Areas covered with various vegetation require constant care in order to look great. Garden leaf vacuums, mulchers and blowers are used to keep the gardens, driveways, yards and similar areas clean and tidy. Garden leaf vacuums, mulchers and blowers come in various sizes, types and prices and choosing right one can be a daunting task. But it shouldn't! :)
When looking for a new garden leaf tool, there are few things to consider:
- power source - leaf vacuums can be gas powered, electric corded and electric cordless leaf vacuums,
- tool type - garden vacuums designed for use in small gardens and backyards can be used as garden leaf vacuums, leaf mulchers and leaf blowers. Large, commercial and very powerful tools are often optimized for a single purpose and thus can be used only as a leaf blower or leaf vacuum - leaf vacuums often have metal impeller and can be used as leaf mulchers, too. Shredded leaves and small, thin branches occupy less volume than whole leaves and branches, thus storing more garden debris in the vacuuming bag - additional reason why leaf vacuums have metal impellers with sharp blades.
- tool size - smaller garden leaf vacuums are weaker, but easier to carry around and use. Larger garden leaf vacuums have shoulder straps, they are bigger, heavier and sturdier and are stronger with stronger suction.
- cleaning attachments - even garden leaf vacuums and blowers have different cleaning attachments for vacuuming/blowing various types of debris, which can be found in gardens and backyards, like leaves, small branches, mowed grass and similar.
Most important features and specifications of garden vacuums are:
- air flow, usually given in the Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM),
- air speed, usually given in Miles per Hour (MPH). Note that some vacuum/blower models use special nozzles to increase the speed of the air, which might reduce the amount of air flow. If air speed is doubled, and air flow remains the same (in CFM, for example), engine power must be quadrupled.
- engine volume, given in cubic centimeters (ccm), for gas operated garden leaf vacuums,
- motor strength, given in Watts (W) and required current given in Amperes (A or Amps) for electric leaf vacuums. For gas operated vacuums/blowers, motor strength is often given in HPs and sometimes watts.
- battery - voltage (V), capacity (Ampere-hours - Ah) and chemistry type for cordless leaf vacuums.
- weight - important for working with leaf vacuum. This weight is usually weight of the leaf vacuum, without or with empty leaf bag.
There are also other features and details which might be important, but many of them are highly individual - for example, if someone is left or right handed and similar.
Gas Powered Garden Leaf Vacuums, Mulchers and Blowers
Gas powered garden leaf vacuums use internal combustion engines to power impellers. They are very strong and since gas tanks are on-board, these vacuums are independent regarding external power source - they don't require mains outlets for operation.
When gas tank is empty, they are simply filled and vacuums are ready to be used again.
2-stroke engines use fuel oil mix in different ratios, ranging from 1:25 to 1:50. The more oil mix has, better engine lubrication, but also more fumes and smoke is created during operation. It is vital to read the manual of the 2-stroke engines regarding fuel oil mix and use high quality oil.
4-stroke engines run on pure fuel and they are much cleaner to operate. However, they require periodic oil check and oil change according to the manufacturer recommendations.
Note that 2-stroke vacuums/blowers are usually smaller, lighter and less complicated to maintain.
Gas powered leaf vacuums and blowers are generally noisy units and their engines release exhaust gases, with high CO2 content and with not the most pleasant smell. Also, they are harder and more complex to maintain when compared with electric leaf vacuums.
Because of these features, gas powered leaf vacuums and blowers are mostly commercial units, used outside small gardens and backyards.
Electric Corded Garden Leaf Vacuums, Mulchers and Blowers
Electric corded garden leaf vacuums and blowers are most common leaf vacuums found in home gardens and backyards.
Since they are electric, they are very quiet during operation, they have no exhaust fumes and they are easy to use and maintain.
High-end models are just as strong as leaf vacuums with internal combustion engines, but they depend on external power source in the form of mains outlet or gas/diesel/solar powered electric generator.
Note: gas powered garden vacuums are more efficient than gas powered generator in combination with corded electric vacuum.
Transition of electric leaf vacuums/blowers from one function to another is quick and easy to do and is often done without use of any special tools.
Biggest drawback of corded electric vacuums is dependence on mains power. Their range of motion is limited with the length of the extension cords and when buying one, it is good to measure your garden, backyard or driveway first and buy extension cord of required length and thickness.
Note: electric corded garden vacuums come with very short power cord, or with no power cord at all. It is highly recommended to buy them as combo (vacuum + cables), especially when found on sale.
Electric Cordless Garden Leaf Vacuums, Mulchers and Blowers
Cordless leaf vacuums share all pros and cons with home vacuums. They are quiet during operation, have limitless range since they don't require mains outlet to operate and can be used at the moment notice.
However, their power and operation time is limited by the amount of energy stored in the on-board battery.
To preserve the battery and prolong operating time, their power often can be finely tuned to match their job and type of debris.
In order to extend their operating time, multiple batteries can be used - one battery is used to power the vacuum, while another battery (or other batteries) are being charged. Note that even modern lithium batteries are drained faster than they can be recharged.
Cordless electric leaf vacuums can be rather costly, unlike corded electric leaf vacuums which are rather cheap without additional extension cord.
Since many manufacturers of cordless tools have standardized rechargeable batteries, if you do need cordless leaf vacuum, consider buying one without batteries which can use batteries you already have.
Garden leaf vacuums, mulchers and blowers can be of great help in any garden, just be sure to use them properly - always read the manuals, especially if you are taking vacuum apart to do some maintenance work.
Impellers are sharp and shred leaves and branches to small pieces with ease - keep your fingers and other body parts far away. For any maintenance work, if unsure what to do, take your leaf vacuum to the professionals and tell them what you want to be done.