As Communities Ban Leaf Blowers, Homeowners Save Money by Raking



Citizens in my town of Takoma Park, MD are asking the city council to ban gas-powered leaf blowers because they are so noisy and generate so much air pollution. If the council agrees, our community will join many others around the U.S. that believe it is cleaner and healthier to rake leaves rather than blow them into bags or down to the street for pick-up.

Leaf blower Why are gas leaf blowers so offensive?

* They pollute the air. A single gas-powered leaf blower can emit as much pollution in a year as 80 cars.

* They're noisy.  A normal decibel level, considered acceptable in residential areas, is about 60 decibels (60dB). Every increase in decibels means noise that is 10 times louder. Leaf-blowers usually generate about 70-75 dB. According to the U.S. EPA this level of noise actually degrades quality of life by interfering with communication and sleep, leads to reduced accuracy of work and increased levels of aggravation, which can linger hours after exposure.

*  They worsen allergies and asthma and irritate the lungs. Because they operate at such high velocities, leaf blowers stir up the mold, allergens, and dust particles that otherwise have been tamped down with rain and decomposition.

*  They waste gas. Rakes and even electric-lawn blowers offer a petroleum-free alternative.

If you need a new rake, choose one that's at least 24 inches across for maximum efficiency, with tines made from either metal or plastic (wood or bamboo tines tend to break or rot). Here are more tips on buying a great rake. Shop at any local hardware store, garden supply center or big box store like Target, Lowe's, Home Depot, or Wal-Mart.

Leaf sweeper You can also try a leaf sweeper. It swoops up leaves into a handy collection bag as you roll it over your lawn or driveway.

If you opt for a leaf blower, make it electric. Notes Lowe's:

Electric leaf blowers are lighter, quieter and vibrate less than gas units. An electric motor drives the fan, so there's no need to mix fuel or refill. Smaller and medium-sized yards are especially good candidates for electric blowers. There are two types:

* Corded leaf blowers provide constant power as long as you have access to an electrical outlet. The attached cord limits mobility so this may not be the best choice for a lawn with lots of trees. Look for a cord retention system to prevent the cord from being accidentally unplugged during use. Also, use an electrical cord that's rated for outdoor use.

* Rechargeable/battery-operated leaf blowers are good alternatives for smaller areas or jobs. They work well on solid surfaces like driveways and garages. They're limited by their run time and the fact that they move less air than larger models.

Want information on other power tools? See this landscaping information.

19 Responses to As Communities Ban Leaf Blowers, Homeowners Save Money by Raking

  1. Kelly November 7, 2008 at 10:57 am #

    leaf blowers are what dog whistles are to dogs….loud, grating, annoying, waste-of-time machines. Get a rake and get some exercise! The same people who will recycle their crap, talk about green energy, etc. often use these high-pitched pieces of junk. Can’t think of many things more annoying to listen to.

  2. Sara April 9, 2009 at 3:45 am #

    I agree 100% with Rhea!!! The most annoying noise I’ve ever had to listen to on an otherwise beautiful day. Really spoils it. Whoever invented the leaf blower should be tortured himself with this noise every freakin day like I am!!!

  3. Ross April 13, 2009 at 12:11 am #

    I cannot stand them! My neighbors has a gardner that spends hours using gas lawn tools including the leaf blower. Just today he was here for over 7 hours?!?! How do I go about getting the city to ban these useless machines?

  4. Karen June 3, 2009 at 12:00 pm #

    Folks, we need to come together and maybe initiate a class-action lawsuit against the manufacturers to get rid of these things. Did you know they cause more pollution than cars? And that there are no emission or noise regulations at all on 2-cycle engines? Why not?
    By the way, electric leaf blowers can be as loud or even louder than their gasoline counterparts. I have a neighbor with one that I can hear five blocks away! Please don’t offer them as an alternative! They aren’t acceptable: 90 decibels of shrieking high-pitched hell isn’t really any better than 100 decibels of noise. Ban them all – no exceptions.
    I live in College Park, Maryland. Thanksgiving a year ago we had to listen to 8 hours of leaf blowers. Eight hours! On a holiday! It’s absolutely ridiculous. The noise is every day, morning, noon, night, Saturday and Sunday and holidays. It never stops. I’m fed up with the noise and stink.
    And don’t forget the air pollution aspect of these things: not only the burned gasoline and oil, but the amount of particulate matter blown into the air. Wonder why your allergies don’t clear up? Well, when the pollen finally lands on the ground, it’s just blown up into the air again — for you to breathe. No wonder asthma and allergies are on the rise. Leaf blowers may not be the cause of illness, but they certainly are contributing factors. Ban them all.

  5. robert September 22, 2009 at 8:39 am #

    we should fight together!
    Let’s do it!!!

