, especially uphill. They require about eight square feet of storage space. And they're noisy and expensive.

Now find out how to pick the perfect appliance on any budget.

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