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Blower vacs review

These garden tools are quicker than using a rake or broom, but also noisier and dirtier.
 
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01 .Introduction

Blower-vacs

Test results for 15 blower vacs with built-in mulcher from $60 to $508

We tested eight petrol models and seven of the corded electric models for:

  • Speed of cleaning
  • Ease of use
  • Noise level and vibration

Findings:

  • Most of the tested models make quick work of clearing up leaves, but they are noisy and dirty.
  • Some models are more uncomfortable to use than others.
  • All the tested models turn the leaves into nice fine mulch.

See our other tests on garden tools in our backyard tools category. CHOICE tests are different. We buy the products we test — no freebies from manufacturers. Companies can't buy ads on our site and our work is funded by people like you.

Brands tested

Electric

Black & Decker GW270-XE (A)
Homelite GBV2400 (A)
Ozito BVP-2400 with Patio Head (A)
Ozito OZBLV2400WA
Ryobi RBV2400VP (A)
Ryobi RBV3000VP (A)
Stihl SHE81

Petrol

Gardeners Choice GCV260 (A)
Homelite HBL26BVN (A)
Husqvarna 125BX (required purchase of vacuum kit) (A)
McCulloch M325 (A)
Morrison EBV 260 (A)
MTD BV3100
Ryobi RBV26 (A)
Sanli SLBV260

(A) Discontinued, but may still be available in some stores.

How we test?

Our tester, James Thomson, scatters 5 kg of dried leaves over 10m by 10m of paved ground. He times how long it takes to blow all the leaves into a pile, convert from blower to vacuum mode, and vacuum up the pile of leaves.

A time of seven minutes got a score of 90%, and 42 minutes a score of 20%. For comparison, it takes 42 minutes to clean the same area using just a broom.

James also checks how easy each model is to use. This includes converting it from blower to vacuum mode, using its controls, emptying the bag, and how comfortable it is to hold and operate.

 
 

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First, ask yourself whether you really need a blower vac. In most yards with only a moderate quantity of leaves to clear up, a bit of exercise with a rake or broom is probably a better option. It’s certainly quieter and cleaner. CHOICE staffers were very glad the test was over - we even had neighbours near us complain about the whine from the products, so make sure you really need one.

As an alternative, you might consider getting just a blower rather than a blower vac. Our tester reckons using a blower to gather all the leaves into a pile, then picking them up by hand, is often an easier option than fiddling around with converting from blower to vacuum (for most petrol models). Of course, the leaves won’t get mulched if you pick them up by hand.

If you do decide you need one, decide which type suits you best, petrol or electric. Then look for the following:

  • A well balanced model that’s not too heavy (remember it’ll get heavier as the bag fills up).
  • A collection bag that’s easily removed and emptied, and not too large. The bigger it is, the heavier it’ll be when full.
  • Comfortable handles.
  • Easy conversion from blower to vacuum mode, preferably without needing tools.
  • A built-in mulcher that shreds the leaves as they’re vacuumed up. Most of the tested models claim a mulching ratio of around 10:1 — that is, 10 bags of leaves reduced to one bag of mulch. However, we found the ratio to be more like 4:1.
  • Variable speed, so you can use just enough power to keep the leaves moving without blasting them away.
  • A trigger lock or similar feature that lets you operate the blower vac without holding down the trigger the whole time, which can be tiring.
  • Easy access to the fan area to clear blockages.
  • A model that doesn’t vibrate too much. Turn it on in the store if possible and check it.
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