From the Takoma Park Voice
E-mail Q&A with Larry Will, former Vice
President of Engineering at blower manufacturer Echo Inc.
Dear Mr. Davies:
Below are my comments regarding your issues with
the leaf blower:
Your comments are in italics:
you for your defense of leaf blowers. I have to say, I'm not
convinced, as I have seen the machines used incorrectly and
discourteously -- two or more used at one time, or used for
hours at a time, or used on gravel and dusty surfaces for no
reason other than the guys were hired to "clean" the property. I
see little lawn "care" going on. Mostly I see undertrained
laborers blowing everything they can to the curb into the street
or into someone else's yard
I wish what you say above were not true, but it
is. Unfortunately, many operators are untrained. Perhaps 99% are
untrained. Many do not even speak English. It seems as though
this unfortunate truth will not change without some sort of
legal requirement. We, the industry have tried to make this
possible. You saw the OPEI manual, which is in English and
Spanish and is a good start. Also available from my web site is
an English and Spanish manual put together by Echo which is far
more detailed. There is also a flash presentation from OPEI and
a PowerPoint from Echo that can be used to inform individual
operators. Unfortunately, we have not yet converted these
electronic presentations to Spanish. Training, however, is the
only way to solve the problems you mention above.
The OPEI guide contradicts itself. It explicitly
states: "Do not operate while standing on a ladder, rooftop,
tree or other unstable surface. " Yet it also says blowers are
used to clean rain gutters. How do you clean your rain gutters
without getting up on a ladder or on a roof?
The statement in the manual is correct, but I
can see why it doesn't seem to be so. There are attachments for
the leaf blower that reach above the gutter of a one-story house
with a reverse curve, which can be used either to blow debris
out of the gutter or vacuum it out if used with a shred-N-Vac.
It also says they shouldn't be used indoors. But
the manual also says they can be used to clean arenas. I'm sure
it means "outdoor" arenas, but that isn't specified.
You are correct; the word "outdoor" should have
been used. Perhaps a better word would have been "Stadiums".
On your site, you say, "Leaf blowers have
changed in recent years and new designs are no longer noisy."
Yet Consumer Reports, in its latest reviews, says virtually all
the models it tested exceeded 85 db(A) at ear level. No matter
how much you argue that leaf
blower operators should be courteous, how do
they know when people are within 50 feet? They can't hear!
First of all,
Consumer Reports is incorrect. It all
depends how the unit is measured. The industry measures leaf
blowers at 50 feet and averages 8 different positions. Visualize
a microphone on a five-foot high pedestal and an operator with a
leaf blower on his back fifty feet away. As the operator runs
the blower at full throttle, a measurement is taken every 45
degrees as he make one full rotation while standing in one
place. These eight positions are then averaged. Using this
method, blowers range in sound level from 74 for a noisy unit to
65 for a quiet one. Every 6 dB(A) reduction in sound level
represents a reduction of sound by 50%. Lower it another 6 dB(A)
and the remaining 50% is once again reduced by half, or a total
of 75%. I talked to
?Consumer report about this test, and
the ANSI Standard was not followed during their test.
As far as the statement "No longer noisy", it is
relevant. Every blower on the market is quieter than it's
predecessor. Only the very large blowers are above 70 dB(A) and
they are roughly have as loud as blowers were in 1995.
You are right, operators are wearing ear plugs,
but knowing of a bystander is present is a visual issue. He
should be looking around at his environment before running the
blower. I think this usually is the case. If the person is at
fifty feet, there is no concern, for the sound level is no worse
than a lawnmower at that distance. Many are even quieter.
You say of the OPEI manual, "It points out that
it is irresponsible to use blowers on loose dirt, gravel drives
and dust covered surfaces." Yet I have seen them used in this
manner many many times. Unfortunately. I am not fluent in
Spanish, so educating most of the folks hired to use them is
I agree. It is problematic, but possible.
If you have any specific numbers or data on
emissions, I'd appreciate it. I have stood on my front porch and
quite clearly breathed in exhaust from a yard more than 100 feet
away. I'd rather that my kids (or I) not be subjected to more
pollution than they're already getting. Oh, and in that case,
they were using it to clean off a car.
The numbers you are looking for are available
from my web site, but the real issue is that if you see smoke,
it is an old blower. As of January 2005 for small blowers and
January 2007 for blowers over 50 CC, emissions have been reduced
One last one: from the OPEI manual -- Blowers
can be used to "Remove light or fluffy snow [and] dry off
pavement." Both of those practices are ridiculously
irresponsible uses. Wouldn't a broom easily remove light snow?
The second, "dry off pavement," is ludicrous.
I wouldn't do it, but some people do. My wife's
85-year-old mother cannot shovel snow, but she can hold a leaf
blower. She lives in the country and uses it to make a path out
to the mail box.
Comment [from Will]:
The State of Arizona is requiring that all leaf
blower operators take training every three years. I think this
is an excellent requirement. It should go one step further and
that is to require that only quiet blowers be used and that they
be manufactured after 2005, but their issue is not exhaust or
noise, but dust. There are limits to what a leaf blower should
be used for and that must be explained to the operator, all