Why leafblowers?

My HOA has engaged a small army equipped with leafblower-backpacks to police the fallen leaves around the swimming pools and sidewalks. These monstrosities are extremely loud, noxious, and worst of all inefficient. I watch a fellow this morning blow air at a pair of fallen leaves, trying to move them from the pavement into some bushes, and the leaves were stubbornly resisting arrest. He made a racket and spewed toxic fuses into the atmosphere for three or four minutes in this endeavor.

The chief inefficiency, however, had to do with where he was trying to relocate the leaves: into the bushes., where they would sit for a day or two, until the wind inevitably blew them back onto the pavement. I had the thought that maybe these two leaves, appearing and reappearing on the pavement, constituted 65% or more of this man’s annual labor.

The question that occurred to me is the question in the thread title. Why not a vacuum, sucking up the leaves and other detritus into an enclosed space that could be emptied out into the trash or the compost heap or wherever? Better yet, from an environmental perspective, a broom and dustpan, though I understand that, quiet and unpolluting as that is, it probably requires more effort on the workers’ part than either a leafblower or a vacuum. But where did the HoA, or the subcontractor, get the notion that leafblowers rather than vacuums were the way to go?

  1. Compared to raking (or vacuuming, which many leaf blowers can in fact do), they’re much easier to use. Simply stand in one spot and swing the blower in a ~45° arc and the ground will be cleared with almost no additional effort. Move a few feet and repeat, or simply run the blower as you walk in a concentric circle in your yard. Much easier than raking, especially for large open lawns.

  2. They’re fast. One person with a blower can clear several thousand square feet in just a few minutes.

  3. They’re versatile: they will blow away (well, into a pile) not just leaves but pine needles, grass clippings, and cones off a lawn. They’ll similarly clear a driveway of dirt, dust, stray leaves and grass clippings, and even stray pieces of gravel. Construction workers find them useful for clearing away sawdust. I suspect this versatility is particularly useful around a pool where actual cleanliness is as important as appearance. I suppose a shop vac would provide the same service but one would be constantly stopping and emptying the canister, plus it would require electricity. A leaf blower set to vacuum and mulch would work, but care must be taken to avoid cones, gravel, and similar unsuitable bits.

A gas-powered leaf blower running at 8am is the bane of suburban existence and I despise them as much as the next guy but a battery powered machine used in the afternoon by a homeowner working to keep his yard tidy shouldn’t be too much of a bother and really it often is the best tool for the job.

To do it right means to blow the leaves and grass clippings and stray twigs into a pile and then dispose of said pile properly by using a couple of lawn rakes to put the leaves etc into a suitable bin or compost pile. If someone spent several minutes trying to move two leaves from the pavement to the ground under a bush, the problem is user error, not a failure of the machine. He would have had better luck simply bending over and picking up the leaves if he was indeed that concerned about them. Perhaps his real motivation was to be able to stand still for 5 minutes yet have a plausible excuse for doing so.

I used to be more anti-blower than anyone I knew - until I got a rechargeable electric one. But, of course, they won’t clear EVERY SINGLE BIT OF DETRITUS. If want that level of clean, every once in a while you might want to - I do n’t know - bend over and pick something up?

I still think gas ones should be outlawed.

The reason they are so loud is because they don’t have mufflers. The reason they don’t have mufflers is that mufflers lower the power output of the engine, and thus the resulting air stream is weaker. Some cities have begun instituting noise limits on leaf blowers, which means that the only ones allowed would be gas blowers with mufflers or electric ones. Electric wouldn’t really be feasible for landscapers since they can’t really blow all that long before needing a charge. Hopefully more cities enact these kinds of requirements to tone down the noise level of the blowers. I would suspect that even the workers would prefer quieter machines since it has to bother their ears even if they are wearing ear protection.

We’re soliciting bids to pay for the GMO of yellow jackets such that they’ll respond to the sound of leaf blowers by attacking the person holding the device and by covering the air intake vents.

I wanna move back to the city where it’s nice and quiet.

