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For many, this time of year signals the yearly struggle to keep the yard clear of leaves for a few more weeks while you can still see the ground (and ominous wintry clouds plot from a distance). For Texans, it’s admittedly more pleasant, a time of year when we can step outside without the ever-present blast of nature’s convection oven. But even in Texas, deciduous trees shed everywhere — and with the shedding come the teeth-rattling noise and noxious fumes of the leaf blower.

Okay, so not everyone sees it that way. But sentiment on the acceptability of leaf blowers runs strong — a quick search online yields hundreds of articles pleading for the outright ban of these tools, citing inefficiency, negative environmental impact, hearing damage, and plain old annoyance. Those in favor of leaf blowers tend to focus on the convenience and stick with practical advice: gas or electric, alternate uses such as snow clearing and dryer duct cleaning, or ergonomics.

A lot of opinions on this issue are pretty strong, delving into everything from accusations of tree-huggery to physical laziness. But aside from these extreme views, what are the rational arguments for using a leaf blower? Is it really necessary to invest in an often-pricey power tool that might just as well be left to a little elbow grease? Or are leaf blowers something of a scapegoat? Let us know what you think in comments.

Leaf Blowers Must Die [Sonoma Reporter]
How to Choose and Use a Leaf Blower [ThisOldHouse.com]
Safe and Courteous Leaf Blower Use [GreenIndustryPros.com]

 

38 Responses to Are Leaf Blowers Worthwhile?

  1. Simon says:

    When I was growing up, we ran over the leaves with the lawnmower when the grass needed cutting. (not a fancy mulching one either) We just let them rot where the bits landed. No raking at all and it was all fine.

    The concept of raking up free fertilizer for hours to then pay someone to take them away in a truck seems silly even today.

    Walnut trees are another story however…

    Simon

  2. rick says:

    i have one and use it to get leaves out from around the bushes, but they do a terrible job corralling the leaves into a specific area, so I dont use it too much. Not to mention that it is obnoxiously loud. I do understand why they are banned in some areas.

  3. Ben Granucci says:

    Love my gas powered one for the grass clippings on the driveway and similar situations. My electric one is essential for cleaning out the pellet stove exhaust. As for the leaves themselves, I prefer to rely on the lawn tractor with the bagger to suck them all up. No hauling and they are already mulch when they go on the compost pile. I’ll use a rake and one of the blowers where I can’t get the mower.

  4. Brian Dolge says:

    The best use for a leafblower is to float a small hovercraft (Google is your friend). The electric ones might have some uses in blasting things out of corners or moving huge piles, but the gasoline ones are too noisy and polluting to be allowed(and why would you be blowing leaves out of extention cord range anyway?) Mostly I agree with the mow’em and mulch’em crowd(with occasional outbursts of rake’m into a pile and jump in!).

    • zoomzoomjeff says:

      (and why would you be blowing leaves out of extention cord range anyway?)

      –because I have a half acre and don’t feel like dragging 100+ feet of extension cords around, not to mention battling keeping the cords plugged into each other.

      I’ve tried using my electric as much as possible. But sometimes I have no choice but to use the gas. And quite honestly, sometimes it’s easier to pull the cord a few times on a gas, than to drag out all the cords, and wrap them back up again.

      However, if I’m going to be running it for a lonnnnng time trying to clear the driveway, I’ll use the electric because it’s cheaper and quieter.

  5. Tom says:

    I grew up in the country and just mowed them over. Now I live in the city and have three maple trees on our small lot. We collect them into a pile and then put them on the garden in the spring as mulch.

    I was given a corded electric blower/vac and use it. I don’t think I would buy one though.

  6. BJN says:

    I have electric blowers/leaf vacuums. While these are far from quiet, they’re quieter than gas-powered blowers and I think the sound is less obnoxious.

    The blower is good for more than just moving leaves, it’s an efficient broom that works on rough surfaces like our asphalt driveway. The temptation for me would be to use a hose to wash down the driveway – the surface of which not only sheds gravel but also traps fallen tree blossoms and other easily-compacted non-leaf material.

    I rake where it’s productive, but putting my Toro or B&D blower/vacs into vacuum mode is really handy for tight spots like rock gardens where rakes don’t fit or work well. The impeller cuts the leaves into mulch-size bits too.

    Finally, whole leaves make bad mulch. Last season I got an electric leave shredder so I can really compact piles of raked leaves so they decompose more quickly and fit my yard waste recycling bin much more efficiently.

  7. Angelbane says:

    I HATE leaf blowers they are loud and largely useless.

