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Electric Chainsaws 101

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What Is a Chainsaw?

A chainsaw is a very useful power tool that is a mechanical, portable saw. It has teeth attached to a rotating chain that runs along a guide bar and enables you to cut.  Chainsaws are used for bucking, limbing, pruning tree branches, cutting and felling trees, harvesting firewood and trimming dense and heavy bushes quickly and efficiently.

Electric vs Gas Chainsaws

Previously, chainsaws were typically powered by very large engines that made it very cumbersome to carry them around; portability was a big problem and hence they could not be used far away from where they were placed. Today, there are two kinds of chainsaws i.e. electric and gas operated chainsaws. You should consider the differences in both these machines and then select the one that will best suit your requirements.

Difference Between Electric and Gas Chainsaws

Electric Chainsaws

  • Electric chainsaws are usually powered by an electric engine. They are usually battery equipped with an electric cord that supplies power for operation.
  • Electric chainsaws are of two types: corded and cordless. The corded variant has to be plugged into the electric socket and the cordless type is battery operated. The cordless chainsaw can be used as long as the battery charge lasts and it also facilitates easy movement due to the absence of a cord. However, the cordless chainsaw is not suited for prolonged use.
  • Electric chainsaws are quite economical when compared to gas-powered chainsaws that need fuel for operation.
  • Electric chainsaws are quite easy to handle, operate and can be used easily by new users too.
  • Electric chainsaws are best suited for activities around your house yard for activities such as trimming and pruning.
  • Electric chainsaws are comparatively quieter and do not produce much noise when operated. They are more suitable for homes and for work in quiet neighborhoods.
  • Since the electric chainsaw has lesser power output, there is a lesser chance of kickbacks occurring when the machine is in operation.
  • Electric chainsaws are lightweight, easy to handle and most of the modern machines are equipped with safety features when compared to gas versions.

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Gas-Powered Chainsaws

  • Gas chainsaws are usually powered by petrol.
  • They are usually very noisy and are quite loud when operated.
  • Gas-powered chainsaws need more maintenance and need to cool down before they are refueled.
  • There is a big risk of kickbacks when using a gas-powered chainsaw that may even cause injuries if the operator is not experienced.
  • Gas chainsaws are ideal for cutting firewood and work twice as fast as an electric chainsaw.
  • Gas chainsaws are more expensive than electric versions. However, when compared to electric chainsaws, gas machines are quite heavy as well as noisier.

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Chainsaws are incredibly powerful tools and have undergone several changes over the years. You must select a chainsaw that is best suited for your needs. For homeowners, electric or battery powered chainsaws are the best as they are lightweight, easier to handle and are ideal for small to medium cutting tasks around the house, while gas operated chainsaws are best suited for heavy duty tasks requiring more power.

Is the Electric Chainsaw the Ideal Power Tool for You?

The electric chainsaw has a number of wonderful features and qualities that make it a “must have” power tool in your repertoire. Electric chainsaws are quite lightweight which makes them easy to use and control. However, the chainsaw must not be too light as this would compromise the stability of the machine. Moreover, the greatest plus of an electric chainsaw is its quiet operation that makes it a boon to use in densely populated neighborhoods.

Factors to Consider When Buying a Chainsaw

Buying a chainsaw is a very difficult decision, especially when there are so many different options available in the marketplace. You must carefully consider the various factors such as performance, safety, ease of use, cost, maintenance, accessories and support before making a decision to invest in an electric chainsaw.

Performance

The main aspect used to assess the performance of the chainsaw is its cutting speed. Cutting speed is the time taken by the chainsaw to cut through a square oak beam that is 10-inches thick. The weight of the chainsaw as well as the amperage in the case of corded motors and volts in the case of battery operation are also factors that affect the performance of the chainsaw.

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Usage

Most chainsaws have been designed to cater to different users and usage. There are chainsaws that are best for occasional usage, for example, cutting firewood and for other lighter tasks and other chainsaws that are suitable for professional loggers and lumberjacks.

You can select a chainsaw depending on your usage, for example, if you will be using the chainsaw for jobs such as clearing light brush, trimming shrubs or cutting medium sized trees, then you will require a lightweight chainsaw with moderate cutting power, whereas if you will be using the chainsaw to cut large branches and trees, clearing land or cutting multiple trees, then you will require a chainsaw with more power suitable for heavy duty cutting.

