Do you want to keep your lawn free of leaves? Or maybe the patio? With a leaf blower, you can quickly and simply blow away leaves and other debris. The most powerful machines can even blow away large gravel.
There are several different types of leaf blower. Just like other garden machinery, they can be divided into mains powered, battery and petrol-operated.
The major advantage with the mains powered leaf blowers is that you can achieve the same power as a petrol-operated machine but for a third of the price. Of course this does assume that your garden is quite simple – otherwise you quickly end up with the cable wound around trees and bushes. So your garden needs to be small enough for you to easily reach everywhere you want to, and you mustn't have too many trees, bushes or flower beds to navigate between.
If you can't face coping with a cable, a battery-operated leaf blower is a good choice. If you buy a good battery in the lower voltage class of 18 volts, you will be able to blow clean both your patio and other paved areas with no problems. But if you also want to be able to blow damp leaves away from your lawn you must have a battery of at least 36 volts for the leaf blower to have sufficient power. The disadvantage of battery-operated leaf blowers is that you have to charge them, but the majority of manufacturers today have systems that allow you to buy two batteries and change between them, which is usually enough. The advantage of this is that you can use the same battery for a number of different machines, and that the batteries can be replaced so that you can continue working even when one battery needs recharging.
But if you want to be completely unlimited, a petrol-operated leaf blower is the best choice. The petrol-operated machines are very powerful, but have disadvantages in that they emit exhaust gases and that in the long run it's expensive to buy the petrol to power them. However, the majority of these machines are today economical on fuel and with a good machine you get about an hour's worth of leaf blowing before you need to fill up. Unfortunately, petrol-operated leaf blowers are quite noisy and significantly heavier than other types. They're normally more expensive too.
The vast majority of leaf blowers in the budget class have only a single position throttle. But the more expensive price classes, with more powerful leaf blowers, often provide the opportunity to alter the blowing speed steplessly. This is great if you have sensitive surfaces, such as flower beds and gravel paths, that you want to blow clean without damaging the surface. Then you can set the speed to a less powerful position.
There are also a number of leaf blowers on the market that can also act as leaf vacuums. This means that you attach a bag and the machine then sucks up the leaves. You can then empty the leaves directly onto the compost heap.
If the leaf blower also has a built-in leaf shredder, the material is reduced to smaller particles, giving more space in the bag. In the long run, this means that you don't have to empty it as often.
We carry out all of our tests ourselves and test all products in real conditions. We tested leaf blowers on different types of surfaces and in different weather conditions – everything from blowing leaves on dewy morning grass to gravel paths on hot summer days. All leaf blowers have been evaluated in terms of a number of factors.
Performance: What can the machine cope with in terms of blowing? Can it cope with dry leaves on hard surfaces? Can it cope with dry leaves on a lawn? Can it cope with damp leaves? Can it cope with sticks, pine cones and stones? Can it blow a large area in a single sweep? Can you target the power?
Ease of use: How easy is it to get started? How well positioned are the controls? Is it easy to understand? How clear is the manual? Can you quickly change between different accessories?
Functions: Can you do more than just blow leaves with it? Can you adjust the blowing speed? Can you lock it, or do you have to keep the throttle pressed in throughout the session? Does it have other useful functions?
We have included these factors and more, for example ergonomics, operating time and build quality, when allocating a score. Overall, the deciding factor has been how good the leaf blower is in terms of value for money. What do you actually get for your money?
The Husqvarna 525BX is a very powerful leaf blower with a user-friendly design and functionality, which given its current price tag we nominate as our best in test. We had no problems blowing clean either large lawns or damp ditch borders. Because the blowing nozzle length is adjustable, you can get very close to the ground without having to bend down even if you're relatively tall. The nozzle length is easy to adjust and requires neither tools nor a manual. However, you can only adjust it by a few centimetres. But for a tall person those few centimetres make all the difference. One really good function on this leaf blower is the setting for blowing speed. It means that you can use it more gently, for example when you're blowing leaves from gravel, and increase the power when you're blowing damp leaves or larger areas. The 525BX feels very intuitive to use and all of the functions are visible and close to each other.
The package includes both a flat and an open blowing nozzle. The flat nozzle gives a more targeted and powerful air flow, which is useful when you're blowing leaves from a damp surface, for example first thing in the morning when the grass may still be a little dewy. The open blowing nozzle is better if you're blowing leaves, pine cones and other debris from large dry surfaces. The fuel lasts for pretty well exactly an hour. The 525BX weighs just over four kilos, so you can use that time to the utmost, even if it may feel a little heavy towards the end. There's an extra handle on the bottom edge which is very useful when you're blowing on more complicated angles or if your arms start to get tired. Overall this is a very competent, good value for money leaf blower for people with large gardens and who need to be able to adapt the machine power in a simple way.
