The Case for Electric Chainsaws
Without a doubt the emergence of the electric chainsaw as a viable alternative to gas powered chainsaws has been a bonus for homeowners, campers and others who need a chainsaw for occasional use.
As technology advances, so the capabilities of electric chain saws will continue to advance and the variety of electric chainsaws available for sale to the public will increase substantially.
This is good news for the part time chainsaw user as well as the environment as electrical saws are easier and quieter to operate as well as being cleaner than there 2 cycle gas engine counterparts.
Electric chainsaws can be divided into 2 basic classes based on their source of electricity – battery powered (or cordless) and those that need to be plugged into an electrical source such as the electrical mains or a generator. Lets start with the corded electric chainsaws.
Corded Electric Chainsaws
When someone decided they had had enough of the vapour spewing, gas guzzling and frequently temperamental gas powered chainsaw, they replaced the 2 cycle power unit with an electrical engine, plugged it into the wall socket and all was well.
Corded electric chainsaws certainly have some very positive features going for them.
First off, once you are plugged in there is no battle to start the machine – simply flick the switch and your chainsaw is ready to go.
– No need to keep smelly 2 cycle gas or 2 cycle oil close at hand.
– No need to keep batteries charged
– Usually fairly light so easy to work with.
– Will work in a wider temperature range than gas powered chainsaws
Of course there are a few potential problems such as:
– You need a source of electricity to plug into – something that is not always readily available where you want to use the saw
– You need an extension cord suitable for outside use. This is because most electrical cord chainsaws are supplied with only a very short electrical cord of their own. We are talking literally 18 inches odd so an extension cord is non negotiable.
– There is a whole science around length and thickness of extension cords, power delivery, voltage drops and so on that comes into play – see a brief (yet vital) explanation here.
– Your working range is limited by the length of the extension cord
and so on.
People looking to buy an electric chainsaw often want to compare the “power” of the saw to a gas operated chainsaw. This is easier said than done. Have a look at these 2 articles which need to be read together to start making any sense.
Article 1 and Article 2
Electric chainsaws rarely rate above 14 amps and most are a lot less. Is this a potential problem? Not at all if you are not planning on cutting down a forest – which is unlikely if you are even vaguely considering buying an electric chainsaw ?
So how do we decide which are the best corded electrical chainsaws on the market? Which criteria are important?
Lets consider some of the more obvious ones.
One big advantage of the vast majority of corded electric chainsaws is their cost – they are generally MUCH cheaper than either gas or battery powered chainsaws.
And as with gas powered chainsaws, generally the bigger the motor, the more expensive they are.
But this is relative because of the top 6 best sellers on Amazon today, all but one are under $100 with two being under $50 and all attracting positive reviews (see our review of the Remington RM1425 Limb n Trim here)
Of course you can spend a lot more if you want, with some of the Makita corded electrical chainsaws, for example, rivalling some of the gas powered saws price wise. But then they are probably ahead of the pack in many aspects and can thus justify the price.
Most corded electrical chainsaws have a bar length somewhere between 12 and 18 inches (cm) long . While some gas chainsaws have longer bars, an 18 inch bar length should be more than adequate for most occasional users.
In fact, a shorter bar length and thus more compact chainsaw would probably be preferred by many, especially those who take their chainsaw on camping trips and the like.
It all depends on what sort of job you are buying the saw for. but as we have said before, if you are considering a corded electric saw, then you are unlikely to be (or shouldn’t be!) expecting to tackle trees or logs with a diameter of more than 18 inches on a regular basis.
Chain speed is measured in feet per minute (fpm) or meters per second (m/s). Essentially it measures how many feet (or meters) of chain passes a point in a minute.
The more feet or meters that pass the point in a minute, the faster the chain is moving.
This is not really an issue with gas chainsaws used around the house as the difference between say 5000 fpm (25.4m/s) and 5250 fpm (26.7 m/s) is not really significant. (easy fpm to m/s conversion site)
Electrically powered chainsaws though generally have a much lower chainspeed which might be an issue in very occasional circumstances.
The easiest way to appreciate the difference is visualising cutting wood with a handsaw with big saw teeth. If you saw slowly the teeth dig into the wood and the saw blade jams (slow speed) whereas if you get the saw blade going at a decent speed it cuts through the wood easily.
Most electric chainsaws are not going to get much above 25oo fpm or 13m/s.
The implication – given a log to cut up, it’s going to take longer using an electric powered chainsaw and if its a big chunk of wood then the electrical saw might battle as bit and the cut surface may not be as smooth.
Again though, this is unlikely to be a consideration for 99% of homeowner users 99% of the time.
Clean and Quiet
No contest here! The tranquility shattering whine of a gas powered chainsaw is not much appreciated in suburbia or campsites, or indeed the quiet countryside.
An electric motor is far quieter and far cleaner making the electric powered chainsaw the ideal around the house/camping chainsaw.
Of course bar length, chain speed and the noise and cleanliness factors apply equally to battery powered chainsaws which are the other type of electrically powered chainsaw available on the market.
So lets take a look at them.
The best battery powered chainsaw
Battery operated chainsaws are the answer to many homeowners’ prayers for a reasonably priced, efficient chainsaw.
The vast majority of homeowners don’t need – or want- a gass guzzling, heavy to handle, temperamental beast of a chainsaw and they might not want the hassle of extension cords, electrical power sources and the like.
