Review of Electric Leaf Blower, Vacuum and Mulcher

The Good, the Bad and the Dubious

My photo is of the BV6000, a Black & Decker product. It's in leaf blower mode.
Photo: the BV6000 in leaf blower mode. David Beaulieu

Manufacturer's Site

This electric leaf blower-vacuum-mulcher is touted by Black & Decker as being the next step forward in their "LeafHog" series. I've reviewed past models, including the BV4000 LeafHog, whose maximum blow speed was 230 MPH. In terms of power, the BV6000, which I review below, is billed as having improved power, registering 250 MPH.

The review of this electric leaf blower-vacuum-mulcher that follows will lay out some of the pros and cons of the new LeafHog.

As a novelty, Black & Decker makes available compostable bags that you can use on this product, when operating it in vacuum mode. Since the jury is still out on this allegedly biodegradable feature, I list it as neither a pro nor a con, but rather as "dubious."

The Good: Low-Maintenance, Clean, Environmentally-Friendly

To begin, using the BV6000 leaf blower comes with the usual advantages of using a product powered by electricity, as opposed to gas. Such benefits primarily pertain to cleanliness and ease of maintenance and include:

  • The absence of spark plugs to get gummed up, meaning start-up is a breeze
  • The fact that you don't pour gas or oil into the leaf blower; you thus avoid the mess involved in doing so
  • For the same reason, you're not spilling toxic material onto the earth

There are two settings for power, and the lower one was plenty strong for my own blowing needs. The nice thing about having the option of a lower setting is that you can work on leaf removal from more sensitive areas like flower borders without worrying that you're going to damage flowers, displace landscape mulch, etc.

The Bad: That Darned Cord!

Just as one speaks of the usual advantages of electric vis-a-vis gas, so one must take note of the usual disadvantage: the cord. Personally, I detest having to drag a cord around. I've granted this product a 3.5-star rating only because I'm evaluating it specifically within the context of electric leaf blowers (comparing apples to apples, as the saying goes).

If I were working within a broader context (all leaf blowers), my rating would be lower, due to my dislike for cords.

Corded models have their place -- in small yards. What if you have a large yard with a lot of leaves? I'd either go with a gas leaf blower or hold out for a battery-powered leaf blower.

While I found the unit plenty powerful in leaf blower mode, I was underwhelmed by its power in vacuum mode. I tried to vacuum my driveway with it, and I had to put it right to the ground to pick up some of the finer debris.

The Dubious: Should You Really Put Those Compostable Bags in the Compost?

As a novelty, the electric leaf vacuum comes with two, white compostable bags, in addition to the regular, black bag that you see in my picture at right. The marketers know that "compostable" will have a nice ring to it in the ears of gardeners and people who consider themselves "green."

How should one use the compostable bags? Well, Black & Decker suggests/implies two ideas on what to do with them after they're filled with leaves:

  1. Set them out at the curbside for your town's trash cleanup
  2. Place them in your compost bin

But how feasible are these applications?

First of all, being small, you'd run out of these compostable bags very quickly.

What am I supposed to do after that, order more from Black & Decker? That's an awful lot more trouble than buying the usual leaf-disposal bags at a home improvement store.

Secondly, doubts have been raised about just how compostable the bags, which are made of polylactic acid (PLA), really are. Elizabeth Royte of Smithsonian Magazine has researched the issue and expressed doubt that these leaf bags would decompose in the average gardener's compost pile. While the claim that they will break down is technically legitimate, decomposition requires "a large facility where compost...reaches 140 degrees for ten consecutive days."

Royte's conclusion is a bit more sanguine about the long-term prospects of compostable bags catching on: "But the manufacture of PLA does save oil and generates far less air pollution.

And we have to start somewhere."

So a "Mulcher" Makes Mulch, Correct?

No, not exactly. "Mulcher" simply refers to the fact that, in vacuum mode, this machine will chew up leaves, reducing their size. Why is this important? Well (and this ties into the composting theme just discussed), if you like to use fallen leaves to make compost, smaller is better. Shredded leaves will break down more quickly, thereby speeding up the composting process.

Conclusion, Comparison With an Earlier Electric Leaf Blower Vacuum Mulcher

Black & Decker markets this machine as a leaf blower with "250 mph of hurricane-like force," but with 50% less noise. I still found it uncomfortably noisy, however. And in vacuum mode, I felt its power left something to be desired. Nonetheless, if you have a small yard, and if the unit's main purpose is to blow or vacuum leaves in the fall, the BV6000 is an acceptable piece of equipment.

Comparison With the BV4000 Leaf Blower

First of all, the 20 extra MPH that the BV6000 boasts probably won't make a noticeable difference for most users in blower mode. Secondly, if you're familiar with the BV4000 and how one switches from blower mode to vacuum mode when using that unit, be prepared to encounter a change.

I have mixed feelings regarding that change. I find mode-switching on the BV4000 more intuitive. However, the BV6000 is easier to use (i.e., the mechanisms for switching between modes work more fluidly, once you understand them). Ease of use trumps intuitiveness, so I have to give the nod to the BV6000 here. Both machines are corded, so that's not a factor in the comparison.

If you liked this review, you may be interested in my article, How to Use Leaf Blowers.

Manufacturer's Site

Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.