What is a Leaf Blower and How Does It Work? An Introduction.

Whether you want to learn more about the inner workings of leaf blowers, or you just are a complete novice to the topic of leaf blowers, you have come to the right place.

In the following article, I bring you an overview of how leaf blowers work and what they can do for you. I will introduce different designs, engine types and features such as vacuuming.

Categorizing Leaf Blowers

Leaf blowers can be broken down into 3 design types, each of which can be powered by 3 power sources. Each has their pro’s and con’s and thus, it is important that you chose the most suitable one for your circumstances.

Leaf blowers can be categorized:


In summary, electric and combustion engines differ by design.

In general, electric motors are simpler, as they only require two parts – A rotor and a stator, upon which a charge is placed via the power source and a commutator, if the engine is battery-operated (the difference being that the battery provides DC, while the power cord provides AC).

Gasoline-powered blowers differ by their engine’s design both compared to electric engines, and between themselves, as they can be either 2-stroke or 4-stroke. The strokes refer to the fraction of movement in which the engine performs fuel intake, compression, combustion and exhaust (refer to the videos below for a clearer picture).

The main differences between the two are…

  1. The number of pistons needed to carry out the sequence and thus, their weight (the 4-stroke being higher and heavier).
  2. The fact that 2-stroke engines produce more torque at low rpm, whereas 4-stroke engines produce more torque at high rpm (comparatively).
  3. The 2-stroke engine requires fuel/oil mix for proper lubrication.

Furthermore, a spark plug, an exhaust, a muffler, a carburetor and a starting mechanism are required by the gasoline engine, all adding to the overall dimensions and weight of the engine. Lastly, keep in mind, exhaust fumes and noise emissions are produced as a result of the combustion.

In general, this pays off. Gasoline-powered engines can achieve much higher outputs than their electric counterparts, though this is not a strict rule.

*For a detailed overview of each engine, check out the following videos.

Electric Motor:
2-Cycle Engine:
4-Cycle Engine:

Further on, the function of both electric and gasoline engines is identical – to rotate the impeller, which propels air using its blades.

The Result

The above described process creates a constant airflow (CFM). Air is propelled by the impeller, out through the nozzle. Remember that while the airflow is a constant, the speed (MPH) and by extension, its impact force, are a result of the diameter of the nozzle.

Users should keep this in mind when comparing different models and make sure they understand the difference between CFM and MPH.

For illustration, imagine putting out 50 birthday candles by blowing air through a straw. While you may achieve much higher MPH than without the straw, you can see how this method would be somewhat inefficient.

Blower Vacs

You may also find that our site features so-called blower vacs, which can both blow air and vacuum it. When switched to the latter mode, rather than expelling, the nozzle sucks in air, along with leaves and possibly debris, all of which are collected in an attached bag. Their inner design remains mostly the same as of any leaf blower.

In most cases, the leaves are shredded by a mulcher. The design of the mulcher can vary. It may be a stationary or a rotating blade. In some models, the impeller itself acts as a mulcher. However, regardless of the design, what should be compared is the result, e.g., the mulching ratio.

As awesome as it may seem, the efficiency of vacuuming is much lower than the former blowing, due to the short effective range of the vacuum. It is therefore not advised to vacuum your entire yard. Instead, leaves should be first piled onto a single pile using the blower, and the pile should only then be disposed of by the vacuum.

As a footnote, we leave you with the following video, showing you the insides of a 2-stroke, handheld blower.

What is your favorite type of blower? Why did you choose this type? Let us know in the comments below!



Manager and editor of leafblowerguide.com. He worked over 10 years for a well-known global company manufacturing outdoor power equipment, before starting his own landscaping business.

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You can compare as many blowers as you wish. However, for the best results, we recommend you to compare only 2 blowers at a time.