    They blow your leaves and trash into the street and other peoples yards. If you must remove the clippings and trash sweep them up and dispose of them properly.

    Quite Frankly … you are SUPPOSED to leave the leaves on the ground during the winter it helps protect your grass until spring.

  8. Fong says:

    You guys all have yards? Some of you have multiple trees?

    When we rented houses as a kid, we ran over leaves with the mower (like @Simon) or raked it up by hand. As for the broom function of blowers, we used a…wait for it…Broom.

    Maybe I’m just too low on Maslow’s hierarchy to fully understand some people’s passion on this issue.

  9. The people that keep saying to just run over the leaves with the lawn mower obviously don’t have red oak trees. The leaves don’t decompose if left on the lawn — at least not in a years time anyway.

    That said I rarely rake or or use a blower to clean up leaves anymore. I just make sure the grass is cut low before the leaves fall and I pick them up with my lawn mower.

    What I do use my blower for is cleaning up the driveway and street after I mow. I blow it back into the yard, not into the street! It is a big peeve of mine when I see people blow their grass clippings into the street where they’ll get into the storm sewer. This causes algae blooms which kill off fish and other aquatic species. We can’t use lawn fertilizer with phosphorus in the seven county area around Minneapolis because of this.

    Having a vacuum attachment for the blower is also nice for cleaning up piles of leaves around the house itself like around and in shrubs where it’s hard to rake.

  10. James says:

    I’ve had the same Toro electric leaf blower for 10 years…use it almost every day but almost never for leaves. Rather, it is used to blow out saw dust from the garage workshop. Saw dust…especially from fine grit paper gets in every nook and cranny and by far the easiest way to clean up is with the leaf blower. It also works remarkably well for cleaning out all of the cheerrios, Goldfish and other food items the kids drop in the car. Just open all the doors and let the leaf blower do the rest!!

  11. Phil says:

    I have a small backpack gas model and an electric. But get used occasionally, but not in the classic, suburban-cleanup-war sense.Mostly they get used for cleaning leaves from shrubs and evergreens, where raking or other mechanical means tears up the plants. They are handy for large scale cleaning during construction, come in handy for drying cars after washing (especially under hoods and undercarriages) and other peripheral cleaning. For leaves, I have a wagon with its own engine that I tow behind the tractor in the fall; this gets up the majority of the leaves. I will rake and blow leaves into the open yard for mulching and pickup with the garden tractor rig, the resulting finely chewed mulch goes in the gardens. In the winter, very fine, dry snow can be dispatched with a leaf blower faster than with a snowblower or shovels, and it also helps break up heavy accumulations in trees and bushes. So, there are uses for the blasted things IMO.

  12. Andrew says:

    Leaf blowers are fantastic for cleaning gutters if you can get onto your roof safely. Also good for blowing grass cuttings off the driveway and sidewalk. As for leaves, I mow’em…it’s free fertilizer.

  13. mnoswad1 says:

    Mufflers are cool.

    I’d like the city to draw up lawn equipment noise issues. Seems like easy revenue and I could sleep in on sunday rather than listening to my neighbor five houses down tool around on his seemingly open piped riding lawn mower……on a 40′x100′ lot!

  14. Sean says:

    We own one of the vacuum types. It chips the leaves up and the remains go into the compost heap. They process a lot faster that way and are creating excellent garden soil six months to a year earlier than their whole, raked brethren.

  15. E G says:

    I have an electric, a cordless, and a 4-stroke leaf blower. The each have their uses and I love them all. The gas blower is a Makita handheld at 67dba. It’s quieter than my gas pressure washer. I use them almost every weekend.

  16. E G says:

    And… My neighbors don’t complain because their landscapers’ equipment is louder than mine (I use a cordless lawn mower). They do look at me funny when I dry my cars off with the blowers though (cuts drying time by 75-90%).

  17. Eddie says:

    I don’t own one. Sometimes I wish I did and one of those tools that I’ll get someday. I think like any tool it can be misused.

    That said, can you really imagine our modern society without a leafblower? If they hadn’t of already been invented wouldn’t you invent one?

    There are some jobs best done by a leaf blower but many jobs it does now that could be done another way….

  18. I just let them fall as Simon say’s. Hit them with the mower, mostly alder leaves, and they add good stuff to the yard. But, I live out in the country, and don’t give a rats ass about how good the 7 acre lawn looks in the long run. If I were in a controlled place on a small lot, it would be a lot different.

  19. Cameron Watt says:

    I use a leaf blower for cleaning dust out of equipment and to stoke up burn piles.

