Today’s contractor has more choices when it comes to blowers. In addition to advances in backpack blower technology, handheld models have become a viable option for professionals.
Many of the handheld blowers on the market today are packing a little more punch than in the past. Certain units can even produce wind speeds in the 160- to 190-mph range, which is right on par with many popular backpack models. But that doesn’t mean you should mindlessly reach for your handheld each time you pull up to a property—especially when serious power is needed for extended periods of operation.
A blower’s overall performance comes down to more than just wind velocity (mph). You also want to consider air volume (cubic feet per minute, or cfm) and engine power (hp and cc), not to mention user comfort features that improve ergonomics and boost productivity.
Where, and what, you’re blowing
You also want to look at the types of properties you’re maintaining. Handheld blowers are useful on those quick jobs where convenience is important and noise is of concern.
“We’ve seen growth in demand for commercially built handheld blowers in the last few years,” says Jennifer Dobbs, a sales and marketing specialist for RedMax. “Businesses who want a clean appearance in front are buying them because they’re a quick and cost-effective way to clean off sidewalks.
Municipalities and homeowners are buying them for the same reason. We’re also seeing more demand from landscapers, primarily because more high-end homeowners are outsourcing their lawn care.”
Jay Larsen, Shindaiwa’s marketing manager, says the backpack blower is still the No. 1 choice for landscape professionals, but a commercial-grade handheld can also be an important tool for your trailer. “The handheld is typically faster from truck to task, making it ideal for smaller, residential-type jobs,” Larsen says.
Joe Hickey, a product manager for Stihl Inc., says handhelds are also more efficient if you’re going to be starting and stopping frequently. “Keep in mind that you generally have to take your backpack off to start it back up, or have a co-worker start it back up for you,” Hickey points out. “With a handheld, you can just set it down and pick it back up quickly.”
Jeff Nesom, a product specialist for Husqvarna Forest & Garden, says handhelds are also easier to maneuver in tight areas. Plus, some models can be converted to a vacuum, making them effective when working around flower beds, patios and pools.
The generally quieter handheld also lends itself well to hospitals, condos, shopping centers and resorts, although backpacks have come a long way in terms of noise reduction. In fact, some manufacturers now offer backpack blowers with a lower noise rating than their handheld models.
Something else to consider is the type of materials you’ll be blowing. “Larger, drier leaves are easier to blow and don’t require as much power,” Nesom says. “Pine needles, however, are among the most difficult debris to move, so they require more force.”
You also want to factor in the surface you’ll be working on. Debris slides better on hard surfaces. More coarse, porous surfaces require more power. “Brick patios and decks typically require more blowing power than cement or asphalt,” Nesom points out. “Grass is even more challenging.”
Measuring true performance
It’s all about matching performance to the task at hand, which is why it’s important to consider performance ratings such as mph and cfm. Larry Will, Echo’s retired vice president of engineering who continues to serve the company in a consultative role, says it’s also important to understand the relationship between velocity (mph) and volume (cfm).
“The velocity dislodges leaves and debris from the ground, behind bushes or under cars,” Will points out. “The volume carries the debris away once it’s airborne.”
Hickey adds, “The biggest misconception with blowers is mph. In actuality, you have to look at cfm and mph together. Think about a garden hose.