Without a nozzle, the water just comes out. When you add a nozzle, or put your thumb over the end of the hose, the water comes out faster but you restrict the volume. You have to find that happy medium, which starts with asking yourself what you’ll be using the blower for.”
For instance, you want as much blowing performance as possible when the majority of your customers are commercial accounts, requiring you to regularly clean large parking areas or clear leaves off of lawns. On the other hand, you can have too much power for a given job. If you end up using that same 65-cc backpack blower to dust off grass clippings from a 40-foot sidewalk, even at half throttle, you could end up wasting money on fuel, through wear and tear on more expensive equipment, and by overworking employees with a larger, heavier unit.
The time of year can also play a big role. Larsen says velocity becomes important when you’re clearing heavy, wet leaves in the fall months. In dry conditions, or when clearing grass clippings from sidewalks in the spring and summer, volume is the more important specification.
Regardless, you have to be careful in evaluating measurements such as mph and cfm, especially when it comes to handheld blowers. “Most handheld blowers include a tube with a very small outlet area,” Nesom says. “This gives significantly higher mph but does not move much volume. For example, a 25-cc handheld blower rated at 185 mph will not perform anywhere near the level of a 50-cc backpack blower that can only blow 175 mph.”
Another thing to consider is the fact that some manufacturers label cfm at the fan housing, rather than at the end of the tube where it really counts.
According to Nesom, blower performance can actually vary by +/- 15% depending on the test method.
Furthermore, mph and cfm only provide an indication of actual performance. Another key performance indicator is the blower’s ability to create pressure. Blowers that cannot create good pressure typically struggle to move large piles of debris.
According to Nesom, handhelds often fall into the category of not being able to create strong pressure. “Despite their high performance ratings, handheld blowers will not perform as well when more power is needed,” Nesom says. “This is mainly due to their smaller engine size (32 cc or less), and the simple fact that they aren’t designed to create as much pressure as most backpack units. Unfortunately, there isn’t a published number for pressure that you can evaluate. But you can look at horsepower, because blower performance is directly related to engine power.”
Will explains, “More power means more air flow, and that means a greater area can be cleaned in a given time period. If there is little power, the nozzle must be held closer to the ground. Maybe only a two-foot-wide area is being cleaned without moving the nozzle.”
Nesom and Larsen concur that commercial-grade handheld blowers have become more powerful in recent years because of greatly improve impeller designs, not more powerful engines. “The only way to get a true feel for the actual performance of a blower is to demo it side by side with some others,” Nesom adds.
Convenience and comfort
Demoing is also the only way you’re going to get a true feel for how comfortable it is to operate a given blower. That’s because comfort is a matter of personal preference. “Some users prefer convenience to comfort,” Will says. “It’s always more convenient to grab a handheld unit than it is to strap on a backpack.”
But if you have a lot of area to clean, the lighter handheld may actually be more tiring in the long-run. Handhelds tend to fatigue the operator’s wrist, due to the gyroscopic effect of the impeller and internal components of the engine. While padded handles and lighter impellers have lessened this gyroscopic effect, most manufacturers and users would agree that, if operating the blower for periods longer than 15 minutes, a backpack will be a better choice from a comfort standpoint.
Several features go into making a backpack blower as comfortable to operate as possible. Weight is among the most important. Hickey says an extra four or five pounds can make a big difference, especially for operators who are blowing all day.