Are Leaf Blowers Worth It? Lawn Care Experts Weigh In


Yard and driveway maintenance is always a tall order. While manual tools have come a long way in terms of efficiency and ergonomics, our inner couch potato demands something a little simpler. Our focus today is on leaf blowers, and whether they are worth the investment.

Leaf blowers are worth the investment and much more if they are to be used in a commercial setting. For the average home owner blowers can be a significant aide. For the commercial crew blowers are exponentially more cost effective than other options.

The following is a brief exploration of various aspects concerning this popular garden tool. We will touch on benefits, drawbacks, health concerns, and legality issues. By the end, you will be able to determine whether a leaf blower is right for you or your crew. 

Pros And Cons Of Leaf Blowers?

Let’s start by looking at the good and bad sides of leaf blowers. While they present several useful benefits, some aspects could prove problematic for owners and the immediate environment.

Pros Of Using Blowers

  1. The first (and most obvious) benefit of using a leaf blower is convenience. The alternative to blowing leaves is to use a rake, which often takes significantly longer. The larger the yard/spread, the more you need a blower over a rake.
  2. The second advantage is that leaf blowers present better ergonomics than rakes. Raking can be quite strenuous on your body if done for extended periods. Back pain and stiffness are the common effects of raking. Getting a blower will significantly lessen the burden on you.
  3. Another positive is that leaf blowers can also clear other bits of debris and waste besides leaves. You can use a blower to clear grass clippings, twigs, weeds, or even snow. You can also use a blower to clear sawdust and dust bunnies from your workshop.
  4. The fourth benefit is the range of choice on offer. There are numerous reputable manufacturers and even more blower models to choose from. This makes comparisons easier, and the added competition ensures reasonable pricing in most cases. You also have different types and form factors that cater to various needs.

Leaf blowers can also have several other features besides blowing. One such feature is leaf suction, which makes it easier to bag leaves and light debris. This increases a leaf blower’s versatility and convenience significantly…especially when compared to a rake.

Blowers are also operable on different surfaces. Whether it’s your lawn, your driveway, your roof, or gutters that need attention, a leaf blower is always ready to get the job done.

Special note for professional lawn care companies…

In a professional application, whether dealing with private or commercial yards, leaf blowers can be the determining factor in whether a job is profitable or not. This is due to the operating costs of a blower versus the labor costs associated with other methods.

Cons Of Using Leaf Blowers

Now for some drawbacks.

Leaf Blowers are noisy

The biggest problem with leaf blowers is (arguably) how loud they can be. This is less of a problem if you live in a sparsely populated area or out in the country. It is more problematic if you have close neighbors who like to sleep in.

Leaf Blowers Aren’t Always The Best Choice For The Job

Another disadvantage is that leaf blowers are just as likely to cause an even bigger mess. Leaf blowers can blow dirt and other light debris in undesired directions and spaces.

A further potential con with leaf blowers is that it is difficult to sort and arrange leaves for bagging. Blowers without a suction or mulching feature are the most likely to present this problem.

Having a rake to finish the job usually is the best bet once the leaves are in a generally tight grouping. Trying to use a blower to move large piles of leaves or to get into bags is usually counter-productive.

Blowers Can Be Initially Expensive

Cost is also a significant concern. Leaf blowers are much more expensive than your standard garden rake. The price of a new leaf blower is typically in the hundreds to thousands of dollars. 

Rakes come in either the flexible leaf rake or the stiff multi-purpose style. They range in cost from $20 to $60 depending on the material used, size, and brand name. Some work better than others for different jobs, but essentially they all are used the same way.

Blowers on the other had have a wide range of styles, from the hand held electric to the four cycle backpack style. There are even extra large versions that attach to commercial style mowers. They can range anywhere from an $18, 6 amp hand help electric blower with cord to a several thousand dollar version that hooks to farming or lawn equipment.

Yes. Leaf blowers save time and effort. They are 200% better than a rake.

Rodney Kiser, 15 Years Professional Lawn Care Experience, Grandpa

Here is a comparison on the costs associated with rakes vs blowers…

ToolAverage Initial CostUpkeep CostFuelEffort Required
Rake$30High
Electric Leaf Blower$75MinimalLow
Gas Powered Leaf Blower$175$10/yr$10/yrLow

Not only must you contend with the steep(ish) purchase price of a leaf blower, you also have the small issue of repairs and maintenance. Blowers are made up of a lot of moving parts that are prone to general wear and tear. You may also experience freak mechanical issues on occasion, so be prepared.

While they are generally a better ergonomic choice than rakes, leaf blowers are heavier than rakes. You might need a full-time gym membership to wield some of the handheld blowers out there!

