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A Guide to Garden Power Tools Selection II


Leaf Blower: Come the fall, all the lush leaves will fade to brown and cover your once-lovely lawn. Save yourself hours of raking with a leaf blower. The new models that both blow and suck can also be useful for cleaning up debris in your yard.

Leaf blowers also come in gas-powered, corded-electric, and battery styles. The task of the leaf blower uses quite a bit of energy, so a battery-operated blower's life between charges is quite limited and is best used if the task at hand is rather small.

The electric, corded blower is a good choice for home use, as it is a compromise between power and weight. These blowers have no emissions at the point of usage, start reliably and easily, and have plenty of power to move most leaf piles. Again, the cord can be a pain, as you'll be limited to within 100 feet or so of a power source.

Gas blowers are used by pros and can be the right choice for those who maintain a large estate. Gas leaf blowers come in handheld and backpack models, both of which are more powerful than their corded counterparts, with the backpack blower being the most powerful of the bunch. This power comes at the cost of a more difficult start, a need for tune-ups, and having to keep gas on hand.

When selecting a leaf blower, look for an adjustable air deflector, a convenient on-off switch, a good balance in the hand to minimize fatigue, a speed control, and a primer bulb for gas-operated models. The models that also act as a vacuum can come in handy, when cleaning the garage floor, for example.

Hedge Trimmer: If you have a lot of bushes and hedges, you'll quickly tired of trimming them by hand one branch at a time. This, instead, is a job for a pair of hedge trimmers, which uses two toothed blades that move side to side to pinch off branches.

Again, you'll choose between gas, corded-electric, and battery electric models. And again, the battery models are best for light duty, the gas models for very heavy usage. Most homeowners will opt for the corded model as a compromise between power and price, because both the gas and battery models are more expensive. Besides, the corded models are lighter and quieter, too.

The blade length of a hedge trimmer determines how fast it can cut, and contributes to overall weight of the device. Home landscaping models usually fall within the 16" to 24" range. The distance between teeth determines the maximum size of the branch you can cut, home models usually measure 1/2" to 3/4".

On some hedge trimmers, one blade moves while the other stays stationary, while on better models, both blades move thus making for a quicker cut. A wraparound handle will provide a firm grip, and you'll want a front-handle shield and tooth extensions to minimize any chance of injury. Choose a hedge trimmer that's well-balanced and light enough that it won't wear you out.

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