The claim that there are no alternatives to leaf blowers is a serious issue for Legislators who have been told by opponents to blower bans that the difference in work time between using blowers and other methods would cause economic hardship for workers and small companies. Several sources quoted for this contention have proven to be weak or nonexistent. The only unbiased investigation known to ZAP was created and monitored by the Los Angeles City Department of Water and Power. There, the author of this Report, a grandmother, completed three timed tests faster with broom and/or rake than a professional gardener could start his gas blower and complete the same chores. Electric blowers were even slower. In one test, conducted next to a building, the blower blew damp pine needles and dirt what appeared to be over 20 feet into the air.
Survey99 indicates that leaves and debris are primarily gathered by methods other than blowers and that blowers are overwhelmingly used by hired workers.
88% of Participants stated there are alternatives to blowers. Some of those alternatives are noted here.
Broom and/or Rake
Brooms and rakes, as a unit, are a timeless method of landscape maintenance. Yet, some workers do not even bring a broom of their own to a job. These tools are inexpensive, lightweight, low maintenance, easy to store, and nonpolluting. Their sound levels are not harmful. They produce no danger from fuel spills or fingers scorched on hot engine surfaces. Used in various widths and strengths, and in combination, they clean grass, bedding areas and hardscape.
Rakes and brooms need no experience, no special skills and involve no danger in their use.
Speciality catalogues offer ergonomic rakes which diminish bending, thereby reducing fatigue and discomfort. Rakes work as well on wet leaves as dry, and move heavy pods, rocks and other debris faster than blowers.
Also available through catalogues or from janitorial supply businesses are rolling carts or large, long handled "dust bins" to diminish the need for bending when collecting leaves and debris with a rake or broom. One "Big Scoop" promoted for snow use could be used for this purpose.
Electric leaf and/shop vacuums could be used, at a minimum, to pick up dust, dirt, light and/or small debris from the hardscape which Survey99 has shown are now cleaned with a blower. One blower/vacuum also mulches as it picks up leaves. A Fountain Valley landscape company President states that, after several days of testing a blower against a power vacuum, "the power vacuum was my first choice." It was 65% faster, cleaned 100% of the debris with no residue or dust remaining. He has seen damage to flowers in bedding caused by blowers, and dust blown into open windows, and onto vehicles. He observed damage done to vehicles by small stones and sand propelled by the blower.
Vacuums: One outdoor vacuum has a 1.2 HP electric motor and claims to consume leaves, pine needles and lawn clippings with an impeller that mulches, a 20 inch wide "nozzle" and an 8-gallon collection bag (costs about $170).
Sweepers are designed to be pushed, mower-style: One sweeps hardscape manually with two rotating circular brushes and claims to pick up leaves, paper, litter, or drink cans. Another sweeper claims to pick up leaves, litter, twigs and grass and deposit them in a 5 _ bushel catcher, and removes sand, dirt and rocks from driveways. It has a height adjustment and folds for storage (about $150). Another "sweeper" cleans a 30" wide path and is purported to work on concrete, asphalt, and brick.
Mulching mowers come in electric models and have the advantage of not only picking up leaves and grass clippings at the same time, but of reducing 10 bags of yard waste into one. This is important for cities where landfills are filling up quickly and where green waste programs have not yet been implemented.
Water as a Part of Irrigation System Design
It is unfortunate in Southern California that so many Participants listed "water" as a way of gathering leaves and debris. This is usually accomplished with a standard hose on hardscape, and takes longer than any other method. I have observed a worker use water at full force to clean off dust, for over 30 minutes on the hardscape of one residence, alone, where the runoff was washed into the street and along the gutter.
Water takes longer than any other method of cleaning dust, dirt, leaves and debris.
If landscape is designed so that the path of runoff water leads to landscape that benefits from its irrigation, the following aids may make the job easier.
However, where water is used, the nozzle should contain a device to turn the water off and on and to cause the water to exit under high pressure.
High-powered "Water Brooms" claim to do a better job than normal hosing down in one-third the time with one-tenth the water. They roll on wheels and claim to triple the ordinary household water pressure with sturdy long handles which connect to a 32 inch cross-bar that contains 6 nozzles across its width.
Electric Landscape Tools
In the past, workers argued these machines would electrocute them if they used them near water or on rainy days.
The Electrical Test Lab of the Los Angeles City Department of Building and Safety suggests workers look for their approval label on electric machines. This means the machines of this type have been tested as safe for their designated use.
The Underwriters Laboratory suggests buyers be sure outdoor electric machines have their Underwriters Laboratory seal of approval (a large U L in a circle. A City of Los Angeles Electrical Test Lab seal is equivalent). All directions should be read and understood prior to using outdoor electrical appliances. If used according to these directions, and using common sense, workers cannot be electrocuted or get a shock. The lab tests conform to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) guidelines and include electrical leakage tests to be sure no electricity can leak from the inner housing to the outside of the machine.
Many, if not all of machines manufactured for outdoor use have a cover ("shroud") around the plug so dampness cannot get to the prongs, which are recessed inside the machine. The cord may have a restraint to keep the plug safely recessed. And, outdoor receptacles are required to be GFI (Ground Fault Interrupt), which will stop deadly shocks. Extension cords may also have this feature. Homeowners can also easily replace nonconforming receptacles with GFI receptacles inside garages or homes.