    I picked up the habit while working in a plant that processed a lot of paper for recycling. The dust and stray scraps littered the yard and clogged the equipment and we kept a couple around for routine cleaning and maintenance work. They’re great when you can’t use a hose.

  20. Brau says:

    For some people they are essential.

    IE: Due to marked disabilities, I could not do my yardwork without a leaf blower.

    1. Due to my intense back problems (permanent spinal damage/disability) I just can’t do any manual raking, bagging, lifting. I can strap a leaf blower (gas) to my hip and blow them to the curb very easily. It’s likely the best $129 I ever spent.
    2. Most of the leaves around here cannot be simply “mowed”. They are oak, don’t decompose, and they will quickly kill (heavily acidify) lawns/gardens.
    3. Leaves always get wet here in the P.Northwest making it very much harder, or flat-out impossible for me without a blower.
    4. Being on a meagre disability pension I cannot afford to pay someone else to do it for me.

    I *do* agree with time limits via noise bylaws though. I have stayed in a local area where an army of gas leaf blowers fires up regularly in the park across the street. The only thing worse than a leaf blower …. is a choir of them… at 6AM.

  21. PutnamEco says:

    Angelbane says:
    I HATE leaf blowers they are loud and largely useless.
    They blow your leaves and trash into the street and other peoples yards. If you must remove the clippings and trash sweep them up and dispose of them properly.

    Most likely you have NEVER had to clean up any lots over an acre. Leaf blowers are also a very effective way to “sweep” large parking areas. They are also a lot of fun to clean the shop out with ala Bill Murray in Caddyshack.
    There is an art to using them and if you lack the skills necessary to use them, you may be inclined to call them useless. In the right hands they are very useful and can save days worth of time. Think about it, if you were paying a landscaper $40 an hour are you going to want to pay him for a full day of raking when he could be done in a couple of hours with leaf blower?

    Quite Frankly … you are SUPPOSED to leave the leaves on the ground during the winter it helps protect your grass until spring.

    If I where to leave the 6-8 inches of leaves on my lawn over the winter I would NOT have a lawn in the spring. Same thing, if I even thought of trying to mulch that amount of organic matter into it as well.

  22. TominDC says:

    It would seem that people fewer than 20 trees should refrain from the conversation. For those of us who live in woody areas, a gas blower and gas mulcher is essential. Electric blowers cannot move a wall of leaves over 6 inches high. By Thanksgiving Day I will have more than a foot of leaves on the lawn. Left alone, they will kill the grass for lack of sun exposure. After mulching, we have a truck haul the 5ft high pile of remains to the county dump composter.

  23. DaveinMA says:

    It really does depend on the situation. I can see that in many areas urban, suburban, exurban, or rural, that leaf blower noise would be a real problem and could cause quite a bit of resentment and that in those areas leaf blowers could properly be regarded as public nuisances.

    That said, I just bought a $300 backpack leaf blower (Echo) and am very relieved to have finally taken the plunge. I live in a rural area, with just a handful of close neighbors. With a lot of lawn and a lot of trees, which start to shed leaves pretty heavily now, it has been tough to keep up with, using rakes, riding lawnmowers, shovels and garden carts, etc. Yes, some people have that many leaves to deal with: it’s not as simple as taking an extra twenty minutes to rake the lawn, particularly if you have gulleys or culverts or other areas that demand attention.

    The noise is an issue. You have to be sensitive to your neighbors. But I think leaf blowers have a place that includes my shed. I’ll still be needing the rakes and shovels and garden cart, but especially for things like rounding up leaves in a hurry or blasting detritus from the patio or light snow from around the door, the leaf blower can’t be beat. It’s also useful to get a burn pile going, as a previous poster noted.

  24. Pruitt says:

    I know they’re noisy and annoying, but there’s nothing like a blower for grass clippings off the sidewalk or vaccuming out planting beds. However, when the grass isn’t wet, I’ve been using my Li-ion blower more and more. Maybe when those become better options, part of this conversation goes away and the gas-powered machines are used more for heavy use and battery-power becomes the norm. Still necessary, but less dominant on Saturday mornings.

  25. Sam says:

    Useful as heck, though I’ve never actually used them for leaves. They’re very useful for blowing dust and dirt off of machinery; far more effective than an air compressor nozzle. Whether it’s grain dust off of farm equipment or sawdust in the shop, mine is constantly used. I have a gas and an electric model.

  26. zoomzoomjeff says:

    I forgot to post about, but also agree with the posters citing uses for blowing dust off of vehicles/equipment, drying a car after washing, stoking a burn pile fire, pushing grass clippings back into the lawn after mowing, cleaning out dryer vents, and cleaning the gutters from the ground with the right attachment.

