Are battery-powered chainsaws worth the money?
We decided to find out. *
Gas chainsaws have been around for decades. Rich wondered if newer electric battery-powered chainsaws would be as functional and easier to use. So, he acquired a Milwaukee saw with a 16-inch bar and put it to the test alongside his trusty Stihl gas model.
Back in the mid-1970s Rich worked in Idaho felling Douglas Fir and Ponderosa Pine trees. He used a heavy noisy gas fueled chainsaw that was amazingly powerful as it chewed through thick trunks. Years later he bought a Stihl gas-powered saw used to cut the four or five cords of wood we burn each winter for heat. It’s a well-built powerful saw.
A few days after the new battery saw arrived, we heard a crack/boom as a huge oak crashed down across one of our backyard trails. Rich guided the new saw as it sliced through the log, and emerged smiling. “It’s amazing,” he said.
After further use he developed this chart of the pros and cons of the battery vs the gas saw:
Gas: Pro – Plenty of Power, No need to recharge batteries, Longer bar
Gas: Con Noisy and heavy, Must mix/carry/store gas, Must replace gas & air filters, Engine stalls, Pull cord start hard on the shoulder.
Battery: Pro – Plenty of Power, Relatively quiet, Less maintenance, Fairly lightweight, Trigger start, No need to idle, Easy start
Battery: Con – Need a nearby electric outlet to recharge the battery, Shorter bar than a gas saw
Bottom Line. Which One to Buy
Rich has both a gas and electric battery saw. Both are well-made by reliable companies. So, if he didn’t own a saw and needed to cut up trees fallen in the yard which type would he buy?
“I’d buy a quality battery saw. They are easy to use, cut fast, and there’s no need to buy, mix, and store gas. They are also quiet, but I still use hearing protection when using one. There are major advantages of battery over gas. One is
eliminating the need to pull a cord to start it. You just pull the trigger. The second is especially helpful when cutting a fallen tree with branches. Often this requires cutting, then putting the saw aside to clear away the cut branches, then using the saw to cut more. Gas saws don’t idle well and often stall, requiring another pull on the starter cord. Also, when idling gas saws burn fuel and spew emissions. Battery saws excel when there’s a need to cut and then move wood.”
Battery-powered chainsaws use lots of electricity. He was able to cut 13 15-inch diameter black oak logs on one charge with a 12-amp hour battery. The saw will function well on batteries with lower amp hour ratings, but they will run down sooner. He suggests having two 12-amp hour batteries and notes that being close to a power source for recharging is useful. It is likely that the cost of recharging a battery is lower than the comparable amount of energy in gasoline but it’s difficult to make a comparison.
Operating any chainsaw must be done with safety in mind. Here is Rich’s list of safety precautions to keep in mind:
- Get saw training. In-person training is best but YouTube videos help.
- Always wear protective equipment that includes saw chaps, leather gloves, hearing, ear, head and eye protection, and sturdy leather boots.
- Saw with a partner nearby and carry a cell phone in case of emergency.
- Keep the chain sharp. YouTube videos show how to sharpen.
- Rest before you get tired.
- Be alert. Save the cold beer for after you are done.
Gas and battery saws with protective equipment.
Rich in protective equipment.
Quality gas and electric saws.
Rich has years of experience using many power tools and shares these thoughts:
Quality pays. “I buy quality tools, even if I have to wait until I save up enough money. Most of my tools are Milwaukee brand. The same batteries that power my chainsaw also power my drills, fans, vacuum cleaner, lights, inflater, hedge trimmer and other saw types. Many quality brands are on the market. They have their own specific type of battery that won’t work with other brands. So, I consistently buy the same brand for convenience.
Yard Tool’s Future
At Winding Pathways, we have replaced our gas lawn mower, snowblower, and now chainsaw with battery-powered equivalents. They are excellent and come with benefits over gas models. We see gas yard tools moving toward obsolescence and battery-powered ones becoming ever more versatile.
Rich has purchased, at retail cost, most of his power tools. Milwaukee has provided others for testing.
Power outages. They happen in an instant. Most are only a flicker but some can last for hours when the wind’s whistling and the temperature’s dropping outside. Or in summer when the heat rises.
What’s the best thing to do in power outages? Well, it’s best to anticipate it and be ready by having a few things ready to pull out of the closet when the lights go out. Here’s a short list:
Cooking and Food:
- Propane or gas camping stove with plenty of fuel stored away from the main residence. (i.e. in a stand-alone garage) If you live in an apartment or condominium have less volatile fuel options ready.
- A few days of nonperishable or dehydrated camping food.
- Several gallons of water stored where it won’t freeze.
Power Outages and Light & Heat:
- Cell phones and other electronic batteries drain quickly. A backup power source and solar-powered phone charger keep the phone working.
One More Important Item:
- In a widespread power failure credit and debit cards don’t work. Cash always does. Keep some cash in small bills to use during emergencies.
Many other items readily available in case of emergencies help keep life comfortable. Read about them on our other blogs. The list above covers only the most basic and sometimes overlooked, emergency items to keep on hand. Get ready now for power outages.
We found the meals tasty and filling.
