Blowers are in big demand - and not just for chasing autumn leaves into neat little piles. This is an item of kit that can and should be used all year round. When you want to make an early-morning cut, a blower can be used to knock the dew from grass blades before the mower starts work.
They are also the ideal tool for flicking gravel off grassed areas and back onto the drive or pathway. After mowing, and especially if using a rotary or mulch mower close to paths, the blower can push clippings back into the sward. They are also great for tackling the debris after hedge trimming or in the clean-up after a gale.
Following events or around picnic areas and car parks, a handheld or backpack blower should be part of the team tasked with clearing away litter. What about using the blower to disperse water from benches, seats and hard surfaces following a shower of rain? They can also help clean down and dry machinery.
Pellenc Airion: blower in use by Leicester City FC grounds manager John Ledwidge - image: Etesia
Handheld or backpack?
There are plenty of blowers on the market. Handheld units make a great grab-and-blow solution for small jobs while backpack versions take the strain off the arms and offer an easy answer where it is necessary to walk between operations. There are petrol models or, for users wanting to show green credentials, battery powered blowers. For larger areas such as playing fields and golf courses there are even tractor-mounted blowers.
One of the newest petrol-powered blowers on the market comes from Echo Tools. The PB-580 backpack model boasts a host of features to help reduce fatigue, including a ventilated backpack pad, Stage 2 compliant 58.2cc engine, four anti-vibration springs and padded shoulder straps. The blower's handle has a newly designed palm rest and hand stop to reduce the chances of the operator's hand slipping down it. The air filter cover can be removed without tools, making in-field maintenance simple. There is also easy access for tightening the throttle cable.
Makita also has a new backpack blower. The EB7660TH has an airflow of 20cu m per minute and an air speed of 92m/s thanks to Makita's MM4 75.6cc four-stroke engine delivering 3kW of power. Vibration is 3.5m/s2 and the weight without fuel is 10.9kg.
Battery powered tools have come a long way in recent years but can a battery blower be as effective as a petrol-driven machine? The answer is yes. What's more, they are often lighter than petrol machines and boast additional benefits of low noise, reduced vibration, no messing about with fuel and no fumes, plus they can be used indoors - in the workshop, sports hall or polytunnel.
Leicester City FC made headlines last year, becoming Premier League champions. Behind the scenes, grounds manager John Ledwidge uses mowers, aerator, scarifier, seeder, top dresser and line marker to prepare the pitch at the club's King Power Stadium. He also has a range of Pellenc battery powered tools, including an Airion blower.
"The Pellenc equipment had been recommended to me on a few occasions so I felt that I needed to see them in action," Ledwidge recalls. "To be honest, I was a little sceptical because I wasn't sure if you would get enough power out of battery products compared to a petrol engine."
The hedge cutter, chainsaw, pole saw, Rasion Smart rotary mower and the blower were put to use. So what does Ledwidge think now? "We have been over the moon with all the products but the one we use the most is the Airion blower. Not only do we use it for clearing leaves and debris but we also use it to 'blow off' our machinery. Everything that goes into our store has to be clean and dry. For that reason we use the Airion blower on the highest setting, which knocks all the water out of the bearings or joints.
"For me, it's always about the end product. Is it as powerful as a petrol engine? Yes. Does it do as good a job? Yes. If all that falls into place as well as having the added bonus of being environmentally friendly and better for my staff to use, then it makes complete sense. I think more and more people are gaining confidence in battery powered equipment and they are right to do so."
Votex B40: purchased for Cotswold Hills Golf Club by course manager Wayne Vincent
Professional battery models
All the main players that offer petrol blowers now supply battery alternatives for professionals. Echo Tools recently joined the pack with a range of lithium-ion 50V battery products, including a blower, all featuring advanced motor control to maintain high performance while reducing energy consumption and thus increasing the intervals between charging.
Boasting the lowest noise and highest airflow, the 536 LiBX introduced by Husqvarna last year features Li-ion technology but is designed for backpack use only. It comes equipped with a belt hook for convenience, has an LED display to indicate percentage power/charging level and weighs just 2.5kg, excluding the cable. Use it with a Husky backpack 36V battery to get up to three hours operation time.
Developed for power and convenience, the Makita DUB362Z brushless LXT blower runs up to 21,500rpm and produces a maximum air volume of 13.3cu m/min with a maximum air speed of 53m/s. Makita says this compares favourably with a four-stroke backpack contractor's blower with 19cu m/min volume and 90m/s speed. Air volume and speed can be adjusted to six settings with variable control by the trigger to achieve consistent delivery. Weight is just 4.5kg. The three-stage telescopic nozzle gives 100mm of adjustment on the overall length of the pipe.
Bosch also delivered a new battery blower last year. The ALB18Li provides 18V cordless freedom in a lightweight tool weighing 1.8kg. Airspeed is 130mph (58m/s).
In some locations, bigger equipment is needed. This is when purchasers turn to tractor-mounted units, just as Cotswold Hills Golf Club course manager Wayne Vincent did. Every one of the 18 holes at the club has at least two copses running along the fairways or around the greens, giving an issue of leaves and debris. Vincent found most methods of leaf removal take a great deal of man-hours or require equipment too big to manoeuvre in and out of the trees. But then he discovered the Votex B40, supplied by Campey Turf Care Systems, fitted his criteria.
"I wanted something that would fit onto the back of our small compact tractor but didn't want anything wider than the tractor because it would get banged on the trees and we didn't want anything that was going to stand out too far at the back and make it difficult to manoeuvre through the trees.
"I also wanted a 180 degs swivel head. The nozzle is very important because when we get a pile-up of leaves and debris we can adjust the angle to wherever we need it. When you're blowing in one direction it won't always shift the pile, but the ability to change directions with the same power really helps."
Using the B40, Vincent has been able to reduce the labour required to shift debris. It fits well on his tractor, can be manoeuvred through the copses and provides plenty of power. That power comes from the intuitive design applied to all the models in the Votex range. Called "forced air guidance", the principle uses a double-sided inlet to maximise air intake without enlarging the turbine. Capacity might be high but the weight of the rotating parts is low and this lack of weight prevents overcharging of the tractor powertrain when thrown into gear.
Another site using a tractor-mounted blower is Richmond Golf Club. A parkland course just nine miles from central London, the 105-acre facility features 18 tree-lined holes, giving course manager Les Howkins an additional maintenance challenge. But he recently invested in a Trilo blower from Vanmac.
The Trilo BL960 was chosen because a lot of power is needed for clearing leaves from large spaces. Howkins already had a Trilo vacuum, but the reverse exhaust spout sealed the deal when choosing a blower. On the BL960 the spout can be adjusted 180 degs, altering the direction of airflow so leaves can be cleared to left or right of the unit.
"This was a big plus point for us," he says. "Also, the manoeuvrability of the blower is great and we can get in and out of the areas, blowing leaves in the required direction without the need to turn around. We are also able to get under the trees and blow the leaves into an open area where we can then come along with our Trilo vacuum and take them away."
The largest blower in the Trilo range, the BL960 requires a 50hp tractor, has a 385cu m/min capacity and 75m/s airspeed.