You’ve spent the day pruning bushes, cutting branches, and trimming hedges, and now you’re left with a huge pile of lawn waste. Why bother hauling it to the dump when a handy backyard wood chipper can cut it down to useful mulch, organic garden compost, kindling, or material to cover a path. It’s a great, economical way to improve the look of your property. But wood chippers come in a variety of sizes with different levels of power, as well as different fuel requirements. How do you pick the right one? Here’s what to know:
There are two types of wood chippers: gas and electric. Gas-powered chippers are larger and louder than electric ones, but they’re also more powerful, and can chop material that’s three inches or more in diameter. Plus, you don’t need to find enough extension cords to move them to the far end of the lawn. On the other hand, electric chippers are compact and relatively quiet, less expensive than gas-powered ones, and easy to use. If you don’t have heavy-duty jobs, they’re a great solution to your lawn-care needs.
When shopping for a wood chipper, you need to consider a few different factors:
First up is a chipper’s power: this is known as torque, the force used by the motor to spin the blades that cut through your garden waste. It’s measured in foot-pounds, and most backyard chippers are rated anywhere from seven to 15 foot-pounds (though of course some can be more or less).
Next, consider the chipper’s reduction ratio: this is how small the garden waste will be after it’s been chopped up. Wood chippers often have ratios between 8:1 and 20:1—in other words, material will be one-eighth the size to one-twentieth the size after chipping. Bear in mind that it requires a more powerful motor to chop things smaller, and that usually means a bigger, more expensive chipper. Be sure to look for a machine that suits the size of your job, it could end up saving you money.
Finally, don’t forget to think about bag capacity: if the chipper includes a bag or bin, how much can it hold? Is it going to be enough for the type of work you’re doing, or are you going to waste time and energy emptying it more often than you’d prefer? On the other hand, more capacity means more weight, and if that’s something you’d prefer to avoid, consider a product with a smaller, lighter bag.
Wood chippers also use one of two different drive types: Direct and clutch. The more common direct-drive motor begins spinning the blades once the machine is turned on, while a clutch-drive motor engages when you move a handle or throw a switch. Direct-drive models usually cost less, but chippers with a clutch-drive often can handle tougher waste thanks to their stronger engines. Pick the chipper that best fits your budget, the type of work you plan on doing, and your experience with these types of machines.