Cutting Bar Size

You will need to decide the size of the cutting bar that will suit your cutting requirements. Different jobs need different sizes of cutting bars. Cutting bars can range from 8 to 42 inches depending on the nature of cutting you are going to do. For medium duty tasks such as simple trimming, pruning or carpentry work, a cutting bar of length 14 inches or less will be fine. If the work is heavy-duty like cutting through wood of large diameter or cutting large trees, then a 16-18-inch bar would be appropriate.

Larger cutting bars are usually heavier and more difficult to handle. If you are a beginner or do not have too much experience with chainsaws, then it is advisable to begin with a small cutting bar and perform simple tasks until you are familiar and comfortable with the usage of the chainsaw.

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Electric or Gas Chainsaw

An important factor when deciding on what chainsaw to buy is whether you want to buy a gas-powered or electric chainsaw and this depends on the cutting power required. If you do not require much power, then you can go in for an electric chainsaw. However, if you will be cutting branches, trees and larger logs, then you should go for a gas-powered chainsaw as it is more powerful.

Size of the Engine

If you are buying a gas-powered chainsaw, then you must decide on the right engine size. Usually, chainsaws for consumer use have engines between 35cc to 50cc. A bigger engine means a more powerful chainsaw, which is very useful if you will be cutting large trees or chopping plenty of wood. Another aspect to consider is that the engine should have sufficient horsepower.

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Ease of Handling

Another factor that must be considered when purchasing a chainsaw is its ease of use. The most preferred chainsaw is one that is easy to start with the minimum number of pulls. Other factors that make the machine easy to handle are the convenience and working of the primer, spark plug, choke, air filter and the ease of checking and adding the lubricating oil.

Convenience

You must also look for features that will make it comfortable to use the chainsaw such as a wraparound handle for comfortable grip, anti-vibration features to minimize vibrations and hence fatigue. You should also look for other features that make the use of the chainsaw more convenient such as an automatic chain oiler, spring assist start, oil gauge, etc.

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Safety Features

Safety is the main concern when using a chainsaw. When selecting a chainsaw, you must always look for one equipped with safety features like kickback reduction chain, kickback reduction bar, chain brake, muffler, chain catcher, etc.

Most of the best-rated chainsaws are equipped with extra safety safeguards to eliminate injuries resulting from kickbacks and also protection against burns that could be caused due to contact with the muffler.

The weight of the chainsaw and the grip that you have on the machine also dictate your safety while working with the machine. An electric chainsaw equipped with an anti-vibration feature will help to reduce fatigue and allow you to work for a long time without affecting your concentration, thereby improving safety. Also, a model equipped with an automatic chain stop is best to protect you in the case of resulting kickbacks.

Features of the Chainsaw

When you are purchasing a chainsaw, some of the additional features that you must consider are safety, comfort, durability, convenience, ease of use and reduced emissions.

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Maintenance

The proper maintenance of the electric chainsaw is very important in the operation of the tool. The machine must be stored properly, parts must be checked and cleaned regularly, and worn out components must be replaced to keep the electric chainsaw in top working condition.

Experience

If you are a new user and do not have any prior experience in handling a chainsaw, then it is recommended that you buy one that is small, easy to handle and safe to use. In such cases, corded electric or battery powered chainsaws would be the best.

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Cost

Cost is a very important factor that must be taken into consideration before making a purchase decision. You must consider and evaluate the cost versus the features and benefits being offered by the various alternatives in the market and select the chainsaw that is most suited for your requirements, has the essential features you require and is also priced reasonably.

Advantages of an Electric Chainsaw

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Compact

For most homeowners, the electric chainsaw is the best tool to meet all cutting requirements around the house. These chainsaws are best to handle all light to medium-duty cutting and trimming jobs and are ideal for activities such as cutting, felling, trimming and pruning small bushes and trees and cutting logs into smaller pieces for firewood.

Easy to Operate

Buying an electric chainsaw can be a wise decision. The electric chainsaw is quite easy to operate. All you need is a power source to plug into and you are all set to begin cutting. Whereas in the case of gas chainsaws, to start the combustible engine you need to prime the motor and pull the cord several times.

