Gas Vs. Electric Chainsaws- Which Is Better For You?

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A chainsaw is a very versatile and highly portable power tool that virtually every woodworker should have. This tool is one that you’ll be sure to find in the store of any homesteader or woodworker. Regardless of whether or not you are a homesteader or a lumberjack, there are several other reasons why you probably want to own one of these relevant power tools. Now, chainsaws have been in use for quite some time, and these machines are used by several homeowners, lumberjacks, orchard workers, firemen, construction teams and even certain disaster rescue personnel. They are available in several shapes, sizes, color and efficiency, and are often classified by the type of motor (gas or electric) that they have, as well as the length of their guide bars.

There is really not an easy answer to which type of chainsaw is best for you. It all depends on your needs. Choose a chainsaw that will suit your needs, instead of choosing based on the size of its engine or guide bar.

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When seeking to purchase a chainsaw, you’ll be overwhelmed by the variety of chainsaw models, sizes, brands and types that are available on the market. There are hundreds of brands out on the market and it might be quite difficult distinguishing genuine quality ones from the knockoffs. Also, you need to know the basic details about your chainsaw before purchasing it in order to save you the stress. For instance, if you get a chainsaw that is not the right size for your kind of task, you might end up giving yourself unnecessary physical fatigue. It can also cause damage to the machine as well as your work, leading to loss of time and money. Another important factor before purchasing a chainsaw is knowing the type that works best for you or that suits your needs better. Are you on a hunt for a chainsaw and you’re torn between choosing a gas or an electric chainsaw? Do you need to know which type of chainsaw would work best for you? Are you scared of making the wrong choice? Don’t panic. In the rest of this article, we shall provide you with the ultimate guide on the type of chainsaw you should buy, as well as a special focus on gas versus electric chainsaws. This would help influence your decision.

Which Type of Chainsaw do I Need?

These are the two major types of consumer chainsaws that are available, which are gas chainsaws and electric chainsaw. Their names pretty much point out the reason why they are different. Gas chainsaws are designed to run on gasoline, while electric chainsaws make use of electricity. Now, which one do you need for your tasks? Before we answer that question, we would like to provide you with some usage scenarios which can help you decide if you need a chainsaw in the first place or not.

Also, we will provide details on how a chainsaw works as well as the reasons why the size matters when making a decision on the bar lengths. We will also give you the pros and cons of the gas as well as electric chainsaws so that you can get a better idea of which one is great for your particular workload or task

Learn to Save Time with your Chainsaw

Before we delve into the chainsaw journey, we will be taking a close look at some use scenarios for chainsaws. In these scenarios, we would be highlighting some areas where a chainsaw can ultimately reduce the amount of time that you would normally spend to complete a certain task. 

Let’s imagine that you own, say, a large garden with a bunch of trees in it. Or probably you just have a quite large home with a lot of old trees that have been there for decades and green patches surrounding the house. While your lawnmower, trimmer, and other edging machines are great options for maintaining the grass and short plants, you can’t actually chop off or trim trees branches with them. Another point of concern is that these old trees that are gradually nearing the end of their life cycle could be considered a danger to anyone that passes near them. Their dry branches can snap and come falling off at any moment when they are under load, so it is best to cut down these trees or at least snip their branches so that they don’t hurt somebody. This is where your chainsaw comes in to help save you the stress and time.

Next, let’s picture that you have a homestead and you prefer to get your own firewood to burn them in the fireplace, or probably for building your shed. Now if you were to use a simple ax to cut down and split your wood, it will certainly take a long time. Another disadvantage is that the ax will require you to exert a great amount of physical effort and it also needs a great amount of dedication and a great deal of patience. Certainly, you don’t need to oil or clean your ax, and it doesn’t require any special maintenance. But with a chainsaw, you will still be able to cut trees at least 10 times faster than an ax. Hence, you will be able to get more work done in the same amount of time required with an ax and with less effort.  Pretty awesome right?

