It's Autumn and that means one, annoying thing needs clearing up – leaves. We've tested five of the best leaf blowers available to see which one is ideal for you.
You might view a leaf blower and garden vac as something of a luxury, but they’re actually very versatile tools that can be bought for as little as £50 to £100.
Of course, what type of 'blower' is best for you will depend on what you need to do. Here's what you need to know
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Leaf blowers are best for small gardens or if you're dealing with a large number of leaves that can't be easily vacuumed up. They only blow, but they're ideal for moving lots of detritus in one big pile that you can then collect up easily.
Garden vacuums are useful for small jobs – particularly the non-shredding types, as they're good for picking up general litter as well as leaves. They're not great for big jobs, though, as it'll generally take longer to run around sucking everything up than it will to blow everything into one big pile.
Combined leaf blowers and garden vacs are best for the great majority of people, due to their versatility. The main drawback is they can be fiddly to set up and often have extra attachments you need to store, which you could potentially lose.
We've already covered the different types of leaf blowers and garden vacs, but what else should you think about when deciding which one to buy? Here's a handy check list of questions when choosing which leaf blower to buy.
This sounds very obvious (and it is), but it's important. If you have a small garden then a smaller, lower-power blower or vac should suffice. Most people will be better off with a blower or combi blower and vac, but if you have a large amount of leaves then you'll need a more powerful, longer-lasting machine to get the job done. If you have a large area to cover, don't skimp on the machinery, as you'll regret it later.
If so, a straight garden vac without shredding is what you need. They're not as good at picking up and storing wet leaves, but they're a hugely versatile time saver.
Petrol is generally something you’ll only want to go for if you know you’re going to be working all day. Most battery-powered models only last well under 30 minutes, so if your garden is quite large you’ll probably need to go for a mains-powered unit.
Each time we test a leaf blower or garden vac we collect 3kg of damp leaves and scatter them over a 40m2 patch of lawn. We then time how long it takes to blow the leaves into a pile. Along the way we look at how easy the device is to handle, what its blowing power is and how loud it is.
For blowing power we stand at a fixed point and simply use the blower to create an arc in the patch of fallen leaves. We then measure the distance cleared by the blower. As for loudness, we hold a decibel meter at head height while operating the device at its usual position to the side of the body.
For vacs we then suck up the whole pile and assess how well the vac coped, checking for blockages, whether it can take in the whole pile and how easy it is to empty. We also assess how easy it is to switch from blowing to vacuuming modes – some multi-tube combi blowers can be quite a hassle to switch modes.