Pros and cons of a cordless chainsaw
Cordless chainsaws may be popular, but are they necessarily the type of chainsaw you need for your yard work? We’ll take a look at some of the pros and cons of cordless chainsaws compared to traditional corded chainsaws.
The major advantage that cordless chainsaws have over corded chainsaws is that they are more portable. While you could use an extension cord with a corded chainsaw for trees that aren’t too far from your house’s wall outlets, there is a limit to how far you can carry your chainsaw this way. With a corded chainsaw, beyond that point you also need to carry a generator and gasoline. A cordless chainsaw solves this by allowing you to cut anywhere on your property without worrying about an outlet.
The other advantage to a cordless chainsaw is that you can use them if the power grid is down. That may sound like something you don’t need right now, but if you want to use your chainsaw for cleaning up damaged trees after a big storm and before the power comes back on, it can make a big difference.
The major downside to cordless chainsaws compared to corded chainsaws is that they have limited runtimes. Although manufacturers have made significant strides in battery technology, incorporating lithium-ion batteries into their chainsaws, these batteries are still relatively limited compared to simply plugging into your home’s electrical grid. Gasoline-powered chainsaws are also limited, although if you are carrying a gas tank with you this may not be a major issue.
The other con to opting for a cordless chainsaw is that they often do not match the power of a corded chainsaw. This is especially true for battery-powered chainsaws, which often have a tough time sawing through extremely large tree trunks. Wall-powered chainsaws, on the other hand, have access to a full 110V of consistent power to engage a more powerful engine.
Finally, cordless chainsaws tend to be heavier since they have either a bulky gasoline-powered engine or a large battery on the saw itself. This can hamper their portability, although they remain much more portable than a corded chainsaw.
Safety is everything
There’s no way around it – chainsaws are dangerous tools. When you are operating them, there is necessarily no cover over the blade as there is on many workshop styles of saws, and they are infamous for kicking when they catch on difficult pieces of wood hidden within the trunk of a tree. Plus, the tree that you are cutting can in itself be dangerous if you are not careful in the way that you cut.
Thankfully, there are some steps that you can take to keep yourself safe when using your chainsaw. Always wear appropriate clothing, including hard-toed boots in case the saw is dropped, protective eyewear in case of thrown wood chips, and gloves to protect your hands from any debris. Many chainsaw manufacturers also offer safety equipment, such as a hard hat from Oregon, protective gloves from Husqvarna, and a safety suit from Forester.
It’s also important to maintain your saw. While many saws have mechanisms in place to prevent a broken chain from kicking back at you, the best defense against this danger is to keep your chain sharpened and to replace your chain as soon as it shows signs of wear.
If you are new to using a chainsaw, strongly consider taking a chainsaw safety course. Many towns and hardware store offer these courses to improve chainsaw safety and allow the exchange of experiences. Whenever you are in doubt about a project, also consider hiring an expert for that part of the work – better to be safe than risk an accident making cuts that you are not comfortable with.
No kickback zone
One of the infamous dangers of chainsaws is kickback – a phenomenon in which the saw jerks violently up and towards the operator in the middle of a cut. Kickback can be quite dangerous, especially if the jerking motion happens at a moment when you are not ready for it.
Kickback is typically caused by one of two things: either the guide bar comes in contact with a solid object that the chain cannot cut through during a cut, or the guide bar and chain get pinched by a tree shifting balance or the wood expanding after a cut.
To avoid kickback, there are several precautions you can take. Be sure to always operate the saw at full power when making cuts and never cut more than one piece of wood at a time. Also be sure not to cut wood that has solid metal inside of it, such as wood that has had nails hammered into it. Keep your chain sharpened and avoid touching it to the ground, since dirt and silt can rapidly blunt your saw blade. For larger projects or for wood where you think kickback is likely to be an issue, you can also invest in a chain that is specifically designed to reduce kickback.
How will you be using a cordless chainsaw?
When considering what cordless chainsaw is right for you, before even thinking about the features that you want you need to consider how you plan to use the chainsaw and how comfortable you feel wielding it.