Finally, let us take a look at an even extreme case of chainsaw usage. Let’s imagine a heavy rain that comes with a storm. Imagine that the storm has brought down trees, electric poles, telephone lines, and had filled your entire neighborhood with broken pieces of trees, roofs, sheds, and so on. Now, if you have got a tree blocking your driveway, and you can’t go out to get essential supplies like food, medicine or fuel, you’ll be left with one option. You can either move the trunk of the tree or chop it off with your chainsaw to free your driveway or street, something that would be otherwise impossible except the rescue team or disaster management crew arrives.

Storms that take out the electrical grid along with them would mean that you won’t be able to light up your home, cook your food or heat your home, well except you own a generator. Some of these fallen trees can actually be transformed into useful fuel especially if you own a fireplace or probably a wooden stove.

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Of course, the above scenarios are not the only cases of a chainsaw usage, there are several other uses. However, we cannot discuss all of them because that is not the main scope of this article. But more importantly, you get the idea, right? A chainsaw is a very useful tool for several reasons, and we will now be talking about how you can make the perfect choice when you want to purchase a chainsaw. Next, we will be discussing how a chainsaw works, after which we will state the differences between the gas and electric chainsaws.

How Does a Chainsaw Work?

Trees are beautiful elements of nature that are capable of growing to very large and gigantic proportions. There are certain trees like oak, maple, and others that take several years to grow and when they finally mature fully, they can get as tall as a multi-floor building weighing about 50 tons or more. However, these gigantic trees can be sliced down in a matter of minutes simply by using a 20 inches gas-powered chainsaw, which can actually be quite impressive when you think about it. With just a saw or an ax, even professional lumberjacks would need several hours just to take down a fully matured hardwood tree, and that’s even if they work as a team of two or more. A chainsaw is a portable saw that is able to cut through wood with the use of its “teeth” which runs in a circular motion around a guiding bar. This “teeth” on the blade of a chainsaw is a metal chain that has different grooves at certain intervals which enables the saw to cut through all kinds of wood with ease. There are a couple of factors that affect the speed at which the blade maneuvers in a circle, one of which includes the horsepower that the chainsaw possesses and the speed which the chainsaw engine is responsible for.

Types of Chainsaws

There are three main types of chainsaws, and they are classified based on how they are powered. The three types of chainsaws are– gas chainsaws, corded electric, and cordless electric chainsaws. Now each type of chainsaw has its advantages and disadvantages, and features that make them unique. These details will be discussed very soon. However, let’s first take a quick look at how they work, and the kind of tasks each chainsaw is well suited for. That way, you would also be able to determine what category your task falls under.

Gas-powered Chainsaw

Gas-powered chainsaws just as they sound, run on gasoline and they contain a fuel tank that is located right next to the engine shroud. Their fuel tanks usually have capacities ranging between 0.7 to 1 US pints. Their run times vary greatly, and it depends mainly on the amount of load, the fuel efficiency of the engine, the cylinder displacement and power output. However, an average gas-powered chainsaw having a guide bar between 16” and 18” in length, should be able to last for about 15-20 minutes on a single tank of fuel, if a moderate amount of load is applied.

Gas-powered chainsaws are typically known to require much more maintenance than an electric chainsaw. This is because the sawdust tends to mix up with the lubricating oil on the cutting chains and the sprocket cover will have to be removed and cleaned out properly to avoid inefficiency. Also, the air filters can easily get choked especially if you work on too many dry woods daily or when you work in an area that has too many dust particles. Now cutting through dead or dry woods can cause lots of wooden splinters to emerge which can actually blowback into the engine air passage and end up choking it. Besides the constant maintenance and noise emission, gas chainsaws are the best options when you need to do a serious and tedious wood cutting. This is why lumberjacks, firemen and certain homesteaders would definitely go for a gas chainsaw instead of an electric substitute because they are simply much more powerful than the basic electric chainsaw of equivalent size and weight.

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Chainsaw

If you want to use an electric chainsaw to cut through a 12” or more of thick hardwood, it’s just a bad idea. So, if your plan is to cut down trees or you need to slice through thick logs of hardwood, then the ideal option is definitely not the electric chainsaw, but a powerful option like a gas-powered chainsaw.

