Companies include a host of different features on their units to make them easy for an operator to use. You may have to do some research to find the options you prefer.
"One thing a contractor should do is go to their dealership and try on some backpack blowers and see how they feel," Larsen says. "There can be big differences in comfort level between machines."
Stop that infernal racket!
Noise is by far the biggest complaint you hear when it comes to gas-powered blowers. Past blowers emitted a loud, whining noise during operation, which would fluctuate like a siren according to throttle speed. This noise at 6 a.m. on a Saturday could be disruptive in a residential area, and it's these blowers that incited the dozens of regulations and bans on gas-powered blowers across the country.
Manufacturers became well aware of the noise problems and how these bans and regulations were affecting the industry. They spent a great deal of time on research to reduce blower noise, with many companies coming up with great advancements.
"It's actually the impeller that causes that high-pitched, annoying noise that people tend to complain about," Larsen says. "So designing impellers that are quieter is a main focus for manufacturers right now. And through operator training, as far as what times to use a blower and how to operate them correctly, we have avoided a lot of issues across the country as far as these complaints."
Both Shindaiwa and Echo have backpack blowers with significant reductions in dB(A). Echo Industries sells three gas-powered blowers that have 65 dB(A) at full throttle — two of them backpack units, the PB-260LN (low noise) and the PB-460LN, also known as the "Quiet 1." About 10 years ago, Echo blowers of a comparable size were about 76 dB(A). The reduction down to 65 dB(A) represents a nearly 75% noise reduction. Shindaiwa's EB240 hand-held blower and its EB480 backpack blower register less than 70 dB(A), and the EB630RT backpack blower is less than 70 dB(A) when operated in the "Hush Mode." All have further reduced dB(A) when used less than full throttle.
Backpack blower manufacturers across the industry have spent a lot of time and research in order to comply with EPA and California Air Resources Board (CARB) regulations on small engines. As of January 1, 2005, the EPA and CARB regulations agree. The state of California no longer requires a stricter set of emissions regulations. Over the last decade or so, emissions standards set by these two entities have fueled an emissions reduction for small engines by as much as 90%.
"We've taken emissions from 230 grams of hydrocarbons per horsepower hours down to less than 37. The standard is 37, but the assembly line production level has to be much lower in order to be sure we never go over 37," explains Will.
This major reduction in hydrocarbon emissions was established through fine-tuning carburetion and mufflers, and in some cases completely redesigning engine components requiring new engine block lines, cylinder lines, and piston lines, which are expensive manufacturing machines.
"Primarily leaner carburetor settings and smaller jet sizes have been our main focus for reducing emissions on backpack blowers, and in that regard there hasn't been a problem in meeting emissions standards," Larsen says.
The small engines industry has made great strides in reducing noise and emissions in order to make their products more appealing to the public. Now it's up to contractors to embrace those changes and help turn around the negative and outdated perception many people have about these products. This can be done through the proper use and operation of modern quiet leaf blowers.
Measuring blower noise
Gas-powered blower manufacturers use a sound measurement that's standard across the industry. They measure dB(A) (decibels weighted on the A scale) at 50 ft., from eight different points, and average those readings together for a result. Decibels are measured on a logarithmic scale. For example, a 6 dB(A) reduction results in a 50% reduction in sound. If noise were reduced another 6 dB(A), it would result in a 75% overall reduction in sound.