On a gorgeous fall afternoon yesterday, several alders, many landscapers taking time out of their work day, Jonathan Dame from the Tab, and interested members of the public (including even a woman from Lincoln) gathered on the Comm Ave median across from City Hall for a leaf blower demonstration organized by Programs & Services chair Amy Sangiolo. Alderman Lisle Baker brought his rake.
The purpose was to compare sound levels of different models, as well as effectiveness in clearing a patch of land along the woods in five minutes. Chris Pitts came to shoot video of the whole thing (which Amy was grateful for, because otherwise there would have been no record). I will post the link to Chris’ video when it’s available, but with him shooting the whole thing on a real camera, I was able to do some stills and 1-minute Tout videos, which you can view in reverse chronological order starting here.
How it worked was, several sectors had been marked off (they tried to make them all the same size), and each leafblower/operator had five minutes to work to clear their sector, with Amy timing. Zoning enforcement officer Anthony Ciccariello from Inspectional Services, as well as a Newton police officer, had sound meters, and others were measuring decibel levels with apps on their phones. Lisle Baker did a sector with his rake, and may not have quite finished in five minutes — it was hard to tell. And apparently the Comm Ave traffic and the sound of raking combined were about 60 db, although I don’t know what each would have been alone.
I was juggling three cameras including my iPhone, so my note-taking was rather sporadic, but this was my takeaway:
— Electric leaf blower plus generator was the loudest of all, because the generator is so noisy. Landscaper Joe Caruso pointed out that it’s impractical to use extension cords on large properties where there may not even be outlets to plug into, so generators are necessary (with non-battery operated electric blowers).
Near the end of the demonstration, a ‘green’ landscaper, EcoQuiet Lawn Care owner George Carrette, showed up with his equipment — a battery-powered leaf blower and a leaf broom. That didn’t seem to be part of the planned program. He did some leaf blowing, which did seem quieter, but we never got to see the broom in operation. He explained his method and answered questions from skeptical conventional landscapers. I think I heard him say he tries to match the price of conventional landscapers, but basically his answer on price was ‘it depends on the property.’ He said his batteries last only 30 minutes to an hour, with his biggest battery pack (the kind you wear in a backpack, I guess), lasting three hours. He has 16 batteries.
One other point Joe Caruso made, was that this demonstration was in optimal conditions, with dry leaves. He said heavy wet leaves would put less heavy-duty leaf blowers at even more of a disadvantage.
I have this update from Amy on last night’s Programs & Services meeting:
No vote. We discussed amendments – took out phase into a total ban and we are entertaining language regarding exemptions. We will allow representatives from the local landscapers, Newton Safe and Sound, the woman landscaper from Brookline, the green landscaper, and someone from either a golf course and/or institution to comment on the draft ordinance only – since we’ve already had a public hearing on the general issue itself. Looking to vote this out first meeting in December.
Meanwhile, I’ve got my own leaves to rake!