Corded Electric Chainsaws

While some people are lumberjacks or homesteaders, there are others that are just simple chainsaw users. In fact, the average homeowner living in a city might have never chopped a tree in his or her entire life. However, if you have a few ornamental trees in your backyard or just in your lawn, and you notice that the branches are getting dangerously close to your roof or windows, then you may need to do something about it. Now instead of getting the noisy gas-powered chainsaw for home use, your ideal option should be a corded electric chainsaw. A corded electric chainsaw is recommended for a task like this because it requires little or no maintenance. If you don’t already have some sort of experience with other machines like lawnmowers or generators, then it may be quite hard understanding how a gas chainsaw works, and the maintenance can be quite frustrating- you will need to mix the right proportions of fuel and stability oil, you will need to make sure that the fuel that you are feeding into your chainsaw is well lubricated so that you don’t end up damaging the engine, then you would also need to clean the air filters and check the spark plugs. The whole process will end up taking a lot of time, money, and effort just to maintain something that you probably won’t use for more than 10 times in an entire year.

Okay, maybe you may use it for shaping up those wooden planks for your new DIY furniture project or to sharpen your kid’s new wooden desk. Maybe you’ll use it to trim those overgrown branches in your garden or the backyard of your home. All these tasks will barely be more than 5 inches in thickness, and they would probably not be hardwoods. Now since you won’t be needing the extra horsepower of a gas chainsaw for these small tasks, why should you waste your effort and money by purchasing and trying to maintain one? Not to even mention the noise that it would generate especially if you live in an environment whose regulations are against such. So a corded electric chainsaw might just be your best option in this scenario.

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There are certain benefits that you can get from using a corded Electric Chainsaw, one of which includes less noise. The average gas chainsaw generates more than 100 decibels of noise at a distance of just a couple of feet. There are even some chainsaws that get above this and go beyond 110 decibels, which is somewhat close to the pain threshold limit for humans. Certainly, gas-powered chainsaws are some of the loudest power tools in the world, which is why manufacturers recommended that users wear earmuffs or protection when operating a gas chainsaw. Okay, typical lumberjacks who work in the forest wouldn’t have to worry about noise pollution, because they work several kilometers away from any trace of civilization. However, in a town setting, your neighbors will not be able to stand that annoying noise. So this feature is something that should definitely be taken into consideration when looking to purchase a chainsaw.

Cordless Electric Chainsaw

Let’s take a look at a scenario. Say, it’s really dark and you need to find your way to the toilet or kitchen, I think there is really no point getting a giant floodlight. Here, any kind of torch or your phone’s flashlight will do just fine. But imagine if your flashlight requires that it be plugged into an electric socket before it can work. Trust me when I say that would be very annoying. You would not be able to use that flashlight outside the house, well unless your entire lawn is filled with electric sockets instead of water sprinklers.

In the subheadings above, we discussed the reasons why you should consider a corded electric chainsaw, how everyone does not need that much horsepower and how they will be just fine with the weaker, but much easy to maintain and quieter electric chainsaw. The flashlight scenario applies to corded electric chainsaws. They are often great as long as you don’t need to work on something that is beyond 20 feet of your house. The moment you cross that set line of the cord, then your chainsaw stops being useful. Imagine if you have a very long lawn or backyard, and there are some trees that have extended beyond the fence probably into your neighbor’s building. My next guess is that you would want to chop off the stray branches. But what if you find out that your electric saw has a 25-foot power cord that won’t let you go that far, and you don’t have power outlets playing around in your backyard? Basically, you will be stuck with that super expensive yet inadequate power tool.

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A power outage is another scenario where the lack of a built-in power source could be quite frustrating. If a broken power line or a damaged transformer causes a temporary lack of power supply in your home, then that your brand new corded electric chainsaw is also useless at that point in time. Wait, what if your chainsaw could run on a battery? Would you not feel relieved and unbothered? You can work smoothly even when a power outage has occurred, you don’t need to be restricted by cords. Yes, this is where a cordless electric chainsaw comes in. A cordless electric chainsaw is basically an electric chainsaw with rechargeable 40V lithium-ion battery packs which are included for powering the motor.

