Leaf Blower Facts
From our yards, to city parks and sports stadiums, leaf blowers continue to be the most effective and efficient way to maintain a variety of landscapes and venues. However, outdated ideas and information about leaf blowers have led to some inaccurate perceptions of their value in daily lives.
Today’s leaf blowers are a far cry from the first blowers of the 1970’s. Today’s blowers are quieter and cleaner: operating as much as 20 decibels lower, and generating up to 80 percent less emissions than their predecessors. When used correctly and courteously, state of the art blowers can accomplish quiet, clean and efficient tasks with minimal impact on the surroundings, residents and bystanders.
Quiet Leaf Blowers
Regardless of the variety of arguments presented, the desire for some to over-regulate leaf blowers usually boils down to one issue: noise. In response to noise concerns, manufacturers have spent millions of dollars and dedicated more than 15 years to the development of quieter gasoline, electric, and battery-powered leaf blowers. Today, through a variety of impeller upgrades, as well as engine and exhaust system improvements for gasoline models, “quiet leaf blowers,” emitting 65 dB(A) or less, are readily available from several manufacturers. These quiet leaf blowers offer reasonable alternatives to outright leaf blower “bans,” with reduced sound pressure levels as much as 75 percent from their predecessors.
Leaf Blower Emissions
Another common discussion surrounding leaf blower ordinances is emissions. Though some think that leaf blowers are unregulated, high-emitting sources of exhaust gas emissions, this reality is that this is simply not true. Manufacturers have worked with agencies worldwide for more than 20 years to develop regulations to control pollutants from small engine powered equipment, including leaf blowers. Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is on its third phase of pollutant controls for this category of equipment, resulting in greater than 80 percent reduction in exhaust gas emissions from previously unregulated machines.
Dust and Debris
Persons supporting leaf blower ordinances often suggest that in order to reduce the spread of dust and debris, those needing to remove leaves, or clean concrete and asphalt, should instead use rakes or brooms. However, a 2006 study by the University of California, Riverside, found that rakes and brooms have little or no significant benefit for reducing total suspended particulate matter (TSP) versus leaf blower use for similar tasks. The study showed that TSP output was minimal for both blowing and raking a lawn, while comparable TSP values were achieved by using a blower or push broom when cleaning dust and debris from concrete and asphalt.
In addition to reasonable ordinances, proper blower use should significantly reduce each of the complaints noted above. OPEI has created a bilingual manual to help educate users on safe and courteous use of leaf blowers. The manual, “Leaf Blower, A Guide to Safe & Courteous Use,” discusses general rules, such as make sure bystanders are 50 feet away, as well as providing tips for courteous operation, reducing sound, reducing dust and increasing efficiency.