So, a lightweight, battery operated chainsaw fits the bill for most homeowners and campers.
The question then is – which is the best battery powered chainsaw on the market?
Impossible to say really because so much depends on your requirements.
But – we can narrow the choice down a bit by considering some importantconsiderations like price, user’s opinions, battery performance and related factors.
By the end of that exercise we hope that you will be in a position to decide on the best battery powered chainsaw for you!
As always with price, one has to try to compare apples with apples otherwise you are likely to end up disappointed!
In terms of comparing cordless chainsaws, this is particularly true and you need to be aware of a few factors that will affect price comparisons.
The first of the major factors to keep in mind is that prices for rechargeable chainsaws can be quoted with, or without, the battery (the so called “bare tool”)
That factor alone will have a significant impact on the price.
Marketing Alert!! Those marketers can get up to weird pricing tricks so make sure you compare the price of buying the entire tool i.e. including battery with buying the bare tool and battery separately – they don’t always come out at the same price!
Some battery operated chainsaws can operate using different size batteries. For example, a manufacturer might make a 4.0Ah, 5.0Ah and 6.0Ah battery, all of which are suitable to use on their cordless chainsaw (but with obvious performance ramifications)
The 4.0Ah battery will be cheaper than the 5.0Ah battery and so on – all of which means that the final price will depend on what size battery you select/are offered.
The second factor to watch out for is bar length.
A chainsaw with a 10 inch bar is most likely to be cheaper than one with an 18 inch bar.
Battery Powered Chainsaw Reviews and Ratings
As with gas powered chainsaws, the ratings and reviews of the cordless electrical chainsaws on Amazon and Amazon Best Sellers in particular can be used as a guide in establishing which is the best battery powered chainsaw available to you.
This is obviously only a rough guide for several reasons:
a) Not all brands of chainsaw are sold on this platform
b) The Star rating can be misleading if there are only a few ratings – the more ratings there are, the more accurate the overall rating
Nevertheless, a top 5 best selling battery chainsaw with say a 4 star rating (out of 5) and over 200 reviews certainly has a lot of satisfied buyers which means it’s likely to do the job well for you as well – AS LONG AS YOU ARE BUYING IT TO DO THE JOB IT IS DESIGNED FOR!
At the time of writing, 3 out of the top 10 best selling chainsaws on amazon are battery operated and 8 out of the top 10 are electrically powered – so there is no shortage of choice of top performing, non gas powered, chainsaws available to you.
When it comes to gas powered vs electrical powered, gas powered has always come out on top in terms of sheer power.
That is probably still the case but, after decades of seemingly going nowhere, battery technology is beginning to produce real, practical and impressive improvements in the performance of batteries available to joe public.
And this is not restricted to chainsaws – the Tesla battery driven car being a case in point.
In truth, the longer you wait to buy a battery driven chainsaw, the more awesome the battery and hence it’s performance will be! But that won’t get any wood chopped ?
Battery development and other technological advances have resulted in these saws being able to work for long enough periods of time to make the working time factor irrelevant for most jobs.
Other Uses For The Battery
Possibly a big consideration when buying a battery operated chainsaw is what other tools can use the same batteries?
This is probably more important for DIY enthusiasts because with a little planning and research, one can end up with a bunch of useful battery powered tools that all use the same batteries to operate off.
This will almost certainly mean you need to commit to a single Brand because you won’t get many Brands sharing a common battery – they all tend to develop a battery/tool interface specific to themselves.
A good example of this one battery but multiple tool type philosophy is Makita’s 18V Lithium-ion battery powered line-up of tools – 125 different tools (and counting) all powered by the same line of batteries. Check them out here
So there you have a few pointers to consider.
Even if you have never considered anything other than a gas powered chainsaw, I think you would agree that there a many good reasons why an electrically operated chainsaw is the better choice for someone who needs a chainsaw for occasional use.
Lets recap some of the advantages of an electric chainsaw (in no particular order)
1) Low cost 2) No smelly gasoline or 2-stroke oil required and no mixing of ingredients required ? 3) No difficulty in starting – just hit the switch and start cutting 4) No air polluting exhaust fumes 5) Much quieter to operate – making them more neighbour friendly 6) Can operate at lower environmental temperatures 7) Generally light and easy to handle
And if you go the battery powered route you can add:
7) Ideal for travelling with for camping etc 8) May be able to use batteries for other battery powered tools
In a nutshell – there are not many good reasons NOT to invest in an electrically powered chainsaw rather than a gas operated saw.
Check out the best sellers here
Electric Chainsaws Reviewed on ChainsawChoices.com
Black & Decker LCS 1020 Chainsaw (battery)
Black and Decker lcs1240 chainsaw (battery)
Worx WG303.1 16-inch Chainsaw (electric cord)
Makita XCU02Z Lithium-Ion Chainsaw (battery)
Remington RM 1425 Limb n Trim Electric Chainsaw (electric cord)
Greenworks 9 amp Chainsaw (electric cord)
Greenworks 20312 Chainsaw (battery)
Oregon CS1500 Chainsaw (electric cord)
Greenworks PRO GCS80450 80V Chainsaw (battery)
Black & Decker LP1000 Alligator Lopper (electric cord)
Other Articles on Electric Chainsaws
The Lightest Electric Chainsaws
Brushless Electric Motor Chainsaws