Leaf blowers aren’t just noisy; they’re violent.
Landscape industry veteran Billy Krause likens their use to hitting your plants with hurricane-force winds once a week.
“They bother me,” he said.
They also bother Park Cities residents whose concern over the impact to ears, rather than plants, prompted a recent meeting in Highland Park with leaders of Krause Landscape Contractors and other landscape maintenance companies.
To mitigate noise and exhaust, Highland Park has gone to battery-powered blowers for its parks.
An ordinance approved in the 1990s restricts users to operating at half throttle in the town, but Mayor Margo Goodwin expects town leaders will remain reluctant to adopt more regulations.
To make a difference, consumers should ask and pay for quieter lawn services, she said.
Until then, blowers, mostly gasoline-powered, will remain a mainstay tool in the yard maintenance arsenal.
Just listen for their arrival as the weekend draws near.
“Oh my god, from Wednesday to Saturday, the noise,” Goodwin complained.
“In the ‘70s, when we had just a hoe, rake, and a broom, we got by.” -Billy Krause.
“They can blow dirt under a door,” added Kathleen Stewart, director of town services. “It’s crazy how powerful they are.”
Many blowers produce more than 70 decibels at 50 feet – more than 105 decibels at the user’s ears, according to outdoorideas.net. Every 10 decibels is equivalent to twice as loud.
“It’s not ever one,” Stewart said.
If there are four workers, there will be four blowers, she said.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the noise generated can hamper a person’s accuracy and increase aggravation, even hours later.
What are the alternatives?
“In the ‘70s, when we had just a hoe, rake, and a broom, we got by,” Krause said.
He has customers now who require rake and broom clean up.
But using a broom can take eight times longer than a blower, according to leafblowernoise.com. Extra time means extra costs to property owners.
Going to battery-powered blowers comes with other challenges.
“(Battery-powered) blowers, in particular, haven’t quite cut it as gas-powered replacements,” Clint DeBoer, a founder of Pro Tool Reviews, wrote in a piece published on opereviews.com. “They lack the power of gas and certainly the run-time.”
Landscape professionals told town leaders that finishing one house can require five or six batteries. Make that 20-plus for a large estate.
Cold weather also presents problems, causing batteries to lose charge faster and recharge slower.
Workers tend to dislike quieter blowers because they equate noise with power.
But when communities push for quieter options, landscaping companies will respond.
“It takes one leader to start a following,” said Jason Craven of Southern Botanical. “Challenges like this will also spark innovation from equipment suppliers.”
Town leaders have talked about doing a public information campaign and perhaps creating a list of vendors who offer quieter alternatives to gasoline blowers.
“I do think the residents bear responsibility for asking for and paying for it,” Goodwin said. “I say you need to talk to your provider, and if your complaint is with your neighbor’s provider, you need to talk to your neighbor.”