What Does CFM Mean On A Leaf Blower?

homeowner in black shirt and baseball cap starting a yellow leaf blower

When shopping for a leaf blower it can be difficult to understand the different terms thrown around to describe them.  You’ll see some understandable terms like ‘MPH’ for Miles Per Hour. You might also see ‘Battery Capacity’ or ‘Fuel Capacity’. However, there may be one uncommon attribute,CFM. What does CFM mean on a leaf blower?  In this article we’ll examine why you might want to consider the CFM rating. We’ll also cover what it means and how it’ll impact your leaf blower’s performance.

Does MPH Matter For Leaf Blowers?

First, there’s the MPH rating range for your leaf blower.  Usually, this is a range since nearly all leaf blowers have a variable rating depending on what speed you set it to, and what angle you hold the leaf blower.  Walk behind leaf blowers generally have the highest MPH, and handhelds lower. However, the MPH, otherwise known as the speed of the air coming out the hose is not necessarily the best measure.

You can imagine a smaller leaf blower nozzle might produce a higher MPH.  Air is compressible, so you can run a fan at a high speed, force the air into a small tube, and produce a high speed air flow.  However, if that air flow is the size of a garden hose, you’ll not be moving many leaves around, even though you have a fast air flow.

What Does CFM Mean On A Leaf Blower?

So what does CFM mean on a leaf blower?  CFM is a true measure of how much air is actually moving through the leaf blower nozzle.  This measures the quantity of air (Cubic Feet) and the time it takes for that quantity to pass through the nozzle (per Minute).

This creates the measure known as Cubic Feet per Minute or CFM. Though it is still an abstraction, as just about nobody can truly visualize what 500 Cubic Feet per Minute of air actually looks like, it is a good way to compare leaf blowers. Here’s a helpful CFM calculator for your own estimates.

There are big benefits to having a high CFM leaf blower. You’ll have to spend less time waving the leaf blower back and forth to get the leaves to move.  This is why the professional landscaper’s tool of choice is the backpack leaf blowers, and the walk behind leaf blowers.  These gas powered leaf blowers generally provide higher CFM than their handheld cousins.  Additionally, the backpack and walk behind leaf blowers are more ergonomic. They will strain the arms hands and wrists less over an entire day using the leaf blower.

homeowner in backyard showing what does CFM mean on a leaf blower with yellow blower and narrow black funnel

How To Evaluate A Leaf Blower: CFM or MPH?

When considering what does CFM mean on a leaf blower, generally speaking you should focus on the CFM instead of the MPH.  CFM is the most important measure for how your leaf blower will perform as a blower.  

Maybe you have a high MPH Leaf blower but a low CFM. In that case, you will need to get closer to the leaves to make an impact.  For example, if you are buying a battery powered leaf blower it probably makes sense to buy the more powerful CFM leaf blower, and buy additional batteries, than to buy the lower CFM leaf blower with the longer battery life.

What Does CFM Mean On A Leaf Blower Summary

Using a leaf blower can still be hard work and will cause some stress the joints and muscles. However, a leaf blower is still worth it. You might have added artificial turf for easy cleaning, but leaves will still require attention. Clearing the leaves using a rake can take hours.

When you first buy a leaf blower and use it for your fall or spring cleanup, you’ll quickly understand the reason why they’ve become ubiquitous in lawn care.  Ultimately, buying a leaf blower with the best CFM will save you a lot of time and stress. If you’re looking for a quick breakdown of the best models, see our best electric lawn mower guide.