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Choosing Sweeping Equipment

Choosing Sweeping Equipment

Study Shows Backpack Blowers Highly Cost-Effective

by Ranger Kidwell-Ross

In September of 1991, the City of Whittier, California, completed one of the most exhaustive time-in-use studies of backpack blowers yet conducted. California is a national leader in the use of backpacks, due to its population density and climate. As a result, this area has also been at the forefront in considering noise limit and allowable time-use legislation, as well as in banning use of power blowers. Nationally, nearly 100 cities now have either an ordinance against leaf blowers or ban them outright.

The Whittier City Council requested that their Director of Parks conduct a study to determine whether the positive aspects of using blowers were greater than the drawbacks. The results proved conclusively the absolute power and productivity of the power blower when used for general landscaping clean-ups.

The study, which calculated the amount of time it took to clean three park areas in Whittier by each of four methods; using a backpack blower, hosing debris to collection spots, sweeping with a broom, and using a Giant Vac® (a push-type wheeled power sweeper). It assumed that the wages paid for all operators was the same, approximately $14.25 per hour. No factor was included for the relative costs associated with the equipment used in the four methods.

The three park areas included in the study covered a total of 228,174 square feet, and the relative costs were calculated to the fraction of an hour (see chart). Based upon this hard data, the recommendation from the Whittier Director of Parks, Hideo Hamano, was, in part, that "bans on power-blowers would have drastic budgetary ramifications on the Parks Department." Hamano went on to recommend that the city undertake a program designed to "first educate the public and blower users regarding proper use, along with ramifications for failure to properly utilize them. Secondly, after evaluating the impact of the educational programs, follow-up with guidelines or an ordinance for their control."


Cleaning Method		    Hours to complete	        Total cost
Walk behind Giant Vac® 		 24 hours		 $341.52*
Broom Method			381 hours		$5431.52
Hosedown Method			102 hours		$1454.10**
Backpack blower			  5 hours		  $71.27

*12,294 sq. ft. of area could not be reached by the large power sweeper.
This area would have to be cleaned via one of the other methods.

**The hosedown method was cited with the additional drawback of using approximately 21,609 gallons of water.


Data for this article provided by Robin Pendergrast, consultant for ECHO.

This article is reprinted from American Sweeper magazine, v2 n1 1992.

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