Tested This Issue
- Mitox 280BVX
- EGO 56V lithium-ion
- Lawnflite MTD SC4
- Makita DUB362Z twin 18V
Mike Baldwin Director of learning, Broomfield Campus, Derby College
Mark Ekin Course lecturer, Broomfield Campus, Derby College
Leaf blowers are indispensable tools in the autumn, able to clear fallen leaves and debris quickly and with little effort from the operator. But they can have other uses too.
After mowing with a rotary, a leaf blower is perfect for cleaning the pathway and blasting the clippings back onto the lawn. Similarly, following hedge-cutting duties the blower can round up the fallen material for collection and then send any remnants flying into the bottom of the hedge.
Leaf blowers are also great for dispersing water. They are marvellous tools to grab if you need to quickly dry off a park bench or a picnic table. The machines can also be used to dispel dew from lawns, enabling an early start to grass cutting.
In this test we looked at just four models. All are handheld. But we are keen to see whether today's cordless models can match the power of petrol, so we put two petrol units, the Mitox and the MTD, up against the Makita and EGO, both of which take their energy from lithium-ion batteries.
The test was conducted at Derby College's Broomfield Campus and weather conditions were wet. We will return later in the year to test the latest backpack blowers.
Mitox 280BVX -Petrol
Do not be fooled by this blower's description of being for the home/landowner. With its gutsy 27.6cc engine, this air-cooled two-stroke blower is up there with the big boys' tools. It has got power yet it is remarkably comfortable - and just look at that price.
Many blowers put up a battle, twisting your arm outwards and quickly tiring your biceps and wrist. Not this one. It is a dream to use. Thanks to a cleverly designed kink in the blower tube, gyro forces are almost non-existent even when generating a gale up to 72m/sec - an amazing 160mph. But the comfort factors do not end there.
For a high-performing petrol blower, this is a light weight. It has a soft-touch handle and while it may be, as you would expect, a little bit on the noisy side, vibrations are recorded at just 2m/s2 - not bad for such a powerful unit and one technically designed for and targeted at the homeowner market.
The 280BVX is also remarkably easy to use. Sitting very squarely on the bench or ground, fuelling up is a doddle. A decent toggle on the start cord gives a nice grip and it is easy to fire up. Cruise control allows speed to be set and takes the strain out of working the machine. It also has an auto choke and when the blower is switched off it automatically returns to "start", ready for the next pull.
As a blower the unit comes with round and flat nozzles. But it also comes with a collecting bag. Yes, in its other life this unit is a vacuum. Switching between blowing and vacuuming modes is surprisingly quick. While sucking up debris, the shredding function reduces the volume 12:1.
But what we like is the attention to detail that has gone into the 50-litre collecting bag with shoulder strap. Look closely and you find that one side - the side that goes next to your leg - is made of thicker material, so protecting the wearer from dirt and dust. The other side is made of a thinner material to allow the machine to breathe.
Only testing machines for a day or two means we cannot report on reliability in the long term. Neither can we fully comment on the ability to cope with day-after-day use, or abuse, in a commercial or contracting environment. But this Mitox is well built and gives us no reason to think it would disappoint.
Engine Mitox 27.6cc two-stroke
Air speed 72m/s
Fuel tank capacity 400ml
Noise pressure LPA 93.9dB (A)
Weight 4.7kg as blower or 5.8kg as vacuum
List price RRP £199 including VAT
Tel Rochford Garden Machinery - 01963 828000
EGO 56V lithium-ion - Battery
The EGO blower is the new kid on the block and it has attitude. Somewhat chunky in appearance, this machine has muscle yet gives you all the quiet-running, low-vibration, petrol-free operation you expect from a battery powered tool.
The fan in this unit has been inspired by the aeronautics industry and it delivers air velocity in one of three settings: Lo, running at 20m/s; Hi at 33m/s; or Turbo at 50m/s. This gives you the choice of settings appropriate to the job and the option of a longer runtime. You can expect an hour of work in low speed when using the 2.0Ah battery or 10 minutes if using the turbo boost.
The 6.0Ah battery could see you working for up to three hours.
Despite the stocky build of the blower, its balance is remarkably comfortable. Control is simple with a lock-off lever, trigger, speed adjustment knob and boost button. The battery is held securely in place with a locking mechanism.
We like the attention to detail on this blower, such as the two hanging holes that mean you could stow the tool on a shed wall or a rack system in a van.