The cordless electric chainsaw is also slightly heavier and more expensive than the basic corded electric chainsaws, but they are not restricted by wires and are even still lighter than most gas chainsaws. The batteries may provide limited run time, but you still get at least an extra 30 minutes of run time out of the battery of a cordless chainsaw. You can even consider getting a second battery pack especially if the power cuts are very frequent in your area or if you will be constantly going on trips with your chainsaw.

Gas vs Electric Chainsaw- which is best for you?

Now, this topic is a very subjective matter, and it all depends on what you need your chainsaw for. If you want to do a job that requires a lot of power, then you should get a gas chainsaw. For home use, yard maintenance and lighter woodwork, an electric chainsaw is quite suitable. A gas chainsaw supports longer guide bar lengths when compared to electric chainsaws. However, electrics are a lot quieter, need less maintenance, and can be operated very easily.

Gas-Powered Chainsaws

The gas-powered chainsaws make use of gasoline motors in order to drive the chain and they are usually classified as being on top of electric chainsaws in terms of power output and strength. They are however harder to maintain and often emit fumes while running. They are also quite loud, so much that the 2-stroke engines can emit up to 110 decibels of sound, which is almost exceeding the normal human ear pain threshold. But if you need to slice through large logs of hardwood, then this is the ideal option for you.

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PROS

  • They are much more powerful than their electric counterparts and are great for cutting firewood.
  • They have the ability to cut down all types of trees, including hardwood.
  • They are ideal for clearing up after a storm.
  • They do not have power cords but operate on gasoline engines.
  • They support longer guide bars and chains because of their superior motor power.
  • They also support better bar-oiling systems

CONS

  • They are louder and emit fumes, hence the risk of noise and environmental pollution.
  • They are a lot heavier and can be harder to handle as they have longer guide bars.
  • They often need routine maintenance to keep them running in good condition.
  • They are harder to operate, unlike the electric models.

Corded Electric Chainsaws

Corded Electric chainsaws operate using electrical power, and are extremely cheap and lightweight. The power of an electric chainsaw can be rated based on the number of amperes that its motor operates at. Some of these models even come with automatic chain lubrication features so as to make sure that the operation requires little or no maintenance. These chainsaws often work with guide bars that range between 12 to 16” in length, although the recommended guide bar length, if you are cutting hardwood, shouldn’t be above 14”.

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PROS

  • They are the lightest and cheapest model of chainsaws that are available.
  • They are very convenient to start as they only require a push button, and are easy to operate.
  • They are silent.
  • They are almost completely maintenance-free.
  • They are great options for in house uses and yard maintenance.

CONS

  • They do not have the power of gas chainsaws and are not recommended for cutting logs and trees.
  • They do not support long guide bars, because of their less power output.
  • They are restricted to be within certain areas because of the power cord.

Battery or Cordless Chainsaw

These models operate in the same manner as the corded models, only that they come with rechargeable battery packs. Their motors are designed to deliver extra efficiency, so as to reduce the run time. These models are ideal for trimming branches or for other projects at home. They are very mobile due to the battery packs. However, they are more expensive than the corded chainsaws, because of the battery packs.

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PROS

  • They are silent
  • Almost maintenance-free just like the corded models.
  • Ideal for yard management and simple DIY furniture projects, and can be taken on trips due to their independence of power cords.
  • They are somewhat easier to handle compared to the corded models since there is no heavy power cable falling behind the chainsaw

CONS

  • They are also limited in the guide bar lengths that they can work with.
  • They are more expensive than cordless electric models.
  • Some of these models may be weaker than the corded models because their motors are mostly geared towards saving energy rather than the actual operation.
  • Their batteries can be quite costly.

Conclusion

On this note, there is really not an automatic answer to which type of chainsaw is best for you. It all depends on your needs. Choose a chainsaw that will suit your needs, instead of choosing based on the size of its engine or guide bar. Based on what we have discussed above, decide on what works best for you. Finally, always remember that your safety comes first. Make sure you are well kitted up for any sawing operation to avoid accidents and damage. We wish you good luck!