  6. rouademunte November 18, 2009 at 12:35 pm #

    Just wanted to say great job with the blog, today is my first visit here and I’ve enjoyed reading your posts.Great job!

  7. L Summers December 28, 2009 at 5:13 pm #

    Thank you for posting. I am currently doing research in how to get these things banned in our community. It’s amazing how much the city uses them in public parks and bike paths, just for aesthetics. My neighbor’s landscaping company uses commercial grade leaf blowers and there is no place in my house to get away from the noise. I’m sure they are in violation of our city’s noise ordinance yet the police would rather spend their energy telling neighborhood kids not to play basketball after dusk than to respond to complaints about leaf blowers. I’m wondering about the legality of polluting our acoustic environment without any mandatory mitigation – doesn’t this amount to a sort of subsidy that the whole public is footing the bill for? Seriously, it’s time to extend ecological awareness to the soundscape. Silence is golden.

  8. 240to120.com June 14, 2010 at 5:32 pm #

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  9. Simple Compost July 23, 2010 at 3:53 am #

    Thank God these noisy monstrosities are going by the wayside! Leafblowers are noisy and horrid for the environment. banning tools like these is a necessary step to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.

  10. Diane MacEachern July 26, 2010 at 12:59 pm #

    I agree that banning gas-powered leaf blowers is a good idea! Even the electric ones are noisy, but at least they pollute less.

  11. Gardeners Supply Mom September 26, 2010 at 1:38 am #

    I like the information and ideas I got from this blog. Thank you.

  12. Sheila Harrington December 26, 2010 at 10:23 am #

    Here is a leaf-blower cartoon you might want to check out.
    http://sheilaharrington.org/eachday/?p=3493

  13. playground mulch April 21, 2011 at 12:38 am #

    I so am for banning them. I have to deal with a gas powered one at work which stinks up the office, with the doors and windows closed. My landlord is also a leaf blower which it seems he comes every single day to use. If we can’t outlaw them can we at least make them be electric and only used during certain hours and days of the week.

  14. Steven Kage April 25, 2011 at 9:36 am #

    I agree!(except about the bamboo rakes-bamboo has a higher tinsel strength than steel-I’ve used a bamboo rake for the longest and it still works great!(also, bamboo tines won’t tear up the grass as bad as metal or plastic). Try organizing “Rake Fest” events with kids, students, neighbors, etc. Have contests, give prizes (have local merchants contribute)-Good Luck!

  15. Diane MacEachern April 27, 2011 at 7:07 am #

    Rake fest? Great idea!!

  16. Shannon May 26, 2014 at 12:15 am #

    Hi, I also live in Takoma Park and the noise from leaf blowers (now used year round, and currently extensively for grass clippings) is driving me crazy. I did a search about banning leaf blowers and found your blog, written years ago. I am assuming this was voted against. Is there anything currently happening to try to ban the blowers? I would like to be involved. I think all blowers should be banned though, not just gas, as I am mainly concerned about noise. (I also am having issues with mowers which is another problem I think, but not quite as bad as blowers, they are still noisy and polluting). Please let me know. Thank you.

    • Diane June 18, 2014 at 10:58 am #

      HI, Sorry to be so late in responding. I think there is a ban on gas leaf blowers, not electric ones, but it’s not very well enforced. You’re right – mowers are very noisy! I think the trick is to replace lawns with perennial ground covers that don’t require mowing.

  17. Shannon August 21, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

    Thank you Diane. I am sitting in my home office right now with my ears covered with noise cancelation headphones, all of my windows and doors closed and my AC running and I can still hear the leaf blowers being used across the street (two at a time) about a block away. The noise is maddening. I don’t know, honestly, if they are gas powered or electric. All I know is that every time the landscaping crews come by to my neighbors houses I feel very on edge and about to lose my grip. I wish more was being done about this. In my part of the neighborhood there are a lot of multi dwelling rental homes which means many landlords hire landscaping crews rather than do the work themselves. For me that means a possibility of one of 7 – 8 yards that may have a crew working on it, which means there is a landscaping crew disturbing my peace several times a week for several months out of the year. The crews have at least two people using leaf blowers at once (sometimes more) often while a lawn mower and/or weed wackier is going at the same time. I feel like I am in the middle of an invasion during a war. My neighborhood LOOKS peaceful and by all accounts should be but these leaf blowers ruin any chances of that. Is there anything else that can be done. Any action that I myself as a citizen can take? I really don’t know what to do. Thank you.

    • Diane August 22, 2014 at 3:57 pm #

      Have you tried talking to your next door neighbors to see if they share your concern? Or your city council representative? Are there noise ordinances already in place that these companies might be violating and that could be invoked to bring them under control? I really sympathize with you – the noise is very annoying!

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