Are Leaf Blowers Effective?

Gosh yeah. In the landscaping business you can’t really operate without leaf blowers. They make everything from leaf to grass cleanup off of driveways and lawns practical. It’s hard to make a living without them.

Jerry McMillan, McMillan Lawn Service, 40 Years Experience, Great Grandpa

Leaf blowers are definitely effective for clearing, gathering, and disposing of fallen leaves. They are also very effective at clearing driveways and sidewalks of small sticks, grass clippings, and stray leaves. They are less effective at moving large piles of leaves once gathered.

Leaf blowers are the best way to clear a lot of leaves in a short space of time. As we mentioned earlier, bigger spaces are much more difficult to clear using a rake. Raking involves a lot of physical exertion while using a leaf blower requires users to simply carry/push and aim the tool.

A large space would require a team of rakers to clear the same number of leaves a single blower can remove. There is simply no comparison.

However, a leaf blower may be less effective than a rake for smaller spaces and yards. This is especially true if using a blower could result in leaves and debris being blown into your house or a neighbor’s property. 

What is the best leaf blower for the money?

With many great leaf blowers available at your local hardware retailer and online, the consumer is king. This forces manufacturers to curb their prices to keep competing.

Of course, you will always have the top-of-the-range/ feature-heavy tools that will cost you a few limbs. However, those of us looking for a bargain have not been neglected.

Introducing the Worx WG520 Turbine 600, the best budget leaf blower around. This 12-amp electric blower is a feature-laden tool that will see you through the autumn.

The WG520 Turbine 600 uses innovative fan technology that makes it faster and quieter than blowers at this price point. Heck, even pricier gas-powered blowers are in for a run for their money with this bad boy. 

You get two speed settings that improve versatility in open spaces and tight gaps. The leaf blower maxes out at 110mph, which is more than enough to make quick work of any mess. The lower speed setting blows air at a rate of 60mph.

Other notable features include:

  • Air volume of 600 cubic feet per minute
  • Hyper-stream air nozzle
  • One-handed operation (weighs only 6.5lbs)
  • 11 ½-inch electrical cord with retainer
  • Easy assembly and disassembly 

Are Leaf Blowers Bad?

There are movements of people that are diametrically opposed to leaf blowers. The reasons for their concern and even outrage at the machines usually falls into two camps:

  1. Complaints about noise pollution
  2. Complaints about air pollution

Leaf blowers are not bad. They are simply machines used in either responsible or irresponsible ways. Blowers are invaluable tools for some home owners and definitely for lawn care workers. They are tools that can be used in a bad manner, but this doesn’t make them bad in and of themselves.

Are there concerns about leaf blowers that are legitimate? Absolutely. They are loud and at least for the gas powered ones there is exhaust that smells a bit and is pushed out into the air. The problems though are more on the annoyance level than any safety or health related concerns.

They are machines that help lower paid manual laborers and small business owners do their jobs efficiently enough to earn a living. In some instances they help home owners that are unable to exert the effort required to rake the leaves from their yard that could eventually hurt their lawns.

The benefits of leaf blowers far outweigh any concerns.

The machines or normal usage of them are not bad in and of themselves, but they can be used to extreme and at improper times. To be fair though, this can be said of a great many things.

Case in point:

I have lived in many different environments in many parts of the United States. In several locations there were dumpsters either in the community I was in or even across roadways at nearby businesses. The amount of noise that garbage truck operators would make slamming the doors of these dumpsters to make sure all trash entered the back of the truck was excessive and usually occurred early every morning.

Are garbage trucks bad? Of course they are not. They emmit exhaust, are loud, and smell fairly bad. Yet, without them these lower paid workers couldn’t do their jobs correctly and we would have mounds of trash piling up.

The machinery is not the problem, it is the improper use by professionals and home owners alike that should be addressed.

Leaf blowers are not bad, even if those who operate them at times use them in inappropriate ways.

Can Blowing Leaves Make You Sick?

There is much that has been written and said about this issue that has strained reality to its near breaking point. These leaf blowers can cause some slight issues with those suffering from allergies, eye problems, or asthma. Yet, the risk is very minimal and most of the complaints stem from those simply not liking the noise they create.

Though there may be some slight adverse health issues with leaf blowers, the amount of effort and exaggeration that pervades the internet on the topic usually stems from the annoyance many feel surrounding the noise they make.

In rare cases, the use of a leaf blower can cause unforeseen problems to your health. Blowers can throw dust and dirt in a person’s eyes, which is annoying at the very least. At worst, it can lead to eye and facial injuries.

