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Leaf Blower Vs. Shop Vacuum: What Is The Difference?

Vacuum cleaners are one of the tools that have made household chores light and incredibly fast. Instead of spending the entire weekend piling, raking, mulching, and bagging litter, owners of these machines can now do all that work in much less time.

It is, however, essential to know which type of vacuum cleaner is more efficient based on several factors. This article looks to compare a leaf blower and a shop vacuum to give you accurate information on the one that would best suit your needs.

Leaf Blower vs. Shop Vacuum: What Is The Difference?

A leaf blower blows or sucks leaves depending on the model and is designed to work outside. A shop vacuum is specifically designed for indoor cleaning in a shop or construction site and has a dust filter. A shop vacuum also comes with fittings for indoor use. Using a shop vacuum for removing leaves will be inefficient.

To compare both machines we will look at:

  • Collecting dust and debris
  • Mulching
  • Moving waste
  • The cost of both machines

Before we make the comparison, let us look at each of them individually and see how they compare in terms of use, cost, mode of operation, etc.

Leaf Blower

Leaf blowers were first made in the 1970s and have continued to be used to date. They come in different configurations, mainly those powered by gas and electric means. Another striking feature of distinction is the mode of handling. Some are hand-held, while others have the backpack design.

Some leaf blowers are less powerful in terms of use and only blow leaves into piles, while others can blow debris. In some instances, you will find some with vacuuming and mulching waste into collection kits, mostly bags attached to the blower.

Leaf blowers are mostly preferred because of their speed and convenience in doing outdoor cleaning.

● Using a leaf blower:

Leaf blowers can be converted into leaf vacuums by turning the tube away from the fan (in the opposite direction). You may need a unique tool to do the work, depending on the type of leaf blower you own. But first, you start at the leaf blower mode to corral the waste in your yard into a pile before switching to a vacuum mode.

In the vacuum mode, the blower will suck up all the waste in the yard. Be cautious of the fan; it can damage plants and send debris flying dangerously. Once you are done, you should empty the collection back and flip it inside out for better cleaning. You do not want wet leaves breaking down and give you a foul smell.

In the vacuum mode, the leaf blower is sometimes helpful in tidying doorways, squares, and floors as your trees shed their leaves. Some of these machines are designed with curved nozzles to blow and suck leaves from hidden areas like gutters. There are attachments for the regular leaf blowers for you to fit in and perform special cleanings. They, however, come at an extra cost.

● Precautionary measures:

Leaf blowers might be convenient for maintaining yards, but at the same time, they pose a lot of danger, and using them should be accompanied by safety measures. Parents using leaf blowers are advised to be even more cautious with this tool if they have children in the house.

Leaf blowers can cause injuries to the person using the tool as well as others within the vicinity. Such damages include cuts, bruises, and electric injuries, among many others. In some instances, they send debris flying, which can be dangerous to the eyes, while dust that is blown can cause breathing difficulties. In extreme cases, they can even cause death, though it is not a frequent occurrence.

In a report on the number of injuries reported in hospitals, The National Electronic Injury Surveillance System of the Consumer Product Safety Commission showed that leaf blowers injured more than 4,000 people in the United States in 2019. This indicates the extent of the threat that this tool poses to the safety of its users. The numbers might also be higher because some people never report such cases in hospitals but rather seek alternative treatment. So here is what you need to do to ensure you meet the safety standards.

● Things to consider while buying:

The first thing you should consider when purchasing a leaf blower is the manufacturer. Different consumer groups create safety standards, and different manufacturers take into consideration various regulations. For instance, if you are in the US, you should be cautious when purchasing units that are made in China (and vice versa) because of the different regulatory standards.

When making a purchase, go for units with safety features like easy and fast shut-off switches and non-slip handles. Those with air intake mounted at the bottom and an inbuilt dust collection unit are also great for safety purposes. For the lovers of the gas models, ensure that your unit has a gas tank with a wide mouth. For the electric leaf blower, look for the insulation style (single or double insulated) to prevent the risks of electric shock. The insulation of the extension code is equally essential.