This two-burner Sterno keeps food warm but is less useful for cooking. Great for old style fondue parties!
Want to buy gas for a buck a gallon? Well, you can but you won’t find it at a service station. It’s available at the electrical outlet in the garage or shop.
We switched to cordless tools gradually.
Nearly ten years ago we switched from plug-in carpentry tools to battery (cordless) equivalents. We loved them for their power, effectiveness, quietness, and ease of use. So, when battery-powered yard tools came on the market we gradually switched.
In 2018 we ditched our gas lawn mower and replaced it with a battery unit….with concern. Would it have the power of our gas machine to chew through tall grass and weeds? Would it have enough battery storage to mow the entire lawn?
Maintaining the labyrinth is work. And a way to connect.
We quickly learned our concerns were false. The mower chewed through tough prairie grass and buzzed off our traditional lawn with ease. We liked it so much we bought another one so we could both mow simultaneously. Then came a trimmer, chain saw, and snow blower that all run on the same battery system. We love them all and believe gas-powered equivalents are on the road to obsolescence.
How about operating costs? Experts at our utility, Alliant Energy, told us that one gallon of gasoline has the energy equivalent of 33.7-kilowatt hours of electricity. As of mid-June 2022, gasoline average cost pushed to $4.60+ a gallon in Cedar Rapids. 33.7 kWh of electricity costs, on average in Iowa, $1.03.
Operating our battery tools costs a quarter of our old gas equivalents.
Benefits of Electric Tools
Comparison of a gas mower and the EGO cordless lawnmower.
But, there’s more than cost savings with battery-operated tools. Here are aspects we love about our mowers, trimmers, saws, and snowblowers:
- No rope to pull to start the machine. We save the shoulders! Just press a switch.
- No filters or oil to change.
- No need to buy and store gasoline. Fuel is always at hand at the electrical outlet.
- No fumes to breathe while operating.
- No noisy internal gas explosions. Battery electric machines are quiet.
- Easy to fold and store.
So, what are the downsides of battery-operated tools? We had to think about that and came up with only one thing. They may cost more than gas machines, and batteries are expensive. However, the batteries last a long time, perhaps as many as 2000 charge/discharge cycles.
The cost of electricity varies from place to place. Utilities print the kilowatt-hour charge on monthly bills. To calculate the cost of 33.7 kWh of electricity multiply that number by your per kWh cost and add in any taxes or service fees. Almost certainly it will cost less to charge a battery than to buy gas.
Have a cranky old gas mower? We suggest replacing it with a battery-powered equivalent.
Winding Pathways appreciates and enjoys quality tools. So, we have an affiliate relationship with Acme Tools. We do this because of their quality tools, supplies, and outstanding customer service.
Acme Tools carries multiple brands. All are of high quality. They are reliable, safe, and user-friendly. People come in different sizes. Customers can find different sized tools comfortable for anyone of any size to use.
After years of using bargain tools that frequently broke or failed, Winding Pathways went to Acme Tools and purchased various Milwaukee Brand tools. They cost a little more upfront. In the long run, this purchasing philosophy has saved us money and reduced frustration.
Quality tools sold by Acme Tools last a long time and, unlike cheaper counterparts, can be repaired.
Here are some Milwaukee items we have purchased at Acme Tools and enjoy using.
Apparel – Jackets, Gloves, and more
Hand Tools – Screwdrivers, hammers, measurers, squares, and more
Note: Winding Pathways received no discount or special consideration for selecting DeNeve Construction and writing this blog about class 4 rubber shingles. This reflects our personal experience and research.
Most of our Winding Pathways blogs are about managing a yard for beauty, health, and to attract fascinating wildlife. Sometimes we share house tips, especially about energy savings and photovoltaics.
We just learned something new. Our roof’s shingles had been put in about 20 years ago. They were supposed to last longer but were stiff, beginning to curl, and some nails were poking out above the shingles. It was time for a new roof.
The crew were fast, efficient and friendly.
We received three bids from local roofers and hired DeNeve Construction to do the work. Owner Rick DeNeve met us and said, “I suggest you use Class 4 shingles. They are a little more expensive but resist hail and wind and last longer than normal ones. Give your insurance company a call, and you may get a discount if you use Class 4s.”
We did and learned that we’d receive a whopping 26% reduction in home insurance premium cost by using Class 4 instead of less expensive and durable shingles. That’s a savings of about $260 a year in insurance cost.
“Most shingles have a fiberglass base layer. Every spot hit by a large hailstone suffers damage, and this greatly shortens the life of the roof. Class 4 shingles have a rubber base, and hailstones bounce off without damage,” continued DeNeve.
Life Cycle Cost
Men putting on shingles
Whenever we buy anything for the house, we consider life cycle cost. Simply put, that is the cost of the item based on its average annual cost determined by its expected life. Some examples are the roof, paint, refrigerator, and just about everything else people buy.
In this case, cheap shingles would have saved us about $2,000 on our rather large roof but we could expect to change them within 20 years. Class 4 shingles are likely to last at least 30 years. The upfront cost is a little higher but the long-term cost is lower.
