Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Are battery-powered chainsaws worth the money?
I've written here and there about chainsaws, and found them useful during the cleanup after hurricanes in Louisiana, where I lived for more than a decade. However, these have all been gas-fueled models, big, powerful - and noisy. Regular "homeowner" models have never been able to handle entire fallen tree trunks, either. They've coped with smaller trees and de-limbing larger ones, but the big stuff has always had to await the arrival of professionals with really big, powerful saws to get through the trunks and thick branches.
I've had a query from one of my correspondents asking about the utility of smaller, lighter battery-powered chainsaws. She's partly disabled, like me, and I came into contact with her through my efforts to teach disabled people how to shoot in order to defend themselves if necessary. She says she can't handle a big, heavy chainsaw, but that the smaller, lighter battery-powered models are manageable. However, she doesn't know if they're worth buying to cut firewood or clean up smaller limbs after a storm.
I did a bit of research, and found this Popular Mechanics article comparing half a dozen models. It speaks highly of the Stihl MSA 160 C-BQ, as does Gizmodo's review. The Stihl's an expensive choice, particularly if you get an extra battery or two, but I guess that's what you pay for that level of performance (at least at present). There's also the MSA 200 C-BQ model, with a standard 14" bar, which is listed by Stihl under "Farm and Ranch Saws" rather than "Homeowner Saws" like the 160. The latter is listed as taking a 10"-14" bar, but appears to be usually sold with a 12" option, so the 200 is probably designed for slightly tougher, harder jobs. Here's a composite picture of both models, taken from Stihl's Web site.
I'd like to ask whether any of my readers have tried an electric chainsaw, particularly one of the Stihl models mentioned above. If so, how well did it perform? Was it worth the money? In particular, was it easier to use than a heavier, more unwieldy gas-fueled chainsaw? Do you think a partly disabled person, with limited physical strength and mobility, would be able to use it more easily than a standard model? For emergency use (e.g. post-storm cleanup), if the power's out, I'm thinking that a generator could recharge a battery-powered saw with no trouble at all (their lithium-ion batteries recharge in an hour or so), and probably use less gas overall than a gas-powered chainsaw would need (since the generator would be powering other things at the same time). That might make a saw like that, with a spare battery, a very serviceable option, but only if it does the job it's supposed to do.
Please let us know your thoughts in Comments. Thanks.