Leaf Vacuums & Mulchers
Leaf vacuums, also known as blower vacs, are devices designed as an alternative to leaf blowers. As their name suggests, not only do they blow leaves – they also suck them.
Since our site filters out blowers by the ability to vacuum, we will focus on that aspect specifically.
Most blower vacs are shaped like classic handheld blowers, though there are some exceptions. For example, this walk-behind model from Sun Joe. The body of the blower always contains both the nozzle and the engine through which the leaves are collected.
The leaves are stored in an attached bag, usually made from nylon. The overwhelming majority of them feature a mulcher, which converts collected leaves to mulch – Imagine a smoothie mixer as an analogy. This reduces the volume of the leaves and increases the capacity of the bag per number of leaves.
Most blower vacs are both electrically powered and corded, with only a few featuring their own battery. Several models are also gas-powered.
Characteristics – What to expect from blower vacs
The specs of both electrically and gas-powered vacuums are roughly equal, with the latter being on the higher end of the spectrum in terms of their power. Their average engine displacement of 27 cc allows for an average of 403 CFM and 194 MPH (learn more about these values). These stats are comparable to other handheld blowers. However, a direct comparison between the two cannot be made – Vacuuming a leaf requires a greater CFM than just blowing it. The electrically powered devices follow gas with a varying, yet almost always lesser CFM, while maintaining a roughly equal MPH.
Gas powered vacuums are almost exclusively powered by 2-stroke engines, which require a mix of gasoline and oil. Since most vacs are handheld, their fuel capacity is limited 10–20 fl.oz.
Almost all electric vacs are powered by 12 A/120 V engine and are corded, due to the weight limitations of their handheld design. This can greatly limit their range. While there are a few cordless alternatives, they are less powerful, and their period of autonomy barely scratches the 1-hour mark.
Blowers only move the leaves from one place to another. Once that is done, disposing of a giant pile of leaves is messy, especially on a windy day. Blower vacs offer a neat solution. They collect the leaves for you into a bag and even convert them to mulch.
However, this function is a double-edged sword – the capacity of the bag is limited by its volume and the mulching ratio (a conversion rate of bags of leaves to bags of mulch) of its mulcher, if there is one present.
Thus, unlike in the case of a blower, you may end up needing to halt your work several times to empty your bag, which many users report as annoying. Lastly, blower vacs have a smaller effective range than blowers and their users should be prepared for some extra walking.
For maximum efficiency, it is recommended to use the blower to blow all the leaves onto a pile and then using the vacuum function to get rid of them. With that said, it still may be more convenient to use the vacuum directly on small lawns or on windy days.
Most vacuums are designed as handheld devices. They are quite flexible and mobile. However, their weight may be a limiting factor for users with an impaired physical condition, or during longer operation times. In addition, the attached bag may get in the way when performing chores, as does the cord in the case of corded devices.
Blower vacs are some of the quietest landscaping equipment on the market. Gas powered blower vacs rarely reach 80 dB. Electrically powered vacuums are even quieter, rarely scratching 70 dB.
With that said, be sure to check the noise regulations in your area, since some leaf vacuums may break them. Also check with the manufacturer about the necessity of hearing protection, as it may be recommended for some of the louder models.
Blower vacs require moderate amount of maintenance. Electrically powered devices tend to need less care than gas devices, which require preparation of gas/oil mixture and regular oiling for proper function.
Regardless of the power source, a leaf vacuum sucks the leaves in and thus, must be cleaned after each use to prevent blockage, damage and mold. This applies to the collection bag and the mulcher as well.
Leaf vacuums can be fairly cheap, starting at prices as low as $48 for the cheapest leaf blower vacuum and reaching a maximum of $429. This is roughly comparable to any other handheld blowers, though some high-end devices exceed the latter price mark.
Who are they for?
Blower vacs are very attractive to one specific group of consumers – those who live in an area where leaf blowers are completely banned. It’s a cheeky loophole, but if not specified otherwise, vacuums are technically not leaf blowers. Therefore, unless they are limited by their emissions, they are the only applicable alternative, apart from a rake.
Nevertheless, they are suitable for others as well. Many users may find it more convenient to vacuum leaves, rather than just blow them onto a large pile. In addition, leaves may be vacuumed directly. However, short autonomy/cord length limits their use to only smaller properties and small to moderate amount of leaves.
Leaf vacuums are a neat alternative to classic handheld blowers. They offer the same mobility as handheld blowers but are superior in their direct leaf collection – collected leaves are conveniently stored in an attached bag. Additionally, they normally also feature a mulcher – a device that expands their capacity by shredding collected leaves. However, their ability to directly collect leaves is limited by their autonomy, range, volume of the collector and mulching ratio. To get the best of both worlds, leaves should be blown onto one spot and then vacuumed.
- Convenient and time saving
- Quiet compared to most blowers
- Flexible and mobile
- Often inexpensive
- Lesser range (when corded)
- Limited operation time (bag must be emptied)
- Must be cleaned after each use