Stihl Expanding Cordless Tool Line to Attract DIY Crowd

The Stihl BGA 56 cordless leaf blower / Credit: StihlStihl is one of the biggest names in outdoor power equipment, known particularly for handheld gear. But its 36-volt battery-powered line of tools, introduced six years ago, hasn’t gone gangbusters—not from any concerns about performance, but from pricing more appropriate for well-heeled landscapers than homeowners. Fortunately, more is coming from Stihl: two new cordless lines for the rest of us.

As of next spring, Stihl’s Lightning Battery Systems will include the existing line, now designated AP, plus two others. The 36V AP line remains targeted to pros and includes two leaf blowers, a hedge trimmer, three string trimmers, two chain saws and two mowers (a third, the $320 RMA 510, is on the way) along with other tools.

Two New Cordless Lines
The AK line is intended for prosumer/suburban homeowners. The BGA 56 leaf blower, shown above ($130), HSA 56 hedge trimmer ($200), FSA 56 string trimmer ($150) and MSA 120 C-BQ chainsaw ($240) comprise this line. All prices shown for the AK line, though, are without the AK 20 battery and AL 101 charger, which add $50 to $70 more for the bundle, depending on product.

Stihl FSA 45 cordless string trimmer / Credit: StihlTargeted to condo dwellers who need to do their own yard work, the AI line uses integrated 18V batteries. It includes the BGA 45 leaf blower, HSA 45 hedge trimmer and (shown at left) FSA 45 string trimmer. Each costs $130.

Although the AP and AK lines are both rated for 36 volts, their respective batteries aren’t interchangeable. The AK line’s batteries, the AK 10 ($70) and AK 20 ($100), lasted roughly half to two-thirds as long, in Stihl’s own runtime tests, as the AP line’s AP 300. Stihl claims that charging the AK 10 takes 30 or 80 minutes, depending on which charger you use. For the AK 20, it’s 45 or 150 minutes, depending on the charger.

The AK line, however, should bring Stihl’s cordless tools into homes. Unlike the AP line’s, pricing for the AK tools—and the AI for condo owners—isn’t prohibitive. We’ll see, once the new lines are available for review, how these tools stack up against competitors whose products have been in homes for quite some time. Stihl’s advantage: All are sold at authorized dealerships, where you’ll be better able to try out the products before buying than you can at Home Depot or Lowe’s. And you’ll know whom to see should you be unhappy later.

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Husqvarna Backpack Leaf Blower Speeds Cleanup

Husqvarna 130BT leaf blower / Credit: HusqvarnaNow that many of us are hopelessly deep into leaf season, any resentment toward a leaf blower that’s more noise than breath has surely surfaced. If you’re ready to upgrade from a handheld blower to a backpack, the $250 Husqvarna 130BT is worth considering. Granted, you can find newer models. But you won’t even stumble across this dealer-sold model if you do all your shopping at your local home center.

One obvious attraction to the 130BT is its light weight. At about 15 1/3 pounds fueled up, the 130BT weighs much less than the beefiest backpack leaf blowers, including Husqvarna’s own 150BT, $300, which is seven pounds more before you add gas. Both models have two-stroke engines. While lighter than four-stroke, they require that you mix a specific oil with the gasoline at a 50:1 gas/oil ratio. For easier starting time after time, we recommend you use ethanol-free 50:1 fuel, which would address the concerns of most people who’ve posted user reviews online about the 130BT.

Testing the Husqvarna 130BT
Setting the blower up was a snap, with clear directions for piecing together the blow pipe and attaching the operating handle. You won’t find electric start or automatic choke here, but setting the choke and priming took mere seconds before the couple of pulls the 130BT needed for it to come alive.

The adjustable harness is padded, making for a comfy fit, and vibration dampening kept us from feeling any trace of discomfort even after a few long periods of use. We also liked the throttle-lock lever, which won’t clear its setting as some button-style speed locks do should you inadvertently press the throttle trigger. This lever also lets you lock in speeds less than full-throttle, which saves fuel and might annoy the neighbors less.

Husqvarna claims the 130BT blows air at 130 mph out its round nozzle, with 425 cubic feet per minute of airflow in the pipe. But specs matter far less than what you see as you’re clearing actual leaves. If not as powerful as some backpack blowers could be, such as the 150BT, it nevertheless had ample muscle for blowing oak and maple leaves out of dense pachysandra groundcover.

And in a comparison with several handheld leaf blowers from Stihl, Toro and Worx, the 130BT completed a test course over grass in under six minutes. The best any of those did was 10 minutes, though it’s no knock against those brands; a decent gas-powered backpack blower should outclass any handheld on the market.

The Verdict
If all you want is to carry blowing power on your back to keep yourself from reaching out with a handheld, the Husqvarna 130BT might offer more oomph than you need. This backpack blower, however, also shortens blowing time to help you finish the job and get back to enjoying the fall. Take care of it, with no fuel left in it for long periods, and you should get several years of fine performance.

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