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Do You Really Need a Leaf Blower Vacuum?

Paul Hope

At first glance, leaf blowers with a built-in vacuum seem to offer a one-tool solution to blowing and bagging fallen leaves. But in a case of more may be less, many owners end up never using the leaf blower vacuum function, which isn’t designed to tackle large leaf piles and can be frustrating and messy to operate.

Indeed, manufacturers have started to drop leaf blower vacuum functions entirely, particularly from gas- and battery-powered models. But sometimes more can be just right. If you have a small yard and are diligent about keeping up with leaves as they fall or you want the vacuum for its intended function—sucking up leaves in corners or around bushes and flower beds—a leaf blower vacuum combo can save you time and effort. Here are some leaf blower vacuum picks from Consumer Reports' tests.

Best Bets

Plug-in electric blowers offer more models with vacuums than gas or battery blowers do, and many work well in small yards. The Toro 51619, $75, excelled at sweeping and loosening leaves, in large part because of nozzles that help concentrate airflow. The leaf blower vacuum is powerful and easy to convert—just snap on the broader vacuum tube and leaf collection bag. No special tools are needed to change functions. Leaves travel through a metal impeller, which mulches them to 1/16th of their original volume. The Toro Super Blower Vac 51602, $60, offers similarly strong performance and design, and you’ll save some cash.

For gas options, the Husqvarna 125BVx, $190, is the only vacuuming model tested that performed well enough to recommend. It earned top marks for sweeping and loosening, and it’s a strong vacuum as well. If you can live without the vacuum function, you’ll save $40 opting for the Husqvarna 125B, $150. Performance is almost identical, but it’s also quieter up close and at a distance, and weighs a pound less.

None of the battery-powered blowers we tested offer a vacuum function, and don’t expect to find that feature on wheeled or backpack blowers. It’s usually available only on handheld units.

How to Use a Leaf Blower Vacuum

Even if converting from blower to vacuum doesn’t require special tools, you’ll want to do it as little as possible. Start by blowing the bulk of your leaves into a large pile—check out clever strategies for dealing with leaves—and then switch to the vacuum. Use it to suck up any stragglers and to work around bushes and flower beds, where a blower could damage plants or send soil and mulch flying. And make sure to empty the bag right away and flip it inside out for cleaning. Lingering leaves, particularly if they’re wet, will break down and start to smell funky.
Whether or not you opt for a vacuum function, there are plenty of ways to use your blower beyond the yard. Those with vacuum functions are helpful late in the season for keeping porches, patios, and decks tidy as trees shed their last leaves. Some models (and aftermarket attachments) have curved nozzles specifically designed for blowing or sucking leaves out of your gutters. Just make sure to work safely if you’re using a ladder. And don’t rush to store your blower at the first sign of winter either. The blower function can be used to clear decks, patios, and walkways of a light dusting of snow before you need to break out the snow blower.

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