Another safety tip at the time of purchase is to make sure that you complete the warranty form and send it back to the manufacturer. This step will help notify you of any safety information if there are problems with your leaf blower.

● Things to consider while using:

It is advisable to avoid using the leaf blower if you are under the influence of any drug or when you are tired to avoid getting injured. Additionally, you should read the instructions and recommendations of the manufacturer regarding the use of the tool. Lastly, the leaf blower should never be left unattended.

When using a leaf blower, ensure that you tie any loose clothing and hair. Also, put on any equipment that enhances safety, such as noise-canceling headphones (for your ears) and goggles (for your eyes). You can use a mask to avoid inhaling dust, especially when you are working for a long period. Gloves are also crucial in enhancing a better and secure grip of the tool.

For people using an extension code, always place it out of your way to avoid stumbling over it. It is vital to note that all outdoor power tools should have a code with an outdoor rating. All grounded devices, otherwise known as three-pronged, are supposed to be plugged into their correct outlets. Do not try to modify anything or remove any prong.

Before you start using a leaf blower in your yard, make sure you do a walkthrough to remove any dangerously lying rocks. Otherwise, they might be projected towards you or somebody else.

Leaf blowers should not be used on rooftops or ladders. In case of such occasions, ensure that you are safely tied and your footing is locked. For the case of gas-powered blowers, follow the added safety concerns such as avoiding any spilling, proper storage, and washing your hands thoroughly after using them.

● Things to consider while cleaning the unit:

Please switch off the blower all the time when it is not in use, during cleaning, or when changing the parts. Follow the user manual and the recommendations of the manufacturer on how to change the air filter. The same applies when cleaning the parts of the tool. Regular maintenance of the leaf blower extends its life span as well as making it safer for use. In case of any concerns, it is advisable to contact your retailer or any other expert.

● In case of accidents:

If there is any case of injury, it is recommended to stop using the tool, switch off its source of power, and seek treatment immediately. Contacting 9-1-1 is recommended if the degree of the accident is severe.

You should have no problem using a leaf blower if you follow these tips diligently.

Shop Vacuum

This is a vacuum that is specifically designed for working in construction sites and woodworks. It comes with a high-power motor and a unit that sucks all types of small wastes from surfaces. A shop vac often comes with a sturdy hose and a cylinder to collect the sucked waste. It is equally useful for cleaning dirty yards. 

Most people call shop vacs the bucket vacuums due to their bucket-like structure with a protruding hose. For easier navigations and moving around a dirty space, they come with wheels. Shop vacs can be used to perform more than just home cleaning.

● Uses of a shop vacuum:

As said above, shop vacs are mainly used in sites of construction or workshops. That is where they get the name “shop vac.” However, they can also be used for cleaning backyards. Those used in construction areas are designed to suck wastes from pieces of materials used in the workshop, such as nails and sawdust.

Occasionally, they are used for home vacuum cleaning to suck wastes from different grounds, though they are not meant for such purposes. Some are designed in a way that they can suck wet wastes. They are called the wet/dry shop vacs and are very versatile in performance.

● Distinguishing a shop vacuum from household vacuums:

A traditional home vacuum can sometimes be mistaken for a shop vac. Therefore, it is essential to look at the differences.

The most notable distinguishing factor is the heavy build of a shop vac. They are expressly meant for heavy-duty work like sucking larger pieces of fragments from the ground. A regular vacuum is only intended for sucking smaller particles like dust and can be used in cleaning sofas. Anything too heavy for the ordinary vacuum cleaner is handled with a shop vac.

The hose of a shop vac is bigger because it handles a bigger mess. Their designs are also bigger and burdensome to handle. It enhances outdoor cleaning with ease. The motor system of a shop vac is very powerful.

