Which backpack leaf blower right for you? With models ranging from small residential units to commercial powerhouses, there’s a lot to consider from engines to features like remote throttles and interchangeable nozzles. Here’s what you should look for to find a blower to fit your needs.
Why Choose a Backpack Blower?
Backpack blowers fit between handheld and walk behind blowers and are available in a wide range of models. These can be separated into two major categories:
Residential models are designed for low weight and a low price. These are mainly intended to serve as an easy-to-use replacement for handheld blowers, taking the strain and vibration off of the operator’s hands and joints. The smallest of these blowers match the performance of the best handheld models.
Commercial models designed for maximum durability and performance. Since it’s easier for the operator to carry weight on their back, this design allows for much larger engines and impellers. Some models can be as much as 5 times more powerful than the best handheld models.
Leaf blower performance is measured in air speed and volume. Higher speeds increase force, allowing the leaf blower to move heavier material like wet leaves. Volume increases the amount of material that can be moved, cutting the time it takes to clear large areas.
The narrower the nozzle and pipe are, the faster the air speed will be at the expense of volume. Some models come with more than one pipe or nozzle to let you get the right balance for the material you’re moving. For example, switching from a round pipe to a turbo pipe on most Shindaiwa blowers will increase speed by around 15% and decrease airflow by around 10%.
Leaf blowers have a reputation for being so noisy that some areas have ordinances specifically banning these devices from being used during certain hours. To combat this, there has been a major industry-wide effort in recent years to tame this noise, which means you’ll likely notice a huge difference if your new blower is replacing a model built a few years ago.
The decibel scale is logarithmic so a blower rated at 80 dB will be twice as loud as one rated at 70 dB. While most outdoor equipment is rated by the amount of sound at the operator’s position, measurements for leaf blowers are taken from 50 feet away as a way to show how much you’re likely to annoy your neighbors. At the operator’s position, the blower will still be loud enough at the operator’s position to require hearing protection.
While the performance advantages of this design may be what draws most buyers, it’s the comfort features that really determines the usability for long hours of commercial use and simplicity for residential use.
The engine and impeller are carried using a pair of padded straps like you’d find on a backpack along with additional padding around the shoulders and back to help spread out the weight. Some models also include a waist strap, which keeps the blower from moving around when climbing slopes. Commercial models also include some form of venting around this padding to cut down on sweat, keeping the operator comfortable through a full workday.
A backpack blower should have an outer frame or large top handle. This makes the blower easier to pick up when putting it on, loading and unloading when moving between job sites and keeping the engine steady when starting.
While handheld blowers have the operator grip handles around the impeller, the nozzle position on a backpack blower is controlled by moving the outlet tube with a top-mounted grip. Better blowers will use a swiveling tube connected to the impeller housing along with a piece of flexible hose to connect the straight tube and nozzle. Taking the effort out of moving the pipe makes it much easier to target airflow on lawn debris.
Some high output models put the throttle on a separate hip-mounted handle. This lets you adjust the engine speed while keeping your aim steady so the leaves aren’t blown away from where you need them. Echo also offers cruise control on some of their professional models, letting the throttle be set and then released for reduced hand strain.
Finding the Right Blower and Servicing It
If you’re looking to add a backpack blower to your lawn care arsenal, visit the experts at Shank’s Lawn Equipment. We carry most major brands including Echo and Shindaiwa, and we’ve been selling and servicing outdoor equipment for over three decades, so we know what models will best fit your needs.
Need to fix your blower or other outdoor equipment? We carry parts for a wide range of brands. To order, visit our website, www.shankslawn.com. We ship across the U.S. and Canada.