Toro 51599 Ultra Leaf Blower

***  UPDATE 4/27/10 ***

Now that I’ve had more time with my leaf blower I can say that I’m very happy with the purchase.  It definitely has less power to move leaves embedded in grass than any gas powered blower I’ve used though.  That is a little sad, but it definitely is very helpful when raking the yard and it works excellent in bushes, flower beds, clearing off mulch, on the driveway, etc.

I tried the insert that shrinks the exit nozzle’s size (and thus ups the wind speed) and that seemed to make things worse for moving leaves in grass.

I still recommend this product, but I bet in about 4-5 years they will have the ultimate replacement that is electric and moves as much air as a gas blower.

The oak yak has been coming down like snow every day this week.  It’s just that time of year for EVERY stationary outdoor object to be covered with the furry little stuff – and bright tennis ball green pollen, of course.  I expect it will continue for another week but I’m hopeful that it will be done by next weekend.  This is when I hope to have a big yard clean up.

Last year I borrowed a friend’s hand-held gas-powered blower because a rake simply will not get all of the tiny little live oak leaves that dump in my yard.  It was amazing the difference.  I don’t think it saved me any time overall but I had to have gotten four times as many leaves out of the grass with less effort.

Having only used the big backpack blowers before this, I was delighted at how well the little hand-held blower worked for my purpose.  This got me thinking that there might be an electric version that would work for me.  I have a tiny yard so the hassles of a cord are easily tsunami-ed by the hassles of owning and operating a small gas engine.  I just wondered if I could find one with enough power.

A quick search online lead me to the Toro 51599 Ultra Leaf Blower.  The reviews put it at the top of the heap.  $70 is not too expensive.  It’s about $20 more than most other inferior models.  It seemed like it was worth a try.

I’ve only given it a two-minute test blowing off part of my driveway, yard, flower bed and mulched plant area.  To my extreme delight, it seems just as powerful as the gas unit I used last year and did a great job and I didn’t even use the attachment to boost the power (smaller nozzle).  I didn’t think I’d used the variable speed option, but now I’m certain I will.  I can blow the gunk out of the more delicate areas of my yard without sending potting soil or mulch flying too.

It is not very heavy and fairly comfortable to hold.  I’d like to have seen some sort of shoulder strap on it (like what is provided on the leaf bag) because I can imagine it will wear you out after an extended period.  It is probably quieter than any of the gas-powered blowers I’ve used but it is still loud enough that you wouldn’t use it early on a weekend and you’d be well served to wear hearing protection (think shop-vac).

I’ve read that it doesn’t work as a vacuum very well but I don’t really see why this is too important.  If I was going to use it as a yard vacuum I’d want something with a larger bag.  I think I’ll give it a try once I get everything in piles just to see what happens, but it seems like it will be more of a hassle than a feature.

If it turns out that I like the vacuum feature, I’m glad that this model has metal blades.  I can’t imagine plastic holding up for very long.

My biggest concern is the longevity of the motor.  I’ve read that this one can burn through brushes quickly because of all the power it draws and the dusty conditions it is used in.  Some folks report no problems and others have them right away.  I imagine if it is going to fail during my typical usage, it will happen right away or probably never.  We’ll see…