Stihl BR500 Backpack Blower Review
Ah, the American dream: a piece of property all your own, a perfectly groomed and manicured lawn, peace and quiet…but what happens when two of these goals are in conflict with one another? How can you maintain a perfectly groomed lawn, even in autumn, without a professional-grade backpack leaf blower? Conversely, how do you preserve the tranquility not only of your property but of your neighborhood, while using a noisy, gas-powered leaf blower? All you need to do is read over this article about our Stihl backpack blower review.
The answer has potentially serious implications not only for you but for your entire neighborhood. Prolonged exposure to noise levels of over 85 decibels can be damaging to your hearing, and leaf blowers typically operate at a decibel level of 95 to 115. Even if you are willing to take the risk, some communities have imposed noise restrictions on outdoor care products, such as leaf blowers. If you violate a city noise ordinance with your leaf blower, you can be slapped with a hefty fine, as high as $500 or even $1,000 in some areas.
Stihl BR500 Backpack Blower
Pros & Cons
It seems that with every advantage of a given product there is a trade-off, and that is true of the Stihl backpack blower as well. In this case, the quieter operation came at the expense of the power of the leaf blower as measured in cubic feet per minute of air volume. For this reason, the Stihl backpack blower may not be ideal for the professional landscaper, but for the homeowner who is serious about lawn maintenance, it may represent the best of both worlds: adequate power combined with quiet operation.
Stihl BR500 Backpack Blower
Enter the Stihl BR500 Backpack Blower
Now you may not need to sacrifice your hearing or pay a fine in order to keep fallen leaves on your property under control. Stihl, a company that has been manufacturing chainsaws and other power tools for over 90 years, has released the BR500 backpack blower that is designed to keep the noise level during operation at a comfortable 65 decibels, approximately in the decibel range of normal speech, allowing you to keep your lawn clean without disturbing your neighbors or running afoul of the law. The manufacturer's website further claims that, though quiet, the engine of this Stihl backpack blower emits a low level of exhaust while still providing a lot of power to keep your yard and sidewalks clean and free of fallen leaves.
Sound too good to be true? We took a look at the Stihl backpack blower to determine whether its promise is genuine or just a bunch of noise.
BR500 Stihl Backpack Blower Product Specifications
The Stihl BR500 backpack blower is a gas-powered leaf blower. Instead of carrying it in your hand, you wear it strapped to you back like a backpack (hence the name). For your comfort, the blower comes with an adjustable support harness that is designed to distribute the weight evenly across your back and shoulders, as well as an anti-vibration system. Both of these features are intended to reduce fatigue while operating this piece of equipment.
The weight of the entire unit is 22.3 pounds, while the air volume is 544 cubic feet per minute. The fuel capacity is 47.3 ounces, while the engine power is 2.0 kilowatts.
One of the primary concerns with operating a gas-powered piece of equipment like the Stihl backpack blower is pollution, not only emissions from the fuel that is being burned but noise pollution as well. The BR500 comes equipped with features designed to cut down on both forms of pollution. The blower tube comes with a noise-suppression muffler that is designed to keep the engine noise at a tolerable level of 65 decibels. The BR500 is also equipped with a low-emission engine, defined by the company as meeting or exceeding CARB and/or EPA emission standards. Ergonomically, the Stihl backpack blower features a handle that contains all the controls for the unit so that the different settings can be controlled with nothing more than the flick of a finger.
BR500 Stihl Backpack Blower Pricing
The suggested retail price for the Stihl backpack blower ranges from $479.99 to $489.95. We were unable to find a retailer selling it for less than $450. Most of the retailers were locally based, although some more widespread chains included Ace Hardware and QC Supply, which has stores across the Southeast and Midwest. The Stihl website provides a tool to find a dealer in your area, and if you are interested in buying this or any other Stihl product, we recommend taking advantage of it because it is difficult to find listings for this product online.
While you might not have much luck with online retailers, however, it is worth it to see if you can find this product on auction sites such as eBay or from third-party sellers on Amazon. As of this writing, sellers on eBay are offering this model or similar models of Stihl leaf blowers starting at as little as $100, or at approximately 25 percent of the retail price. A word of caution, however, if you try to buy from Amazon or a similar website: be sure that you are purchasing the actual leaf blower and not just spare parts for it. We could not find the actual leaf blower unit itself on Amazon, but a search for the model number brought up a lot of listings for blower parts, and while we found some pretty good deals as far as that goes, spare parts will not do you a lot of good without the blower itself.
