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Echo PB200 Leaf Blower

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Leaf blowers appear to be the nexus of contempt and admonition of the eco-weenies on several continents – which would strike me as a compelling reason to own one even if I lived in a studio apartment. As it is, with several acres of lawns and meadows, and three hundred feel of driveway snaking through a boreal pine forest, these things seem all but indispensable.

The Echo PB200 leaf blower is easily among the best designed and most robustly constructed of these contentious little machines. Insubstantially light to carry and yet capable of generating a cyclonic atmospheric disturbance of sufficient magnitude to frighten every leaf within shouting distance, it’s as far removed from a leaf rake as a leaf rake is from a good sneeze.

On its first afternoon among us, it nailed the west meadow and the driveway in about two hours, a chore that had occupied an entire weekend in years past, thence to be followed by a week of near paralysis while all the muscle aches dissipated. In that it weighs next to nothing, the PB200 won’t leave you looking for a few fistfuls of aspirin when its motor finally chugs into silence.

The Echo PB200 leaf blower is built in the United States around a Japanese 21.2 cc two-stroke engine. It weighs a little under nine pounds. Its manufacturer claims that it’s capable of expelling air at well over a hundred miles per hour. This said, its air velocity has been calibrated to move leaves, pine needles, occasional mushrooms and all manner of organic detritus… but magically, to ignore even fine driveway gravel. This alone makes it a decided improvement over a rake.

Unboxing and setting up the PB200 leaf blower is gratifyingly simple. Attach its two-section exhaust nozzle, fill its capacious fuel tank with gasoline and two-stroke oil and it’s good to go. Ours was a bit of a pig to start the first time, as small engines are wont to be.

While the aforementioned eco-weenies would have you use an electric leaf blower if you must blow leaves – not wholly practical when the blower in question is several hundred feet from a plug – the remarkable fuel economy of the PB200 arguably surpasses the energy efficiency of a blower with an extension cord. On its first outing, it consumed about 32 ounces of fuel, or way less than the drive into town to buy the beast had gotten through. By comparison, an electric blower would rack up watts that had probably been derived from fossil fuels which were inefficiently burned to heat water, which had inefficiently driven a turbine to generate electricity, which had lost quite a bit of itself in transmission.

While you’ll unquestionably want to clamp a decent set of ear protection devices upon your head when you use any leaf blower, the Echo PB200 was remarkably quiet for a two-stroke engine. Ear covers in place, ushering it about the grounds was a relaxing excursion into an alternate universe of muted sounds and surreal floating leaves. This said, I’d imagine that some of the local chipmunks have gone a bit deaf as a result of it.

In shopping for a leaf blower, we checked out several alternatives to this one, and they’re arguably worth mentioning as they all sound good when you’re reading the sides of their boxes. To wit:

  • Four-stroke blowers: There are several extant leaf blowers built around four-stroke engines, most notably one by Troy-Bilt. A four-stroke engine doesn’t require that you mix oil and gasoline to fuel it; it’s quieter than a two-stroke engine and it generates fewer emissions. However, because every other stroke of a four stroke engine is an exhaust stroke, a considerably larger four-stroke engine would be required to generate as much of a gale as the two-stroke engine in the PB200. The Troy-Bilt blower was beautifully made, but driven by a 29cc engine, it weighed twice what the Echo blower did.
  • Blower / vacuums: Several of the leaf blowers we looked at offered to suck as well as blow – albeit not at the same time. They could inhale leaves as well as disperse them. Several of them could mulch whatever they ingested. Such a machine would arguably be practical for a small yard – we’d have spent more time emptying the bag than we did dispelling leaves. The mulching mechanisms in these machines appear to jam fairly easily if they’re confronted with damp leaves. Having to hand-dry your leaves before you vacuum them up seems to largely defeat the purpose of one of these things.
  • Leaf blowers from China: We looked at several blowers that hailed from China, all apparently based on the same 25cc engine. Costing less than half what the Echo blower did, these machines initially looked attractive. In practice, they had several notable shortcomings. The were tricky to start cold, and they were often impossible to start warm, requiring that the blower be permitted to cool down for a few hours if its operator stopped for a break. They were also supremely loud. We encountered several former owners of them who claimed that they’d leapt off a cliff after a season or two, and had proven to be largely irreparable.

The Echo PB200 leaf blower was worth what it cost, acquitting itself masterfully right out of its box. It’s clearly the child of many generations of leaf blower design – its balance is intuitive, its controls fall naturally under a normal human hand and the leaves it’s directed at dive for cover at its approach.

It even has a throttle lock to keep your trigger finger from growing fatigued.

If it came with a harness to allow it to be attached to the dog, it would be perfect.

Comments (2)

HeatherJuly 13th, 2011 at 5:21 pm

If you have a pile of brush or limbs to burn that may be a little wet, not wanting to burn, just get it started with a little charcoal lighter fluid, crank the ole pb200, stick the nozzle sort of close to the fire, lock down the throttle and sit back and watch your very own backyard volcano. Fun. Thanks for having such a friendly site to visit.

Debbie AinsworthOctober 9th, 2012 at 5:28 pm

I just bought another blower “buy it now” and didn’t do my homework very well. I have to say I do tend to see something I might have on a list of things to buy and just click on the first one that seems like a good deal. Then I found this one and read about it and said “Darn it” But I saw it was only 9 pounds I was so excited because I can use it. I have a slipped disk in my back with two cracks in my spine and I can carry 10 lbs so I am bidding on this one and I hope I get it! Your description had so much information that I learned a lot today. THANK YOU FOR THAT!!!