The Stihl BG86 C-E is a powerful leaf blower that can blow everything from leaves to small stones. It also copes easily with removing pine cones from lawns and paths. With the flat blowing nozzle installed, it has no problems with damp leaves, and with the round blowing nozzle you can blow large amounts of leaves at once. On the side of the BG86 is a button that, when set to the central position, means that the leaf blower runs on medium power automatically. This function is sufficient for most tasks, but if you know that you'll be working on sensitive surfaces such as gravel paths and flowerbeds with a visible layer of soil, you can also set the throttle in another position. You press the throttle in until you have achieved the desired power and then lock the button with another control. Unfortunately there's not much distance between full throttle and idling, so it can be tricky to get the desired strength. But once you've got used to the machine it gets easier.
The button on the side of the BG86 is also used when you start the leaf blower. You set it to the furthest position for choke, and then you pull the starting cord and give it throttle – the button then returns to its original position. This works very well once you've learned how to hold the leaf blower while starting it, and when it's relevant to use the choke. It often starts with 2-3 pulls. The fuel lasts for about 45 minutes' active leaf blowing, which feels a tad short. However, while using it there are no problems holding the leaf blower on the right angle from an ergonomic point of view. It weighs just over four kilos and produces very few vibrations. It gets a bit heavy towards the end, but underneath it there's a useful extra handle which is really handy at these times, and also if you're going to be blowing on more awkward angles or where there's garden furniture in the way. The build quality feels very good, and it's very easy to change between different accessories. The rubberised grip is comfortable to hold, but the throttle could have been partially rubberised too. Overall, this is a handy leaf blower with a lot of power that's straightforward to use once you've got used to it.
The Black & Decker GWC1820PC is a very straightforward leaf blower with double speed positions despite the fact that it falls in the budget category. The leaf blower delivers the expected power given its compact format, 18 volt battery and price level. This isn't the leaf blower you'd choose if you've got a large lawn that often needs clearing of leaves. But if you've got a big, paved patio, an asphalt garage drive or decking, there's plenty of power to blow away leaves, grass cuttings and twigs. However, if the surface is damp the machine struggles to blow away such debris. By using the built-in Power Command mode, you can get extra power when you need it, simply by holding a button depressed. Of course this also negatively affects the battery life. Unfortunately the GWC1820PC still isn't strong enough if the surface and the debris are damp. But the function is pretty handy when blowing away pine cones and the like.
The battery lasts for just under 30 minutes if you blow using normal power for the majority of the time and use Power Command for about 2-3 minutes. Because the GWC1820PC isn't intended for anything more demanding, we feel that this is more than sufficient. However, we'd have liked charging to be quicker. It takes several hours to charge the battery. You should buy an extra battery to swap it with if you're using the machine often or for longer periods. You can also use a battery from another B&D product as they're mutually compatible. The GWC1820PC weighs very little and is easy to handle. In summary, this is a straightforward leaf blower suitable for paved, small and dry surfaces. If you bear this in mind when you buy it, you won't be unhappy. But if you're blowing leaves a long way or in more complicated terrain, you'll need to look elsewhere.
The Black & Decker GW3030 has a number of advantages such as a great deal of power and variable blowing speed. It has no problems blowing away damp leaves or large stones. In fact the problem is avoiding destroying sensitive surfaces with the machine. But at the same time it's easy to regulate the speed with the knob on the top. At lower speeds we had some problems with unpleasant vibrations, but they aren't noticeable at maximum power. Unfortunately the leaf blower is slightly sluggish to begin with. It takes a few seconds to get up to top speed. It also lacks a throttle. Instead you regulate both on/off and blowing speed with the knob. However, there's one major advantage with this, which is that you avoid having to keep a button pressed in as you use the machine, which can otherwise give you cramp. The rubberised handle is comfortable. The design of the entire machine is slightly bulky and plasticky, particularly the click-in function to change accessories, but it does work.
The GW3030 also has a leaf vacuum function. This means that you can first blow leaves into a heap and then attach the vacuum tube and fabric bag to suck all the leaves up. It's relatively easy and quick to change function once you've learned what to do. The collector can hold a good amount of leaves, particularly as it contains a shredder to reduce everything you suck up into smaller particles. The vacuum isn't particularly powerful. It can cope with dry or slightly damp leaves, but it struggles with wet leaves or long grass. On the whole, however, it does a good job. The major disadvantage with the GW3030 is actually that you're limited by a cable. You won't get anywhere with the short cable on the machine, and dragging an extension cable around in the garden is a pain. But if you're looking for a mains powered leaf blower, this is a good choice. Equally, it's perfect if you have a simple garden but want a very powerful leaf blower for a low price and without exhaust gases.
The Stihl BGA45 is unexpectedly powerful given its price class, and despite a relatively low battery voltage can cope with blowing dry leaves from a dry lawn without any problems. At short distance, it can also blow everything from pine cones and twigs to larger gravel, despite its round blowing nozzle – sadly it doesn't include a flat one. The disadvantage with all this power is, of course, that the battery life suffers. It gives around ten minutes, which is terribly short, and the battery is also integrated so you can't replace it. This means that you can't change the battery or use a more economical one. As the charging time is also several hours, this is an enormous weakness. The BGA45 also suffers from quite a lot of vibration. Because the grips aren't rubberised, the overall experience isn't all that positive, and the grips get slippery.