It’s easy to carry a couple of batteries and swap them out. I found electric blowers very effective. (for a few hours anyway.)

I agree. Battery powered blowers are great for homeowners who are just doing a bit of blowing around their own house. But they need to make sure they get one with sufficient power. Many of the cheap ones have low-voltage batteries and wimpy power. They’re only for good blowing a bit of light debris off of a dry sidewalk. The ones which are comparable to a plug-in or gas blower will have big, expensive, high voltage batteries.

This, unless you’re trying to clear an acre or two. I live in golf course community and some of the HOAs hire landscapers while my HOA doesn’t, which means I don’t have to pay for a service I can do myself. It takes me about 10-15 minutes. Gas powered ones the landscapers use don’t bother me that much. When I take my dog outside for his daily walk I wear earpods which block out external noise.

In terms of versatility, where I live, leaf blowers make an excellent snow removal tool after a light frosting.

I get at least an hour from each battery.

That is indeed what California is doing - starting 1/1/2024 you will not be able to purchase a new gas-powered blower (and other small gas-powered tools):

A homeowner uses a battery once a week for a short time. The landscapers that do work for an HOA will typical use many blowers many hours a day many days of the week. The batteries for the good blowers are $150+ with a limited lifespan. I’m not sure that it would be economically feasible for a landscaper to use batteries. They’d have to carry a bunch of charged ones with them to last the day, and continually purchase new ones as the old ones died.

With regards to using a blower versus a vacuum, it’s much harder to vacuum stuff up rather than blow it around. You can demonstrate this yourself at home. You have to get your vacuum tube very close to a piece of fluff on the floor for it to be picked up, but you can easily blow that fluff with a fan or hair dryer. A blower will have a powerful, narrow stream of air that can easily apply force to what it hits. A vacuum will suck in air from all directions around the nozzle. There is not a strong, narrow stream of air being sucked into the vacuum. They do have leaf vacuums that they attach to mowers to suck up fall leaves, but they have to drive directly over the leaves much like a regular vacuum cleaner. They are not as cheap or easy as using a leaf blower to blow the debris off of whatever you want it off of.

I’ve seen people blowing the leaves onto the street. This might be in anticipation of the city coming by with a vacuum truck, but in the meantime, the leaves just blow back onto that or another lawn.

We pick up our lives with our lawn tractor, bagging them and using them as mulch. We have a battery powered leaf blower that we use to clean up the walkways because my gf likes a tidy yard. Years ago she bought a backpack ICE lawn vacuum. It sucked. Clogged too easily and the bag filled up in a few minutes, then needed disassembly to dump.

Ouch. I am sorry.

Isn’t that what it’s supposed to do?

Why? We also mulch our leaves using the mower, collecting them in the bag, then use as…well, mulch. We collect so much that we also have a leaf composting bin. Free nutrients.

I hate gas leaf blowers so much. Where I work, we will get a fleet of 4-5 of the backpack ones that run for hours outside our building. I don’t really need noise cancelling headphones, but I’ve thought of buying them for just those days.

Yep, our overflow leaf litter goes into the horse manure pile, eventually becoming black gold.

We compost everything we can in 4 tumbling bins along with the bulk fenced leaf pile. We once got a load of horse manure but sadly that connection is gone. We have a lot of garden beds, mainly vegetable growing beds (think 30 tomato plants, 30 peppers, enough garlic to sell at a farmers market, etc), so use everything we compost but horse manure added would be great!

I’m guessing it was a joking reference to your typo.

In addition to the noise, ICE leaf blowers create huge amounts of air pollution, far more than regular automobile engines.

A 2011 study by Edmunds found that a two-stroke gasoline-powered leaf blower spewed out more pollution than a 6,200-pound Ford F-150 SVT Raptor pickup truck. Jason Kavanagh, the engineering editor at Edmunds at the time, noted that “hydrocarbon emissions from a half-hour of yard work with the two-stroke leaf blower are about the same as a 3,900-mile drive from Texas to Alaska in a Raptor."

From here. (Gift link to NYT article.)

Between the horses and the hens, we are blessed with manure. Everything grows.