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Quiet

Electric chainsaws are quieter when being operated as compared to the gas ones. They are convenient to use without disturbing the neighbors in contrast to gas chainsaws that are pretty noisy and can be quite a nuisance to everyone around.

Low Maintenance

Electric chainsaws do not emit fumes or any other type of exhaust, so there is no danger of inhaling dangerous and poisonous fumes. When compared to a gas chainsaw, electric chainsaws are comparatively maintenance-free and there are no hassles of mixing oil among other things.

Starting the Electric Chainsaw

Electric chainsaws can be started by just switching it on, whereas gas-powered chainsaws require the engine to be primed and the cord to be pulled several times before the machine is started. Also, gas chainsaws can get flooded if too much gas flows into the carburetor, whereas electric chainsaws do not face the problem of flooding. Also, electric chainsaws do not require any fuel such as gas or oil to operate the machine.

Kickback

When the tip of the chainsaw’s blade runs into any object, this causes the machine to kickback into the operator. Electric chainsaws are equipped with safety chains that help to reduce kickbacks. Also, electric chainsaws have less power which reduces the force of the kickback when operating the machine.

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Fuel

You do not need any fuel to run the electric chainsaw. Since it runs on electricity, the electric chainsaw has quicker recovery times when compared to the gas chainsaw that must be shut down and cooled completely before it is refueled. Electric chainsaws can be operated simply by plugging into a power source.

Lightweight and Portable

Electric chainsaws are quite lightweight and therefore easy to move around. They do not have gas tanks which make them smaller, more compact and lighter to carry. Electric chainsaws are a great tool for older people or beginners with no experience.

Affordable

Electric chainsaws are relatively inexpensive and cheaper to operate when compared to their gas counterparts. Since they are quite affordable, electric chainsaws are very easy to purchase.

Storage

The storage of electric chainsaws is much easier than gas chainsaws, especially in the case of long-term storage. Usually, electric chainsaws come with transport or storage cases. All you have to do is simply clean the machine and place it in the storage container. Whereas in the case of gas-powered chainsaws, the gas and oil must be drained out from the machine and the spark plug must be removed before storing it for a long period of time.

Disadvantages of an Electric Chainsaw

Less Portable

Electric chainsaws are less portable when compared to gas-powered ones that are usually cordless. Electric chainsaws usually have a cord that needs to be continually managed when working. You need to be within a specific radius from the power source or make use of an extension cord to allow you greater working distance. Hence, you may not be able to use electric chainsaws away from a power source. Alternatively, you can opt for a battery-powered model; however, this may not give you adequate power for heavy-duty cutting operations.

Less Power

Electric chainsaws are less powerful when compared to gas-powered ones since the motor of gas chainsaws get their operating power from the gas by means of combustion, whereas electric models do not get as much power. Hence, electric chainsaws may not be suitable to perform heavy-duty cutting jobs such as lumbering. However, electric chainsaws are perfect for light and medium-duty jobs and are a boon to homeowners.

Small Cutting Bar

Electric chainsaws are usually equipped with 15-18-inch long cutting bars. It may be difficult to cut logs that have large surface areas with electric chainsaws. In contrast, gas chainsaws usually have a 42-inch cutting bar which is useful for heavy-duty cutting.

Types of Chainsaws

Today, there are so many varieties of chainsaws available in the market that buying a chainsaw can be quite a daunting task for those who don’t have any previous experience using a chainsaw. Here are some types of chainsaws that are available.

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Gas-Powered Chainsaws

  • Gas-powered chainsaws are the most commonly used and the most popular choice of professional chainsaw users.
  • They are powered by gas i.e. petrol.
  • Usually, gas-powered chainsaws have 2-cycle or 2-stroke engines that operate on a mixture of oil and gas. The gas is utilized by the machine for combustion while the internal parts are lubricated by the oil. The oil also prevents the excessive wearing and damage of the parts.
  • Gas-powered chainsaws are quite powerful and can cut wood faster and more efficiently than other chainsaws.
  • They are much heavier than other varieties, noisier and produce a lot of vibration when in use.
  • Gas chainsaws require regular servicing and refueling compared to other models.
  • Gas-powered chainsaws are more expensive than electric chainsaws.

