Let’s talk about leaf blowers

December 1, 2023 · 1 minute read
Let’s talk about leaf blowers

Leaf blowers can be an uncomfortable subject in the green industry. People and companies who use leaf blowers know them as an irreplaceable tool in yard maintenance. People and communities who oppose leaf blowers will cite a list of problems that they cause.

Full disclosure: Truetimber uses backpack blowers. Tree work is messy. Leaf blowers do the final clean up from pruning and removing trees more quickly, and more thoroughly, and with less damage to grass and landscape plants than raking. Leaf blowers move a lot of small material with minimal impact on yards and landscapes. However, we all should recognize that this useful tool does come with some costs.

Most gas-powered leaf blowers have 2-stroke engines. These small engines put a lot of power in a small portable package. The downside of these engines is emissions. 2-stoke engines have a significant amount of unburnt gas and oil in their exhaust. They also do not have catalytic converters like your car does to clean the exhaust. The pollution that they create is different from a car, but some compare the pollution from 1 hour of leaf blowing to 1,100 miles of driving in a car.

Leaf blowers also create an issue with airborne dust. Depending on the season and location, this dust can have mold spores, pollen, dried pet feces, and pesticides.

Leaf blowers are noisy. A leaf blower operator can use hearing protection, but the noise may be more than an annoyance to neighbors. Some argue that the 55 decimal plus noise of leaf blowing in a neighbor’s yard can lead to tinnitus and arterial hypertension.

This tension between the usefulness of leaf blowers and the issues they cause is real and growing. Over 200 municipalities in the country have some level of restriction on leaf blowers. Some have banned gas-powered leaf blowers altogether.

There are alternatives that can lower the impact. Inexpensive battery-powered leaf blowers can handle a lot of jobs with minimal pollution and a lot less noise. Mulching lawnmowers can recycle a lot of the leaves back into your yard. Some people choose to let the leaves stay in at least some parts of their yard to improve soil conditions and create habitat.

Before any of us fire up a leaf blower, we should at least recognize the problems they cause and consider alternatives.