    All things I’ve used mine for, and thankful I had one after each job was complete.

    I live in a small town without pain in the ass HOA’s telling me what I can or can’t do. We govern ourselves by being respectful neighbors. We respect our neighbors because we care enough to build community around us. Without community, comes lack of respect. Then rules, laws, micromanaging (in the form of HOA’s) come soonafter.

    But….that’s how we manage to have leaf blowers and not kill each other.

  27. o1d_dude says:

    Like James, I have a 10 year old Toro and use it pretty much on a daily basis. Occasionally I even use it to blow leaves as I have a large patio that catches a lot of pine needles from my neighbor’s tree.

    The blower is useful for ridding my power tools of saw dust or cleaning out the garage but my favorite use for it is to blow out the interior of my Bronco. Use a vacuum cleaner? That sucks. Now a leaf blower…that’s the way I roll.

  28. jovial_cynic says:

    $30 for an electric leaf blower at home depot does me just fine. It’s quick, and it’s also great for blowing dust out of the garage, too. And for giving my kids a little bit of fun when they’re running past it. Love it.

  29. Rick says:

    everyone has said the main reasons I have a leaf blower…big yard…oak trees…6″-12″ of leaves per season, etc…so I am in favor of them. However, one minor addition…having a gas powered leaf blower increases my PQ by one point!

    btw…PQ = piston quotient

  30. DoItRite says:

    I had an electric model for a while. You could also use it as suction mode and collect the leaves (and other debris) into a large cloth bag. This worked very well for pulling the leaves from around decorative landscape rock around the house. The suction wasn’t strong enough to pull the rocks, just the leaves and dirt above the landscape fabric.

    One time I was cleaning a particularly debris-filled area next to the metal garage door. My head got too close to the overhead door and I got a shock that was a hundred times worse than a shag-carpet static shock. A minute later, I started cleaning again and got another shock from my head to the door.

    It took me a minute to figure out that I had turned myself into a giant Van-de-Graff generator. Just like the type in sixth grade science class. With my head being the chrome-dome part, shooting off 3-inch lightning bolts.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Van_de_Graaff_generator

    Sort of funny when you think about it, hurt at the time though.

  31. Paul says:

    I kinda understand people not likeing the blower. But when you have as many trees as I have… I would end up with 3″ over coverage over my 1 acre if I didnt take them up. The lawnmower cant mulch them in. My 14hp rider just pushed them around if I get lazy and let a lot fall. I have little option but ti try and corral them, bag some, blow some in the park across the street, grind up some wotht he mower and ignore more than most people see in 3 years fall on their yard. So yeah I love the blower, I tryicaly use it when i’m in the stage where the lawnmower can still chew em up, I blow off my deck, porch, and driveway, then run over the piles with the mower as best i can.

    I’ve got a handheld electric, handheld gas, and backpack gas model. Lately I’ve been prefering the handheld gas model.

    My neighbors ride dirtbikes and atv’s on public streets so I care little about what they think of noise, I actually hope it bothers them, but i’m certian it does not.

  32. MattC says:

    I use a cordless leaf blower. I use it to clear my gutters, dry my car (excellent use by the way), and for general coralling of leaves/dust on the driveway. It is much quieter than a gas powered version but not as powerful.

  33. John Ramella says:

    Back-pack blowers (esp. Stihl) are wonderful. I literally have a home in a forest – and w/o one it would take hours to rake/pile/tarp. Truly awful.

    Now w/ the back-pack blower (w/ earplugs) I can do a 3 hour job in 45 minutes. Ban them? In West Virgina? ROFLMAO.

  34. Kevin says:

    Put me in the annoying loud tool used by lazy people camp. I hate the things.

  35. John R. Johnson says:

    Did’nt really tell me anything. I guess they just want you to blindly follow their reccommendations. Sorry thats not me. But I do like to learn, give us a better article.

  36. CC says:

    I never thought I would consider a leaf blower/vacuum (I even mow with a push reel mower), but I have a huge holly tree and the big spring leaf drop into my yard and neighbor’s is breaking me. The leaves have needle-like points and they hurt. I am searching and searching for suggestions on what type of machine to help collect these. I am on my third day of raking, picking up piles (yes with leather gloves) and piling into huge garbage bags. I don’t mind raking the fall leaves, mostly from my neighbors’ oak and maple trees. But the holly has beaten me! I’m looking at wet dry vacs with a blower, leaf vacuums, etc. Wondering if anyone has experience with these holly tree leaves and what works. Many thanks.

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