If you are a homeowner who only plans to use the chainsaw occasionally, for example for spring and fall cleanups around the yard, it is well worth investing in an electric rather than a gasoline chainsaw since they require less maintenance and don’t require keeping a tank of fresh gas around the house. On the other hand, a landscaper or contractor will want to choose a gas-powered chainsaw since it sports a larger engine that is better able to cut through large tree trunks. If you plan to use the chainsaw mostly for cutting branches, and especially hard to reach branches, it can also be worth looking into a pole chainsaw.
You also need to consider your own physical abilities and experience with a chainsaw. Wielding a chainsaw and being able to hold it safely in the event of kickback can be hard work, and not everyone has the upper body strength to manage this. If you are worried about your ability to support the chainsaw, it is typically better to opt for a battery-powered chainsaw since they have less power to get yourself in trouble with.
How will you ‘‘feed’’ your cordless chainsaw?
When it comes to choosing a cordless chainsaw, one of the main decisions you’ll need to make is whether you want a battery-powered or gas-powered chainsaw. To help you decide which is right for you, here we’ll cover some of the pros and cons of each of these different power types.
Gas-powered chainsaws are typically the most powerful type of chainsaw you can choose when it comes to the cordless style. If you plan to cut through moderate to large diameter tree trunks, or even very large branches, there is no question that a gas-powered chainsaw will be the best choice for you.
The power of these engines is measured in cubic centimeters, with most homeowners choosing gas-powered chainsaws ranging from a relatively lightweight 24cc to a burly 46cc motor. Note that when choosing powerful gas-powered chainsaws that great safety responsibility comes with the greater power and these are not necessarily best for everyone.
The power of gas-powered motors does come with a few drawbacks. First, powering your chainsaw requires keeping gasoline around the house – which also means going out to buy relatively expensive fresh gasoline every time you want to use your chainsaw since stale gas can quickly destroy the motor. For homeowners who only use their chainsaw infrequently, this can be a major impediment to getting spring and fall yard cleaning going on a whim when you find yourself with unexpected free time.
Gas-powered chainsaws also require much more maintenance of the engines, which can be difficult for many homeowners to keep up with. However, this maintenance can also be an advantage for those who like to tinker with motors.
Electric chainsaws are typically powered by batteries and can be a mixed blessing for homeowners who only occasionally need a chainsaw. On the one hand, electrical chainsaws do not require the maintenance or constant gasoline supply of gasoline-powered chainsaws, which introduces a significance convenience factor into using them. On the other hand, most cordless electric chainsaws lack the power necessary to cut through thick tree trunks and are better suited for small yard cleanup projects like heavy pruning and cutting branches.
Another major advantage to battery-powered chainsaws is that they are much quieter than gasoline-powered chainsaws. For those that live in tightly spaced suburban or urban communities, this can go a long way towards keeping your neighbors from complaining about your yard work.
The problem with battery-powered chainsaws is, of course, the battery itself. While numerous manufacturers have improved their batteries to take advantage of lithium-ion and other new battery technologies, batteries still remain limited in the amount of power they can provide and the amount of time that they will run the chainsaw before dying. However, large 56 and 80V batteries like those found on the EGO Power+ and Greenworks chainsaws, respectively, can allow upwards of 50-100 cuts – enough for many homeowners to cover their entire yard for routine branch clearing and pruning before needing to stop and recharge.
A few words on the pole chainsaw
While most people envision the standard handheld chainsaw when they set out looking for a cordless chainsaw, it’s important not to forget about pole chainsaws – for many homeowners, they can either supplement a handheld chainsaw or even become your primary chainsaw for clearing branches. Plus, pole chainsaws share many of the same features and principles in common with handheld chainsaws, so it is worth considering them in your same search for the perfect chainsaw.