That seems to be a common situation. Anything that’s durable is likely to cost more to buy than a cheap counterpart, but in the long run, it is less expensive and saves money, time and inconvenience of replacing the less expensive product. In addition, durable high-quality items often look and function better than cheapies.
We’re probably not going to be around to ever need to reroof our house, but in coming years we’ll enjoy our insurance discount and a beautiful roof that will resist Iowa’s notorious sleet, hail, and heavy rain.
The sheathing has no rot.
Lawn magnet to pick up nails.
The roof blends well with our landscape.
In July we hired Brown Concrete and Backhoe to pump out Winding Pathways’ septic tank. We were surprised to hear Trevor Dickerson, who designs waste treatment systems and helped with our project, say that septic systems share similar characteristics with cars.
“If you don’t take good care of a car it might die when you are in the midst of traffic. If you don’t take care of your septic system it could fail just when the house is filled with wedding or graduation guests,” he said.
We weren’t having any problems with our septic system but it hadn’t been pumped for seven years. That’s getting long so we hired Brown to pump it out, inspect the system, and share tips on proper septic tank maintenance and care.
Few people give their septic system much thought – until it fails. They flush and forget. But, every day millions of bacteria and other organisms quietly consume waste in the tank and soil. They are biological wonders that help prevent water pollution.
The septic system treats biodegradable materials
Man pumping septic system
Most American homes are connected to a municipal sewer that channels waste into a treatment plant. All they need to do is pay a monthly or quarterly bill and not worry about a personal septic system. Folks living in rural areas aren’t as fortunate. They must have their own septic system to receive and treat waste. Proper maintenance reduces problems. Here are some actions we take to keep our system working properly.
- Only flush easily degradable items down the drain, such as human waste and shower and dishwashing water.
- Avoid putting anything toxic to bacteria down the drain. Bleach, antibiotics, paint thinner, and many other chemicals can kill the bacteria happily living in the tank, thus causing the system to fail.
- Consider food scraps, vegetable and fruit peelings, and other kitchen waste as valuable resources. They either go to our chickens or in our compost bin. Chickens convert food waste into delicious eggs and what they won’t eat becomes compost that nourishes our garden. We have a garbage disposal unit under the sink that we rarely use, as septic tank bacteria have a hard time digesting course vegetable matter.
- Spread out water use. Sometimes a septic system is overwhelmed if a homeowner does many loads of laundry in one morning, putting more soapy water into the system in a short time than it can handle. It’s better to schedule laundry tasks throughout the week.
- Have our tank regularly pumped. “Think of pumping a septic tank as similar to having the oil changed or doing a tune-up of the car. Regular maintenance reduces will extend the life of both,” explained Trevor Dickerson.
Every septic system is different because every family and yard is different. Our system works well because there are only two of us living in the home, we have flow restrictors on faucets and 1.6 gallons per flush toilets, and we’re careful to keep toxins out. We also live on the top of an ancient sand dune with steep topography. The soil in our yard readily absorbs water and the steep gradient allows gravity to channel waste quickly into and through our septic system.
Our system might fail if we had a very big family who flushed frequently. Here are some symptoms of a failing system:
- Water pooling on the ground.
- Slow drains and toilets backing up.
Call a septic tank specialist if symptoms show up.
Chemotherapy and Medications
Chemotherapy can result in an unexpected problem. These potent medications are highly toxic to the bacteria essential to septic tank operation. They vacate the human body in urine and feces and can kill bacteria and cause a septic system failure.
Coumadin and antibiotics can also cause problems. And people suffering from Bulimia also can pressure their septic system by discharging large amounts of partially digested food into the system. Trevor suggests that anyone taking chemotherapy medications monitor their septic system carefully and have it pumped more often than the average.
Many additives on the market can be flushed down a toilet and supposedly help the septic system work. According to Trevor, these won’t hurt but they may not help. Any active septic system is filled with bacteria and millions remain after pumping. They’ll quickly reproduce, so adding additional cultures won’t help. Think of a yogurt culture. Add milk to a tiny scrap of yogurt and bacteria quickly convert the new milk into yogurt. Adding more bacteria just won’t make any difference – but it also won’t hurt.
Adding bacteria to a new system devoid of bacteria or one that has had its bacteria killed may help speed up the treatment process.
Permits and Information
Our septic system was installed long before we bought the home at Winding Pathways, and we didn’t know its age or where the underground pipes were. Fortunately, we were able to get this information from our local county health department. It issues permits that are required to install a system and keeps records of systems in place. Permits are required everywhere but the agency that issues them varies from place to place. A good bet for a homeowner seeking information about a system is the local county office. Some municipalities or states may also issue permits. Browsing on the web will help locate area companies that install and maintain systems and usually, they are a wealth of information. We used Brown Concrete and Backhoe.
We’re fortunate at Winding Pathways. Our yard is large and our soil sandy. We also have steep topography. Combined, these help create an effective septic system that drains well. We planted prairie over our drain field. Roots extend up to 15 feet into the ground. They capture water oozing out of our drain field and convert it into lush vegetation and delightful wildflowers. So, even our toilet waste helps create a colorful wildlife haven.