Pros: Ball-bearing motor, easy conversion from blower to vacuum. Optional Trash Can Leaf Collection System.
Cons: Weak vacuuming suction, unwieldy collection bag, average blowing power.
Two years ago, when I bought a Black and Decker BV2500 Leaf Hog, I gave the blower/vac a good review because of its ease of use, strong blowing and suction, and its ability to collect leaves into a trash can using the optional, but hard to find Trash Can Leaf Collection System (Black and Decker model #BV006).
Unfortunately when I got the not-so-old hog out this year to blow some leaves, its motor self-destructed with a loud clatter. It turns out that the BV2500 and other blowers/vacs in its price class keep costs down by using motors with brass bushings instead of ball bearings. When I took mine apart, I found a mishapen brass bushing rattling around the inside of the case. Lesson learned: Spend a little more and get a blower/vac with a ball bearing motor... no more cheap blowers for me!
Enter the brand new Leaf Hog BV4000. Black and Decker recently brought out this model to compete with the Consumer Reports top-rated Toro model 51591 Super Blower Vac. The newest Leaf Hog offers all of the performance features of the Toro, and then some.
Among the new features are a 12-amp ball-bearing motor, a new zipperless collection bag that easily slides onto the vacuum, and empties quickly and easily, a two speed power switch, and a robust ratcheting mechanism designed retain your extension cord's connection to the blower/vac. The new Leaf Hog claims a blowing air speed of 230 MPH, which is higher than that of any other leaf blower I've seen.
The Leaf Hog is designed to be switched from blower to vacuum very quickly and easily. Just press a button to release the current tool, and pop on the new one. It takes about 10 seconds.
As with the previous Leaf Hog, the BV4000 can be connected to the Trash Can Leaf Collection system. For an additional 30 bucks, you can buy an accessory that replaces the collection bag with an eight foot flexible hose connected to a cloth trashcan cover. You put the cover over the top of a trash can, pull the drawstring tight, attach the hose to the included adapter on the vacuum... and voila!.. you've got mondo leaf collecting capacity. Instead of three uninterrupted minutes of serious vacuuming using the bag, you can spend 45 minutes filling a trash can! This system really works great, greatly makes big leaf collection jobs go quicker. Also, as with the previous Leaf Hog, Black and Decker makes no mention of this really great exclusive feature on the package, or even on their website!
I couldn't wait to try out my new 230 MPH powerhouse. I was ready to blow leaves into the next town with this thing. Reality sunk in as I discovered that this Leaf Hog didn't blow leaves with any more force than the previous model, or for that matter, any other leaf blower that I've used. It was certainly up to the job, but not up to my hyped expectations. I don't own an anemometer, so I couldn't measure whether I was really getting my 230 MPH, but it sure didn't seem like it. Additionally, I found that this Leaf Hog was not as comfortable to hold as the previous Hog. It just didn't feel as well balanced in my hand. It felt better to hold it with two hands.
The BV4000 comes with a nifty hinged, ratcheted extension cord retainer, designed to positively lock your extension cord into the Leaf Hog's socket. Unfortunately it doesn't. Despite my best efforts, the extension cord kept disconnecting. I was able to work around the problem by looping the cord around the handle once, but I'm sure that did nothing to improve the tool's balance.
I switched over to vacuuming mode, and after just a few minutes, I knew I'd be packing this Hog up and returning it to Home Depot.
Kudos go to Black and Decker for attempting an alternative to the old zippered collection bag. If you've ever used one of those, you know what a pain it can be to operate the zipper when it becomes clogged with leaf fragments. It can also be difficult to coax a densly packed clump of mulched leaves out of those zippered bags.
The BV4000 uses a heavy-duty plastic bag, with a large triangular plastic frame that slides into an opening at the bottom of the vacuum tool. Emptying the bag is easy... just slide out the frame, and dump the bag. In theory, this is a great idea, but Black and Decker's execution doesn't work well. The plastic latch that holds the bag onto the vacuum is flimsy and unreliable. The bag fell off twice during my short vacuuming stint. Also, unlike other vacuums, this bag is supported by the vacuum, instead of slung over the user's shoulder with a strap. That means as the bag fills, the vacuum starts to get pretty heavy. There is a shoulder strap that connects to the vacuum, but that means your shoulder must now support the weight of the Leaf Hog AND the bag full of leaves. Not fun.
But the real deal-breaker, and the biggest surprise, was this Leaf Hog's incredibly weak suction power. It felt about half as powerful as my previous Leaf Hog. It did vacuum leaves, but not with the gusto I was accustomed to. To the Hog's credit, the leaves it did pick up were mulched extremely well... finer than I'd seen with any other leaf vac I'd used.
Sadly, my Black and Decker Leaf Hog BV4000 went back into its box, and returned to Home Depot to dissatisfy some other unfortunate customer. I exchanged it for a Toro Super Blower Vac. Look for a review coming soon to an Epinions page near you!