Pole chainsaws are essentially small chainsaws attached to the end of metal poles, with the pole sitting between the guide bar and the power head or engine. These chainsaws can make it much safer to trim hard to reach branches located high in a tree without having to climb and stand on a ladder while operating a handheld chainsaw. Unless you have some extremely tall tree branches that you need to cut, a pole chainsaw will allow you to stand firmly on the ground and reach most of what you need to get at. They can also make it possible to cut some difficult to access branches that you would otherwise need to hire a professional landscaper to climb up and cut.
Pole chainsaws typically reach between six and 20 feet, although it can be more or less depending on the model – for example, the Worx electric pole chainsaw is extendable up to 10 feet. Whenever using a pole chainsaw, many of the same safety rules apply and it is important to add a hard hat into your required safety attire.
Features to consider while choosing the perfect cordless chainsaw
There are a number of features that differentiate cordless chainsaws from one another and make them better for different purposes and different types of users. In this section, we’ll take a closer look at the most important features of cordless chainsaws and explain how these features can affect your choice of chainsaw.
The size of different cordless chainsaws is related to the type of engine they use, the length of the guide bar, and the battery or fuel capacity. Larger chainsaws can be somewhat difficult for beginner users to get a handle on, especially if they experience kickback, but they typically offer more power for heavy-duty cutting work like cutting through tree trunks. Smaller cordless chainsaws are more portable and typically easier for beginners to handle, but may be more limited to cutting branches and pruning work.
The length of the guide bar is one of the most important decisions you’ll make when choosing your perfect chainsaw and can dramatically impact the performance of the chainsaw for different purposes. In fact, different guide bar lengths are often recommended for different purposes. Pruning chainsaws can have guide bars less than 12 inches long, while guide bars from 12 to 16 inches long – like found on the chainsaws from EGO Power+, Dewalt, and Oregon – are more versatile and can be used for trimming, limbing, and cutting the trunks of small trees. Larger guide bars, like the 20-inch bar on the Remington chainsaw or the 32-inch bar on the Makita chainsaw, are better suited for cutting through the trunks of large trees or for bucking.
Also note that your choice of guide bar length can affect how easy it is to handle your saw. Smaller guide bars – those less than 18 inches – are typically recommended for beginning chainsaw users since they are easier to control in the event of kickback, whereas chainsaws with guide bars longer than 18 inches are typically restricted to experienced landscapers. In general, it is best to choose a chainsaw with the smallest bar length that will suit your needs.
When it comes to battery-powered cordless chainsaws, the construction of the motor is important to consider. Traditional electric chainsaw motors were designed with brushes, but the majority of modern battery-powered chainsaws, like the Greenworks chainsaw, use brushless motors. These motors are more efficient in their battery consumption than brushed motors, as well as require less maintenance over time and are more durable. Brushless motors also have the advantage that they run somewhat more quietly than brushed motors, although electric chainsaws are already quite quiet compared to gasoline-power chainsaws.
If you opt for a battery-powered cordless chainsaw, be sure to pay close attention to the battery that powers it. Batteries range in their capacity from 20V on the Worx chainsaw to as much as 80V on the Greenworks chainsaw – and the two chainsaws last for correspondingly different amounts of cuts. This is especially important if you’re planning to work over a large area that is nearly certain to exhaust the battery or if you are working far from the house, where recharging the battery will be tedious.
It’s also important to look at the discharge capacity of the battery, since this affects the power that the battery can output to the chainsaw. Chainsaw batteries are considered to be high capacity when they are rated to provide at least six amps of current to the motor continuously for an hour or more. Although there are batteries rated for as much as nine amp-hours, these are typically limited to professional cordless chainsaws – the highest capacity battery among chainsaws that we reviewed was the 2.05 amp-hour battery found in the EGO Power+ chainsaw. Note also that the higher the amperage of the battery, the more quickly it will be exhausted since it is drawing more power more quickly.
All of the chainsaws we reviewed – with the exception of the pole chainsaw from Worx chainsaw – uses the traditional rear handle design. This style of handle is designed for any chainsaw work that takes place while you have your feet on the ground, in contrast to top style handles that are designed to be used by professionals only while they are climbing a tree or suspended from a harness.
