04.What to look for
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.
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.