However, what we do not like is the moment's delay between pressing the trigger and getting a full air blast. The soft start is too soft and when you are in a rush it is just slightly annoying.
Nevertheless, we feel this blower is a good model for contractors with a garden round and small estates needing to clean up in the autumn or after mowing.
Battery 56V lithium-ion
Motor 54V DC brushless
Air velocity 50m/sec (boost), 33m/sec (high), 20m/sec (low)
Max air volume 13.5m3/min, 10.8m3/min, 7m3/min
Sound pressure level 82dB (A)
Vibration level 1.067m/s2
Weight 2.34kg without battery + 1.3kg, 2.1kg or 2.9kg depending on the battery
Runtime 35 minutes, depending on speed setting
Charging time 25 minutes (2.0Ah), 30 minutes (4.0Ah) or 45 minutes (5.0Ah) using the rapid charger - 40 minutes, 80 minutes or 115 minutes using the standard charger
List price £129 (body only) or £229 with 4.0Ah battery and standard charger - including VAT
Tel Henton & Chattell - 0115 986 6646
Lawnflite MTD SC4 - Petrol
Another petrol powered blower but this one is a four-stroke rather than two. The advantages of four-stroke machines are immediately clear - there is no fuel to mix but you have to remember there is an oil-filler as well one for petrol.
We like the way the SC4 sits firmly on the ground to make fuelling easy and limit the risk of spills. Starting the machine is effortless, with the Advanced Starting System significantly reducing the tug needed to fire up the engine.
Being four-stroke, the engine naturally makes this model a little heavier. It weighs in at 5.7kg but with a well-positioned handle providing a good angle with the ground, the balance of the unit means the extra weight goes unnoticed by our testers.
But they do notice the quieter running of the four-stroke. This model has a deeper tone and it is not so shrill to bystanders' ears. That can be a real advantage when working on a residential site.
The testers also find it a "fierce" blower. "It's got a good blast, clearing everything in its sights," says Ekin. "With something this powerful you would expect gyro forces, but it is not pushing my arm out."
The SC4 has a heavy-duty fan and quickly clears everything in its path. Nothing stands in its way, not even wet leaves, puddles of water or slurry-like mud. Wind speed is nearly 150mph.
Engine MTD 25.2cc four-stroke
Air speed 66.6m/s
Fuel tank capacity 400ml
Max air volume 12m3/min
Weight 5.7kg blower
List price RRP £219 including VAT
Tel EP Barrus - 01869 363636
Makita DUB362Z twin 18V - Battery
This is powerful. Just for fun, and because it's monsoon weather outside, we retreat to an empty polytunnel and pitch the Mitox petrol machine against the Makita in a game of blow-leaf.
A barrow-load of leaves is emptied in the centre and two operators try to force the leaves past each other to the end of the tunnel. After a few seconds, nearly all the leaves have been pushed past the Mitox's goalie. Then we realise the Makita has a flat nozzle and the Mitox a round one. When they are both fitted with round nozzles, it's advantage Mitox, but the game certainly shows how much battery power has come on.
On a serious note, there is loads to like about this Makita blower. It has the freedom of a petrol machine but without the noise, smell or weight. Its power comes from two 18V lithium-ion batteries working in series to supply energy to the 36V DC brushless motor.
The batteries are easy to insert and lock with a positive click. Their power levels are displayed on the dual battery gauge and operation is as simple as squeezing the trigger. The trigger is variable speed but a dial on the side allows six volume/velocity settings to be programmed and a lock button lets you maintain a constant air speed. It gets maximum points when it comes to control.
We love the soft start - there is no sudden jolt into operation but neither is it so painstakingly slow that you lose time waiting for the machine to run.
Makita offers the blower as "body only". You may need to buy batteries and charger separately, which could spike the price. But maybe you already run Makita kit that has 18V batteries. Or perhaps you need a brushcutter and hedge trimmer so can spread the cost between several items of kit. The advances made in cordless technology, along with recent developments that have taken the kit into something with commercial potential, make this worth a closer look.
Battery Two 18V lithium-ion
Motor 36V DC brushless
Air velocity 54m/sec (high speed), 27m/sec (low speed)
Max air volume 13.4m3/min
Sound pressure level 79.1dB (A)
Vibration level 2.5m/s2
Runtime 35 minutes, depending on speed setting
Charging time 22min (3.0Ah), 36min (4.0Ah) or 45min (5.0Ah)
List price £350 (body only) + VAT
Tel Makita UK - 01908 211678.