A leaf blower is an engine-powered, hand-held maintenance tool used in lieu of a rake or broom to remove leaves and debris from a lawn or garden by blowing them away. Most often the debris is blown into a pile to be collected, or blown into the gutter to be swept up by a municipal street sweeper.
A leaf blower has a small motor at one end, and a long neck or snout that directs a continuous blast of air. Leaf blowers normally weigh 6-12lbs (2.7-5.5 kilograms); some blowers have a shoulder strap while larger industrial models sport a backpack style for longer wearing comfort.
Leaf blowers can be used to clean any outside area quickly, including decks, patios, balconies, porches and sidewalks. Many leaf blowers now are blower/vacs. With a flip of a switch the blower can switch to a vacuum to suck up leaves and mulch them. Some electric models also have rechargeable battery packs to avoid the hassle of using an A/C outlet and trailing a cord.
Leaf blowers were invented by the Japanese and introduced into the U.S. in the 1970's. While becoming quickly ubiquitous they have also been contentious from the start due to their very loud engines which average 70-75db at 50 feet (15m). Gas-powered leaf blowers are generally louder than electric leaf blowers.
Some cities have passed various restrictions on using leaf blowers, or have banned their use all together. Others cities are in the process of trying to pass similar laws. Critics maintain the decibel level of leaf blowers can cause hearing loss, and that the gas-powered blowers emit extremely high levels of pollution. Others complain the leaf blower is being singled out and is no louder than gas-powered edgers.
By 1997 sales of leaf blowers in the U.S. reached 1 million annually and were still rising. Though the gardening industry continues to enthusiastically support the leaf blower, its fate is uncertain in many cities whose residents would rather see a return of the rake and broom.
If you are interested in purchasing a leaf blower, check with your local city hall for any restrictions that might apply.