Comparison With Similar Stihl Backpack Blower
Looking at the Stihl BR500 backpack blower, the things that struck us as special about it were its low-decibel sound output, its lightweight, its relatively powerful air volume, and its low emissions. We wondered how these factors compared to other gas-powered backpack blowers, so we took a look at three within a similar price range. Because the primary claim to fame of the Stihl BR500 backpack blower is its quiet operation, we used decibel output as the primary criterion by which we judged the following leaf blowers.
Noise Rating: 74 decibels
Weight: 24.7 pounds
Maximum Air Volume: 651 cubic feet per minute
Emissions: CARB compliant, EPA approved
Warranty: 5 out of 5 stars
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The ECHO PB-755ST is among the lowest-priced leaf blower that we reviewed. It is only a couple of pounds heavier than the Stihl BR500 backpack blower and provides a maximum air volume of 651 cubic feet per minute compared to the 544 cfm of the Stihl BR500 backpack blower. However, it is the decibel level during operation that is most significant to our assessment, and the ECHO PB-755ST offers a very reasonable noise output of 74 decibels. While it will not satisfy local ordinances that require that a blower not exceed a decibel level of 65, the ECHO PB-755ST is unlikely to damage your hearing with prolonged use, and if your community does not impose noise restrictions, it is a good option to consider.
Noise Rating: 76 decibels
Weight: 24.1 pounds
Maximum Air Volume: 670 cubic feet per minute
Emissions: CARB compliant
Warranty: 3 out of 5 stars
Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
With a maximum air volume of 670 cubic feet per minute, the Makita is the most powerful leaf blower that we looked at. With that level of power, the relatively low decibel level of 76 is actually quite impressive; while it is not compliant with noise restrictions, it is less likely to damage hearing. Due to these factors and the relatively light weight of 24.1 pounds, the higher price of the Makita may be justified, and indeed, the price is not all that much higher than that of the Stihl. On the downside, however, Makita had the least impressive warranty of the group at only one year; all the other models of leaf blower we looked at offered at least a two-year warranty.
Noise Rating: 97.1 decibels
Weight: 23.15 pounds
Maximum Air Volume: 632 cubic feet per minute
Emissions: EPA/CARB approved
Warranty: 4 out of 5 stars
Overall Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
The Husqvarna is marketed as a powerful blower and yet, at only 632 cubic feet per minute of air volume, this is one of the least powerful leaf blowers that we looked at, and also the noisiest. At 97.1 decibels, this leaf blower is the most likely to damage hearing with chronic use, being well over the 85-decibel threshold at which hearing damage begins. Needless to say, this is not the ideal leaf blower for communities that have ordinances against excessively noisy equipment; you may end up paying as much or more than the purchase price in noise ordinance violation fines. However, the Husqvarna does have a very reasonable warranty at two years and it is one of the more lightweight leaf blowers that we reviewed at just over 23 pounds.
The Stihl BR500 backpack blower is not the least-expensive blower of its kind; that honor goes to the ECHO PB-755ST. Nor is it the most powerful blower; for that, you want the Makita EB7650WH. However, if you need a leaf blower that operates quietly at a decibel level of 65 or less, whether because of the laws in your community or your own sound sensitivity, the Stihl BR500 backpack blower is absolutely the best leaf blower you can buy. We feel confident in saying that when it comes to staying below the 65-decibel threshold, no other leaf blower even comes close. For quiet operation, we give it 5 out of 5 stars.
As we have noted elsewhere, however, the quiet operation comes at the cost of some power. Nevertheless, we believe that the Stihl BR500 backpack blower is a very good choice for homeowners; we believe it to be equal to most, if not all, of the tasks that most homeowners would require of it and can, therefore, recommend it unhesitatingly. However, we believe that professional landscapers would be more satisfied with a more powerful blower. Therefore, we do not recommend it to professionals, except in cases where the professionals are operating in communities that do have noise restrictions and require decibel levels of no more than 65, in which case we believe that the Stihl BR500 backpack blower is the best that they can hope to find.
The Stihl BR500 blower is fairly unique and the best of its kind, but compared to other, noisier blowers, we give it an overall rating of 4 out of 5 stars.
Featured Image via Amazon logo, text and banner added