When it comes to looking at rear chainsaw handles, you want to make sure that the handle is comfortable in your hand and provides plenty of grip on the chainsaw. All of the rear handle designs that we reviewed also include a handle on the top of the chainsaw, to be used with your second hand to help steady the saw. Although customer reviews can help advise whether a chainsaw’s handle will be comfortable, the best way to determine this is to hold it for yourself.
All of the chainsaws that we reviewed come with chains to get you started, although almost everyone who has purchased a chainsaw will tell you to replace the chain relatively soon since the stock chains are poor quality. In addition, none of the stock chains are specifically designed for kickback prevention, which can be especially helpful for beginner chainsaw users.
When choosing a chainsaw, be sure to check whether it has all the latest safety mechanisms to help minimize the chances of an accident. Several of the saws we reviewed, including the models from Dewalt, Greenworks, and EGO Power+, come with chain brake mechanisms to ensure that the chain stops moving rapidly when the trigger is no longer depressed – a safety feature that can save your feet if you ever happen to drop the chainsaw by accident. The chainsaw from Makita also features a throttle lock, which can help make the chainsaw easier to start. Another critical safety feature, which is now found on nearly all chainsaw models, is a metal chain catcher that prevents a broken chain from swinging back dangerously into your hands or body.
The weight of a cordless chainsaw can be an important consideration since you are likely planning to carry your chainsaw around the yard and need the strength to wield it with confidence over the course of your yard work. The lightest chainsaw we reviewed is the model from Greenworks, which employs extra lightweight lithium-ion battery technology to keep the weight down while providing an impressive battery life. For batteries that are not lithium-ion, there is little weight difference between gasoline-powered and battery-powered chainsaws – at that point, the length of the bar is one of the main factors determining weight. For example, the 32-inch Makita chainsaw is the heaviest saw we reviewed and weighs several pounds more than any other chainsaw.
The starting system of cordless chainsaws varies depending on whether they use an electric or gasoline-powered motor. Nearly all gasoline-powered chainsaws use a pull-cord starter to get the engine going, although some chainsaw manufacturers have added features – like the spin starter found in the Jonsered chainsaw – to make the startup pull easier. Battery-powered chainsaws typically start with the push of a button, which many users appreciate for the convenience and added safety of not having too many moving parts as the chainsaw is starting up.
Automatic oilers are now common on most modern chainsaws, and are found, for example, on the Dewalt, Echo, and Greenworks chainsaws among others that we reviewed. The automatic oil consists of a small oil pump that is driven by the chainsaw motor itself and lubricates the bar and chain right at the point where the bar meets the motor. Having an automatic oiler can dramatically increase the lifespan of your chain and saw by keeping your chain and bar well lubricated as you cut and prevents sawdust from building up on your chain.
Also be sure to keep any eye out for small features that make changing the oil easier. For example, numerous chainsaws offer an oil view window so you can monitor when it’s time to add oil to the saw’s reservoir at a glance, while models like the one from Dewalt have easy reservoir access to make adding oil a snap.
Tool-less chain tensioning
Tool-less chain tensioning is a welcome feature for many users, especially when it comes to changing out your chain for a fresh one. This usually entails having a knob built into the area where the guide bar meets the chainsaw clutch, which can be turned to tighten either the chain or – in the case of the Dewalt chainsaw – the clamping force on the bar itself.
The amount of noise that a chainsaw produces can be important if you live in a crowded urban or suburban area where your neighbors are likely to complain about the noise from loud power tools. For the lowest noise production, opt for a small or medium sized chainsaw that runs on battery power rather than gasoline. Even better, look for an electric saw with a brushless motor like that found on the Greenworks chainsaw.
Cordless chainsaws vary a lot in price, but no matter which one you choose they represent a significant investment in your home tools – so you want to be sure that it will work for many years to come. Manufacturer’s warranties on chainsaws range from as little as one year on the Makita saw to as much as five years on the Echo chainsaw. However, note that many chainsaw manufacturers offer different warranty lengths for home and commercial users and that many electric chainsaws come with different warranties for the battery and the rest of the chainsaw.