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Corded Electric Chainsaws

  • Corded electric chainsaws are smaller varieties of chainsaws that have a power cord which is usually plugged into a power source and use electricity to run.
  • Electric chainsaws do not have engines and so do not require any fuel for operation.
  • Corded electric chainsaws are immobile and cannot be moved too far away from the power supply unless they are attached to a portable generator with a long extension cord. Corded electric chainsaws cannot be used for tasks such as felling trees in the forest.
  • These chainsaws have less power and hence can be used for small tasks. You can use corded electric chainsaws for cutting and sawing operations of small trees, thick limbs and branches, etc.
  • Electric chainsaws are not very noisy and do not produce exhaust fumes.
  • They are lightweight and easy to handle which makes them a great tool for beginners or inexperienced users.
  • One major advantage of corded electric chainsaws is that they are considerably inexpensive when compared to gas-powered and battery operated

Battery Powered Chainsaws

  • They are also known as cordless chainsaws and use rechargeable batteries for operation instead of fuel or electric current.
  • Battery operated chainsaws do not require regular fueling and servicing like the gas-powered models, however, the batteries need to be charged regularly to keep the chainsaw operational. This sometimes can be limiting as the work needs to be stopped for recharging. However, this problem can be averted if you have more than one set of batteries that can be used without interrupting the work.
  • Cordless chainsaws are less powerful than the corded chainsaws and are ideal for light cutting tasks that are not very time-consuming. Cordless chainsaws are typically used for lighter cutting activities such as trimming, pruning, cutting and limbing small trees.
  • Though cordless chainsaws are less powerful compared to gas-powered and corded electric chainsaws, they are the most expensive models in the market.

Manual or Hand-Powered Chainsaws

  • Manual chainsaws neither require electricity nor do they need fuel to run. Basically, you use your arms for the purpose of cutting.
  • Manual chainsaws are used for cutting firewood or trimming wood at homes if you cannot afford or do not want to buy a gas-powered or electric chainsaw.
  • Manual chainsaws are very quiet and do not produce any noise nor do they produce any exhaust fumes. However, using these manual chainsaws need quite a bit of human effort and can be tiresome.
  • Hand-powered or manual chainsaws have considerably reduced power than a motorized chainsaw.
  • They are highly portable and can be carried around quite effortlessly.
  • Manual chainsaws are quite inexpensive as you need very few parts such as the saw chain, nylon webbing, a hack saw, some nylon or waxed linen thread, a needle and matches.

Pole Saw

  • A pole saw is a small saw that is attached to a long extension pole which is used to help you trim or cut small tree limbs at a height which you cannot reach easily.
  • A pole saw does not really come under the classification of a chainsaw but is somewhat related to a chainsaw.
  • Sometimes pole saws can be converted into regular chainsaws and they can also be gas-powered, electric or battery powered.
  • Gas-powered pole saws are more powerful than the electric chainsaws and are used to cut trees and thick branches. They also produce quite a lot of vibration and noise when in use. In comparison, electric pole saws have lesser power and are used for limbing and pruning. Corded electric pole saws are more powerful than battery powered pole saws.
  • Battery powered pole saws are most expensive followed by gasoline-powered and electric corded pole saws.

Tips to Choose a Good Electric Chainsaw

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  • Length of the Bar: A chainsaw with a longer bar can cut through larger wood chunks in a single attempt. This means that you can complete your jobs much faster. Usually, at homes, chainsaws of length 6-20 inches are used. You can choose the one that is right for your cutting needs.
  • Lesser Vibration: You should look for a chainsaw with an inbuilt mechanism that reduces vibrations when in operation. This is useful to help in reducing fatigue if you have plenty of cutting to do. It also makes holding and handling the chainsaw more comfortable. A medium-sized chainsaw with moderate power is the best for first-time users without much experience in handling a chainsaw.
  • Amperage: Choose a chainsaw that has higher horsepower as this will enable you to cut down thick branches and trees without too much trouble.
  • Automatic Oiler: Check for a chainsaw with an automatic oiler. This helps to grease the moving parts and also helps in efficient and safe cutting.
  • Automatic Chain Break: This system helps to stop the chain if jerking or any abrupt movement occurs and helps in preventing any injury.