Blowers can also raise allergens like pollen into the atmosphere. This could expose you or others to potentially severe allergic reactions. 

With all of this said, the health risks associated with you or others using leaf blowers is minimal. Here is a list of some of the issues and simple ways to overcome them.

ProblemRisk LevelIssueSolution
Spreading of pollen into the airLowAllergiesFacial coverings or distancing
Spreading of mold spores into the airLowAllergiesFacial coverings or distancing
Circulating tiny irritants into the air (leaves, grass clippings)LowAllergiesFacial coverings or distancing
Exhaust emissions from gas powered blowersNegligibleAir PollutantsFacial coverings or distancing
Flying soft debris (leaves, grass clippings)LowEye IrritationProtective eyewear or distancing
Flying hard debris (sticks, pebbles)ModerateEye Or Skin InjuriesLong sleeve shirts, long pants, and protective eyewear
Hearing loss at close proximityModerate to LowHearing LossProtective earwear

What Cities Have Banned Gas Leaf Blowers?

Despite their unquestionable utility, leaf blowers are not always a welcome sight in the United States. Issues like noise and air pollution have led to neighborhoods putting pressure on local governments to issue ban ordinances.

Banning leaf blowers is like taking away a mail truck from a mailman. Banning something because it is annoying and claiming it is because of health risks that actually are minimal is directly hurting working class lawn care employees and small business owners.

Mathew Booe, 10 Years Professional Lawn Care Experience, Grandpa

There are no national regulations nor statewide laws banning the use of leaf blowers and specifically gas powered ones. This is usually undertaken by more local governments in areas where residents complain about the noise in their suburban and upper-class inner city neighborhoods.

These ordinances change over time along with the residents and public officials in the area. Use these lists by state as a guide, but be sure to check with your local government for applicable laws in your community.

The following is a list of U.S. cities (by state) with such ordinances

  • California:
    • Belvedere
    • Berkley
    • Beverly Hills
    • Carmel
    • Claremont
    • Indian Wells
    • Lawndale
    • Los Altos
    • Los Gatos
    • Malibu
    • Mill Valley
    • Newport Beach
    • Ojai
    • Palo Alto
    • Piedmont
    • Santa Barbara
    • Solana Beach
    • Tiburon
    • West Hollywood
  • New York:
    • Bronxville
    • Dobbs Ferry
    • Great Neck Estates
    • Greenberg
    • Larchmont
    • New Rochelle
    • Russell Gardens
    • Sleepy Hollow
    • Tarrytown
    • Thomaston
    • Village of Tuckahoe
    • White Planes
    • Yonkers
  • Colorado:
    • Aspen
    • Carbondale
    • Westminister
  • Connecticut:
    • Greenwich
    • Ridgefield
  • Maryland:
    • Montgomery
  • Florida:
    • Palm Beach
  • Illinois:
    • Arlington
    • Evanston
    • Glencoe
    • Highland Park
    • Lincolnwood
    • Wilmette
    • Winnetka
  • Michigan:
    • Blackman Township
    • Cassopolis
    • Kalamazoo
    • Oakland
    • Richland
    • Roseville
  • Massachusetts:
    • Brookline
    • Cambridge
    • Longport
  • New Hampshire:
    • Portsmouth
  • New Jersey:
    • Princeton
    • Township of Montclair
  • North Carolina:
    • Chapel Hill
  • Oregon:
    • Portland
  • Washington:
    • Seattle
  • Texas:
    • Houston

Many other cities and states are set to follow suit as time goes on.

The Final Touches On If Leaf Blowers Are Worth It…

Leaf blowers are most definitely worth the upfront and ongoing investment. They are not only useful in many ways, they are actually one of the more fun pieces of lawn care equipment to use.

The health and annoyance issues associated with them are many times blown out of proportion by those with emotional responses to the noise levels they cause.

The environmental impact is minimal and can be reduced slightly with electric options over gas powered ones. (The truth is that most of these electrical options are powered by coal plants hooked to the local electrical grid.)

If you are planning on getting a leaf blower, don’t hesitate. By contemplating it, you more than likely have a job that would be much easier, faster, and more enjoyable to do with one rather than without it.

References

https://everythingbackyard.net/the-pros-and-cons-of-using-a-leaf-blower/

https://www.nonoise.org/quietnet/cqs/other.htm

https://hdsupplysolutions.com/s/leaf_blower_noise_regulation

Mathew Booe

Mathew has worked in landscaping professionally for over 10 years. He is a grandpa and frequently interviews other experienced landscapers and lawn care experts who are also grandpas for these articles.

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