Choose Leaf Blowers Carefully Use Them Safely Says LSU AgCenter Engineer

Richard L. Parish  |  10/25/2006 11:16:34 PM

News You Can Use For November 2003

With fall comes yard and garden cleanup – especially leaves. For many homeowners, a leaf blower can be an efficient and effective grounds maintenance tool, according to Dr. Dick Parish, an engineer at the LSU AgCenter’s Hammond Research Station.

Leaf blowers are widely used by homeowners and professionals to clean up after mowing, to move leaves and other lawn trash and to clean patios, porches, sidewalks and driveways.

Parish says studies have shown that blowers are more efficient than other methods, such as raking, sweeping or hosing with water. They come in at least three configurations – hand-held, back-pack and wheeled.

Hand-held units are most common for homeowner use and provide all the power and capacity needed for most home maintenance jobs. More commonly used by professionals, back-pack units have an engine and fan mounted on a back-pack frame and use a hand-held hose and spout to direct the air flow. Wheeled blowers are less versatile but can be used to blow the leaves from an entire lawn.

Some blowers also can be used in reverse to vacuum up leaves and yard waste, Parish says. Those units typically reduce the volume of waste by chopping and packing it. Some can achieve a 16-1 reduction in volume.

Hand-held units can be powered by either an electric motor or a gasoline engine – generally a 2-stroke engine, Parish says. Back-pack units are powered by small gasoline engines – also generally 2-stroke. Wheeled units generally have a 4-stroke gasoline engine.

"Electric units may be less expensive but aren’t necessarily less noisy," Parish says. "Some electric units make as much noise as a gasoline engine, since the fan is a primary source of noise. Electric units also require an extension cord."

The engineer says battery-powered units are available but are limited in capacity and operating time.

Parish says spark plugs on 2-stroke gasoline engines need to be replaced regularly – perhaps annually. He also says to be sure to mix the right amount of oil in your fuel, clean or replace the air and fuel filters as needed and keep the tool clean – especially the engine cooling fins.

Whether electric or gasoline-powered, blowers for home use having a maximum rated output air velocity of 150 mph with a maximum rated air flow rate of 250 cubic feet per minute are usually adequate, Parish says.

As for noise, Parish says you can find sound levels as low as 65 decibels. "The lower the better."

Parish says operation at part throttle is usually sufficient for most jobs. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use for whichever product you use, and "You’ll soon learn to ‘sweep’ leaves and clean patios and driveways."

When you’re operating your blower, always wear eye protection, Parish warns. Goggles are better than safety glasses at preventing swirling dust from getting into your eyes. He also advises using hearing protection – especially if you’ll be running a blower for more than a few minutes.

You may also appreciate wearing thick, padded gloves when using a hand-held gasoline-powered blower, he says. "The vibration from the blower can cause the operator’s hands to shake an hour or more after using the machine.

"Be sure home and car windows are closed when using a blower," Parish says. "The machines kick up a lot of dust."

He also cautions against using a blower around other people – it can throw objects at them. "Be careful of ricochet problems when blowing around obstacles," he adds. "The air stream and objects in it can come back at you. And never point the blower at people or pets."

In general, the engineer says, electrical units are fine for small lawns, gasoline hand-held units are the best choice for larger home sites, and back-pack blowers are a good choice for professional users.

"Be safe and wear eye, ear and hand protection," Parish says. "Be courteous of your neighbors and use your blower at the lowest possible throttle setting and at times when it is least likely to offend."

Additional yard and garden information is available by contacting an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office. Also, look for Gardening and Get It Growing links in the Feature section of the LSU AgCenter Web site: www.lsuagcenter.com.

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On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: http://www.lsuagcenter.com/

On the Internet: www.louisianalawnandgarden.org.

Source: Dick Parish at (985) 543-4125 or dparish@agcenter.lsu.edu

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