Letter to the Editor: Don’t Ban Leaf Blowers!

April 14, 2021

Submitted by Madeleine Altmann

It doesn’t really work to ban leaf blowers. People want their walkways and driveways cleared and tidy and a leaf blower is an effective time-saving tool for that job. Even if residents manage to ban leaf blowers for certain times it’s a nightmare to enforce, as evidenced in Newton and Cambridge. So the easiest solution is to replace the noisy gas-powered leaf blowers with quiet electric blowers.

The biggest complaint about gas-powered leaf blowers is the noise. Electric ones are substantially quieter. The misconception of purchasing battery-operated leaf blowers is that they cost more than gas-powered ones. In fact, electric leaf blowers that you plug in are less expensive than gas-powered ones, and the ones that operate with batteries are the same price as gas-powered ones. Another complaint is that electric landscaping equipment isn’t as powerful as gas-powered ones. That is no longer true.  Electric mowers and other landscaping equipment are as powerful at this point. The technology is amazing.

Sure you want a tidy garden but have you considered leaving the leaves under the bushes and trees where no one walks. This saves you money, is less work for you and it protects the important permaculture serving as an excellent fertilizer as well as mulch to curb weeds.

Don’t feel like doing it yourself? No problem, just go with a company that only uses electric equipment. I barely hear them work it’s so quiet. There are several that service Bedford or ask your current landscaping company to switch to electric.
Going electric makes sense for your pocketbook, your neighbors’ sanity, and the environment.

PS: The Town of Bedford is in process of replacing their noisier gas-powered landscape equipment with electric ones.

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Dan Smythe
April 18, 2021 12:38 pm

I hate leaf blowers, but I don’t think it makes sense to ban them, or even to require that they be electric. What I think makes sense is to put limits on their noise level. Most gas leaf blowers have noise levels exceeding 70 dB, but there are gas leaf blowers with noise levels below 70 dB.

A few years ago, when I was at Huckins Farm, I tried to put that 70-dB level limit in our landscaping contract, but the contractor argued that quieter leaf blowers are less powerful.
My research on the subject did not support that claim. Quieter leaf blowers can be just as powerful as the noisy ones, but they may be more expensive.

It does not make sense to argue that we are subjected to this noise only a few times a year. At Huckins Farm it was at least once a week from April through October or November. Now I’m at Carleton-Willard Village where the noise seems to be just as frequent as it was at Huckins Farm.

Madeleine Altmann
April 24, 2021 7:45 am
Reply to  Dan Smythe

Huckins Farm should look for new landscapers who respect the wellbeing of their clients and their community. I spoke with the owner of the company that maintains Huckins Farm ( a huge property in Bedford with over 160 condos ?) nice guy, said he uses electric at home but won’t bother with that at Huckins. Did not want to spend the money it would take to switch over I believe was his reasoning. Short term savings at the cost of his clients health vs long term savings that would help everyone including his workers, his clients, his community and our shared planet earth.

Joe Esposito
April 18, 2021 10:19 am

Technology changes what we do and how we do it. Often (not always) the changes are for the better. Electric equipment replacing gas powered will happen. The infrastructure needed will follow. Like electric cars I’ll bet a transition will happen sooner than many think. It won’t be mandated because that makes little sense and isn’t necessary. It will be a series of choices made for practical, economical and environmental reasons. The only slippery slope I worry about is pushing my mower up an incline of wet grass.

a nature lover
April 18, 2021 10:13 am

I think leaf blowers noise to people’s values. All of nature’s food chain pertains to plants and leaf litter. Read Douglas Tallmay’s “Bringing Nature Home.” If people want leafless, tidy, and sterile pesticide ridden suburban properties with little variety of native animals and birds, then loud gas powered equipment seems to be valued. Alternatively, if people want the rich natural world of native species, then more peaceful methods and solutions could be used.

Madeleine Altmann
April 18, 2021 8:51 am

You are lucky to have so much less noise in your hood. Well it’s more than a few minutes a couple times a year, in my neighborhood the noise is for hours and hours daily weeks at a time. Yes electric leaf blowers make noise but way less than a gas powered ones.

They whole point is to not have blanket legislation because it does not work for leaf blowing. It’s just about not driving your neighbors crazy with that high pitched sound. Frankly I wish more people would just use rakes and brooms! It would cut down on the noise but also on all that dust that blowers produce.

Philip C Poor Jr owner of Patriot Landscaping, Inc
April 15, 2021 8:19 pm

Hello, I wanted to reply to this article that was written by someone who seems like a homeowner, myself being an owner of a local landscaping company and a Bedford resident. I hear your concerns about the noise and the environment, but I disagree with some of the points that you have made in this article. I have investigated electric backpack blowers and first, they are more expensive than gas powered (once you add the machine, batteries necessary to work an 8–10-hour day, the charging system and up-fitting the trucks for charging stations, the cost basis almost triples). Second, the technology is getting close, but it is not there yet. Hopefully in the future it will get better, just as it took time with electric cars, because I would love to cut my fuel costs down. Third, when demoing the backpack blower, it does not have the same power as a Red Max 8500 backpack blower, which is a common backpack blower used by landscapers, which helps us do a thorough job. As far as the town is concerned, I believe it is a pilot program with one lawn mower, which I believe costs over $20,000 (please do not quote me on this as I am not 100%). If landscapers are forced to go electric, people should be prepared to pay 2-3+ times more the current costs of their landscaping because of not just the added expense of the machinery but also the loss of production. I think a lot of the noise complaints stem from people being home for the past year due to Covid and are no longer at work when we show up to do our job to maintain the value of their property. Just my two cents for what it is worth.

