Raking leaves is one of the great rites of fall, just as gathering grass clippings is a common task in spring and summer. If you’ve got a small yard, maintenance can be a somewhat pleasurable task. But if you have a large property – or a number of mature trees that dump leaves so thickly you can hardly see the grass – it may be time to consider a leaf blower or blower-vacuum.

Leaf blower

A leaf blower makes collecting leaves or clippings a breeze.

Photo Credit: Black & Decker Corp.

Backpack leaf blower

A backpack unit is worn to help distribute the weight so you can use the tool more comfortably for longer periods.

Photo Credit: Black & Decker Corp.

Simply put, a leaf blower is like a monster-sized hair drier without the heat. It acts like a power broom to sweep or blow leaves or clippings into one spot so you can collect them more easily. In fact, even the lightest and least powerful of these power tools tout themselves as power sweepers or power brooms. And they’re fine if you just want to blow light yard debris and grass clippings off walks and driveways without pulling out a big piece of equipment.

If you’ve got heavy-duty tasks to complete, however, you might look into a leaf blower-vacuum. This tool has two functions: It can blow, like a simple leaf blower, as well as suck up leaves. The fancier models even shred leaves to compact them and turn them into ideal material for composting. The most elaborate models also bag the leaves as they suck them up and shred them. (And the bigger the bag, the less often you’ll have to empty it into either your compost heap or lawn-waste bag.)

As with most power tools, you’ll have to decide between electric and gas-powered models. Electric models tend to be less expensive (starting at about $40). They’re lighter, don’t pollute and are definitely less noisy. Of course, they’re also less powerful, and you may have to deal with a power cord of limited length. If you opt for a battery-powered model, just realize that the batteries can take a long time to charge, tend to die out permanently over time and run down more quickly with each use than you might prefer.

Admittedly, gas-powered models are more powerful. But they also tend to be heavier, more expensive, require more maintenance and emit enough emissions (and noise) that some communities have even banned them – all important points to consider.

Whether you’re looking at electric- or gas-powered models, you’ll find basically three different styles of blower and blower-vacuums on the market:

Handheld units are by far the most popular. They’re available both in electric- and gas-powered versions. However, once you use these for an hour or more, they’ll start to feel heavy. (And the larger models tend to vibrate.) Handhelds are good for smaller yards, and they start at around $30 for blower-only types. Models with a vacuum function start at around $70.

Backpack-type units are heavier than handheld ones, but they come with a harness that you wear like a backpack to distribute the weight so you can use the tool more comfortably for longer periods. These models are nearly always gas-powered because electric versions tend to be light enough not to warrant a harness, and they’re good for larger yards. The less-expensive units start at about $125.

Walk-behind units are designed to cover large areas. Mounted on wheels and gas-powered, they’re pretty much professional-level pieces of equipment. They suck up leaves, shred them, deposit them quickly or collect them. Expect to pay at least a few hundred dollars for one of these, with some models easily hitting the $1,000 mark.

If you’re getting tired of all the raking and gathering – the leaves, the clippings, the trimmings – consider a leaf blower or blower-vacuum. With the right model, your gardening chores will get a lot easier!