Pros: Efficient Performance, Durability, Warranty
Cons: Higher priced than most consumer units.
Ahh..those were the days, what are we, NUTS?
Remember the rake? It seems light years away.
I remember, being assigned the task of gathering up the leaves and cleaning the yard for the impending winter. I had come to expect the summons each year about the middle of October. As we moved around that call came at different times and frequency depending on the region. I dreaded the job as it was a backbreaker, shuttling all the arboreal invaders into a compost pile way across the yard. I would get creative and enlist my friends, who had their cross of their own to bear, and conspire to tackle this job as a team taking on each yard, shoulder to shoulder, helping one another. Well it turns out that we just ended up with a bunch of sore shoulders. I was determined that one day I would be the one retiring this seasonal torture forever, yeh sure!
How times have changed! Today, life has gotten a lot easier hasnt it? Today the rake has become a specialty tool, replaced by the lawn vacuum and leaf blower.
Recently my Toro leaf blower bit the dust and I was on the prowl for a replacement. I knew I wanted to have as much power as possible but really wouldnt entertain a backpack unit. I did a fair amount of research and ended up with my initial choice, a Stihl BG 85.
The reasons were fairly simple. First off, Stihl is a reputable company whose products are generally state of the art when it comes to durability and dependability. At a $219.00 price point you can get their top of the line hand held blower that also doubles as a leaf vacuum to tidy up those pesky flowerbeds, long after you have put your lawn vacuum to rest for the summer season. The leaf vacuum kit costs another $50.00 with the necessary bags, tubes and 12-1 mulching blade. My experiences with their chainsaws were all favorable so why not?
A Closer Look
The Stihl BG 85 is powered by a 27.2 cc two cycle engine rated at 1.1 hp. That translates into 183 mph air velocity or 459 CFM. To give you a sense of what that means, I give you my 12 x 16 Flagstone landing that adjoins my driveway in front of my house. In the past, with my Toro, rated at 150 mph, I could clear it from leaves and silt simply by taking 4 steps into the walk with blower in hand, moving side to side. The Stihl cleared the walk simply by taking a single step into the walk, scanning left to right and it was immaculate! The Toro took approximately 10-15 seconds, the Stihl, 2-5 seconds flat. Transpose that formula roughly to your yard work and you have the capability of completing your blowing tasks in 20-30% of the time. For comparison sake, if you look at the Toro line their Ultra 225, electric model is rated at 225 mph with 385 CFM. At first glance it appears to be a workhorse but you really need to look at just how much air is pushed through the tubes. I have used that unit and can share that while it does perform admirably for a $79.00 msrp. it is nowhere in the same league, performance- wise, as the Stihl BG 85.
The Stihl takes on 13.5 fluid ounces of 89 octane fuel, with a 50:1 gas/oil mix ratio. Under constant use your tank of fuel should last approximately 25 minutes. Of course with a machine of this caliber, that should be enough to take care of most tasks around the house. Given the price of fuel that has become a consideration, however small.
You can tool about your yard longer without fatiguing, as the Stihl BG 85
weighs in at 8/8lbs and is nicely balanced so you dont have to watch yours. The soft grip handle is angled at approximately 45? and you will find your hand rests in a very natural position during leaf blowing so your hand can rest as the blower tube is aimed at your work. You can easily work for hours as the rubber grip goes a long way towards making the job more palatable.
Pollution and noise concerns have plagued small engine manufacturers and Stihl has answered with a fully compliant engine rated to meet federal guidelines. Considering 5% of all air pollution is created from engines rated 25 hp and below, responsible ownership should include research to assure you arent littering the environment with VOCs while you clean your yard. At 70 dba, this unit is on the high side of compliance but here again the tradeoff is efficiency. A catalytic converter in the muffler reduces noxious emissions from exhaust gas. The one thing that is immediately noticeable to me is that my wife does not complain about me coming into the house smelling like gas. Maintenance is a breeze, all carburetor adjustments are easily made and instructions are clearly documented in the 68 page English/Spanish manual.
A Run Around The Block
Starting the Stihl is a simple matter of pumping the primer bulb 3-4 times setting the thumb switch to the ignition position and pulling on the Elastostart shock absorbing starter handle. It generally starts in 3-4 pulls and once underway you can lock the throttle position with a locking thumb lever, which adds to fatigue reducing ergonomics. Vapor lock is a thing of the past as this machine is made to flip over in vacuum mode.
Working with the Stihl BG 85 is an absolute joy. I have eliminated walking into Sticky branches to blow out areas around the trunks of my Fir trees. I can blow leaves as far as 20 feet from one side of those Fir trees to a clearing, where I can vacuum them up with my Cyclone Rake; not so with the old Toro.
In the box you will find two sections of twist and lock plastic barrels. In addition there is an extra flared tip for high impact blowing to complement the round nozzle and a carburetor adjustment tool. Oddly, they are not constructed of high impact plastic but recycled pliable plastic. While one might look at this as cheap construction, the barrels are durable and light, further reducing the weight of the unit.
The Stihl BG 85 doubles as a leaf vacuum rated at 368 CFM. The optional vacuum kit is easily installed and is quite effective for leaf pickup in your flower beds. You can buy the Stihl BG 85 equipped with the vacuum unit marketed as model SH85. The Stihl is an efficient vacuum performing better than any other combo vacuum unit I have seen.
Another real nice feature about this machine are the rubber feet. It is real annoying watching your machine vibrate away until it tumbles over, when you put it down for whatever reason; this one stays put. Go ahead; tie your shoes with no worries.
The Stihl BG 85 is a great buy. While it is a little more than typical fare at your home centers, it offers far more in benefits to the consumer. Power is key here. You dont have to be on top of your work to keep the debris and leaves moving. I think purchasing the Stihl BG 85 may qualify as one of the top ten best buys I make this year