Madeleine Altmann
April 18, 2021 9:00 am

This is not the information I have. You just have to do a little shopping around to know this is incorrect. But you all decide. Look it up and decide for yourselves. Electric is here and it works better than gas powered because it does not pollute the planet as badly and that is good for our community. Just ask the town DPW who needs industrial powered equipment why they are switching to electric and if you think it’s a bad idea I would make a point of complaining. It’s our taxes at work.

Mike Merrick
July 18, 2023 9:22 am

Madeleine you should share your information here if you think Phil is wrong. I would love to see your “information”.

Andreas Uthoff
April 18, 2021 9:30 am

Unfortunately, I have to question some of the statements you make here.
First, battery powered equipment has a higher upfront cost, but you do save a lot in fuel, maintenance, etc. So over its lifetime it’s not much more than conventional equipment.
Second, an increasing number of people think that the technology is good enough to go electric. That’s why more and more pro-grade equipment manufacturers offer those tools.
Third, you are absolutely right, the electric blowers don’t have the power of the Red Max. But how much power do you actually need to blow away a few leaves? And even the Red Max doesn’t do a good job when it comes to wet leaves.
Nobody is forcing landscapers to go electric, it’s just that people will take their business somewhere else.
And regarding your claim that electric is 2-3 times more expensive: We actually hired an all electric landscaping company. The cost for their service is exactly the same, but without the noise.

George Carrette
April 18, 2021 9:15 pm

I run ecoquiet lawn care LLC and use electric leaf blowers. Our services don’t cost 3 times more. We beat some people’s prices in fact with those 15000 dollar mowers you speak of. The biggest thing we try to get people to do is keep leaves on site and use leaf plows. It makes my whole operation around 59 dba while being fast enough to make descent money. Up front cost is an issue, but with super low interest rates I know it is possible because I did it.

Hit me up if you want some advice or consulting on the matter.

Owner of an electric landscaping company for 7 years.

Madeleine Altmann
April 20, 2021 3:48 pm
Renu Bostwick
April 21, 2021 8:32 pm

I have the highest respect for Burlington, VT! What a forward-thinking city and state! The faster the transition to electric happens, the better the chances for our children to have a livable climate.

Dan Carroll
April 15, 2021 5:22 pm

Please leave the leaf blowers alone. If Bedford caves in to mandating this, then you best hide your snow blowers.

Lucy Weinstein
May 18, 2021 12:53 pm
Reply to  Dan Carroll

Nobody is planning to ban snow blowers (but indeed maybe there are good electric ones…. I haven’t looked into it. A very poor “slippery slope” analogy. But is a perfectly tidy lawn worth the health and environmental hazards of leaf blowers? Here’s a brief quote from a medical summary of their hazards (since they are 2 stroke engines, with more than 30% of the gas used being wasted into the air.
“Exhaust pollutants released or churned up by gas leaf blowers include volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – Benzene, 1,3 butadiene, acetaldehyde, and formaldehyde. These are HAPS: Hazardous Air Pollutants (defined by the US EPA as pollutants that cause or may cause cancer or other serious health effects.) Also released are nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and carbon dioxide, which are considered “Criteria Pollutants” (harmful to public health and the environment). , Even low level exposures have been associated with respiratory and central nervous system effects. GLB pollutants such as hydrocarbon vapors, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide react in the presence of heat and sunlight to form ground-level ozone, the major component of smog, and a known respiratory irritant and risk factor for cardiovascular disease. ”
There’s much more, if you look at Quiet Communities.org or Huntington Calm.
Visit AGZA (American Green Zone Alliance) -run by a former landscaper – for info on electric alternatives.
Not surprising that most people aren’t aware of the harms of the leafblowers. I wasn’t either until a few years ago and having done some research.
What’s more important – -the health of our children, pets (they suffer too), elderly, landscape workers and those with heart and lung disease, or a perfectly manicured lawn?

From an environmental health pediatrician.

Meighan Matthews
April 15, 2021 8:03 am
Madeleine Altmann
April 18, 2021 8:27 am

Love them, use them, they are so quiet!

Richard
April 14, 2021 9:08 pm

Amen!

Rob Carlson
April 15, 2021 8:30 am
Reply to  Richard

I have an electric leaf blower that’s only 2 years old and it’s pretty loud. I think this notion is completely subjective and a slippery slope. Who determines what “too loud” is? If gas powered leaf blowers were banned, at what point are electric leaf blowers deemed “too loud”?
We, as a society, need to stop trying to enact blanket legislation to remove mild irritations. America is a free and open society. With the awesome freedoms that gives us every day, also come some things that might temporarily irritate. If listening to a leaf blower for a few minutes a couple times a year is the price I have to pay for having all the other awesome freedoms…so be it. I’m ok with that. We all should be ok with it.

George Carrette
April 18, 2021 9:17 pm
Reply to  Rob Carlson

Rob my electric leaf blowers are 59 decibels. I can have a crew on your yard and you won’t here us from inside. No gas blower can do that.

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