Leaf Blower Best Practices - What & Why

What's Happening Now?

Skyline with leavesIn response to Council direction, SDCI has worked with other departments to prepare best practices for leaf blower usage. These are based recommendations from City staff who work with this equipment daily. 

Download our Leaf Blower Best Practices pamphlet. Hard copies of the pamphlet are available upon request.

Project Benefits

There are several benefits of following our best practice tips and suggestions.

Environmental Quality

  • Newer Equipment is Better
    In 2013, the EPA changed the emission standards for Small-Engine Equipment such as leaf blowers. These newer blowers are required to emit about 1/3 fewer pollutants than previous models.
  • Think Electric
    Consider electric and battery-powered blowers. Manufacturers are continuing to make them more powerful and last longer between charges.Many City Departments have switched to battery-powered blowers to clear properties.
  • Maintenance
    Routinely check the muffler, air intake, and air filters to make sure blowers are working at peak performance. Never modify blowers; use only as factory directed.
  • Dust and Air Quality
    Do not use leaf blowers for moving construction dust or plaster dust. Keep nozzle pointed down to reduce the spray of dust.

Courteous Usage

A major part of leaf blower usage is thinking about others when using the equipment. Some general recommendations are: 

  • Stay 50 feet away from people or pets (equal to about three car lengths)
  • Think about the time of day:
    • Avoid using leaf blowers too early or too late
    • Speak with neighbors about best hours for usage
  • Visualize how to clear the property
    • Start on the edges of the yard and blow away from neighboring properties, streets, and storm drains
    • Pick up larger items first
  • Limit the number of leaf blowers in a small area; multiple leaf blowers amplify noise

Noise Reduction

  • General Recommendations
    For typical usage of a leaf blower, look for blowers that can operate at 65 decibels (dBA) or below. 65 dBA is equivalent to the sound of a washing machine. 65 dBA still provides the power needed to care for most residential yards, but is quieter than the more high-powered equipment. Every 6 dBA sound reduction reduces the noise level by 50 percent. Using nozzle equipment can also help muffle sound.
  • Follow the City's Noise Ordinance
    The City's noise ordinance contains rules to minimize Seattle resident's exposure to excessive noise. The regulations can vary by zoning district, however leaf blowers are generally permitted in most Seattle zoning districts:
    • Monday through Friday: 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
    • Weekends and Legal Holidays:  9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

   Check the City's Noise Ordinance for specific limitations on limitations by zoning district. 

Alternative Methods

rake with leavesThere are many other options to dealing with fallen leaves that reduce or eliminate the need for a leaf blower.

  • Composting / Mulching
    Compost your leaves whenever possible; they are great sources of nutrients for gardens.Lawn mowers with mulch settings are also great options for composting light leaves.
  • Raking
    Raking leaves is a moderate cardio activity and helps build upper body strength and tightens the core muscles.
    • 30 minutes can burn between 100-180 calories
    • Once started, use a tarp to collect leaves
  • Natural Landscaping
    Consider natural landscaping to limit area that needs to be manicured. 

More Information:

The End Result

Our guide provides best practice information to the public.