Compared to regular vacuums that can be emptied by removing the attached bag, shop vacs need to be lifted and flipped around before emptying the container, usually attached to the canister. Regular vacuums have more refined filters because they are used indoors, and that feature helps improve the quality of air in the house. On the other hand, a shop vac lacks filters; they are used to suck large objects lying on the ground, not to refine air.

The last feature to note is the large tube and wide mouth of a shop vac. Additionally, they lack equipment or accessories meant for fabric cleaning because they are not built for that.

Having looked at the features of shop vacs and what they are meant to do, it is essential to take a look at the pros and cons of using these tools.

● Advantages of using a shop vacuum:

  • Shop vacs are potent than ordinary vacuums.
  • They can be used to clean bigger waste materials compared to ordinary vacuum cleaners.
  • Shop vacs are not clogged easily, making them more efficient.
  • Wet/dry shop vacs can work in both wet and dry conditions.
  • They are ideal for use in woodwork shops and construction sites.

● Disadvantages of using a shop vacuum:

  • Due to the lack of filters, shop vacs do not filter air.
  • They are bigger and heavier, thus require special handling.
  • They are difficult to operate due to their heavy design.
  • They are made with accessories for home cleaning, e.g., carpet or fabric cleaning accessories.

Comparing a Leaf Blower and a Shop Vacuum

It is easier to compare leaf blowers to traditional leaf rakes than to shop vac because of the differences between a blower and a shop vac. However, the striking difference between the two is that the hand-held shop vac is larger and has wheels for easy maneuver than a leaf blower. Another aspect is that shop vacs are designed like backpacks or have the bucket design, while leaf blowers are not necessarily developed in that manner.

Other areas that can distinguish the two are the mode of operation and what they are used for. However, such an area provides very slim differences and may not be known to many people. Let us take a look at these differences in terms of their uses.

● Collecting dust and debris:

– Leaf blower

As the name suggests, a leaf blower is mainly used in blowing leaves and other dust particles into piles before they are collected. They are useful in moving other light wastes such as sticks and debris and blowing away dust particles. The most powerful model with an airstream of more than 200mph effectively collects small pieces of waste from the yard.

On the negative side, a leaf blower can be a real threat to the user’s safety and other people in the vicinity. The debris that is blown can be projected into your eyes, and the cloud of dust that is set can be a primary concern to people living nearby.

– Shop-vacuum

Shop vacs differ in that they are used to collect larger waste particles than a leaf blower. Accordingly, they work by sucking in dust and debris as compared to leaf blowers that work by blowing dust into piles unless the vacuum mode is turned on.

They are also safer because they do not project materials into the environment as leaf blowers do. They are, therefore, better alternatives health-wise.

● Mulching:

– Leaf blower

When using a leaf blower, there will be a pile of leaves left in the yard that you have to collect and dispose of yourself.

– Shop-vacuum

When using a shop vac for the same task, the leaves are sucked in and shredded by the toothed impellers in the machine. The leaves are therefore mulched and are easy to dispose of or can be composted.

● Moving waste:

– Leaf blower

The most significant advantage is that leaf blowers move leaves at a good speed and are therefore a faster means of cleaning the yard.

– Shop-vacuum

A shop vac may be fast in collecting waste but not as quickly as a leaf blower because they collect the trash instead of blowing them into one pile. They may be slower because you will need to stop working to empty the collection bag once it is full.

● Cost of the machines:

– Leaf blower

Leaf blowers are generally more affordable. The electric-powered ones may go for as low as $50, while the ones that are powered by gas go for up to $200.

– Shop-vacuum

On the other hand, a shop vac may be more expensive depending on the model and the power rating. There are some that have larger collection capacities. The most potent shop vac can cost thousands of dollars.

Final Remarks

Cleaning and collecting waste in your yard should not be a matter of concern, provided you have the right machine. However, it is essential to compare different models to know the suitable ones for your needs and what you can afford. Additionally, operating these tools can lead to fatal injuries if not handled the right way. It is, therefore, essential to follow the safety tips, regulations, and user manuals that come with every piece of equipment you buy. Remember to check the rules governing the use of these tools as some states restrict some models.