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Battery-powered Electric Chainsaws Can Get Your Job Done

N. R. Mallery and Barbara Whitchurch

Battery-powered electric chainsaws entered the mainstream just a few years ago, and they are directly comparable to like-sized gas models. For this article, we spoke with folks who have experience with some of the latest, brushless models.

The Bradford, Vermont Highway Department uses only three battery-powered chainsaws, one for each of its trucks. We spoke with Phil Page, who has been the highway foreman for the Town of Bradford for the past 15 years and was on the crew for 20 years. He said he was “born with a chainsaw in his hands.” He gave multiple reasons for liking the electric chainsaws: there is no smell of gas in the truck; there is extra room without gas cans; they are quiet and powerful; and they don’t require the kind of maintenance that the gas models do. [Ed.: May we add: no problem starting in the cold; no idling; can’t “flood”; no tuning or plug replacement; saw only runs when actually cutting.] System foreman, Grant Poliquin, enthusiastically said, “I love them. They make the job go faster.” Tyler Gillis, a crew member, chimed in, “They work really well”.

Bradford Highway Department uses the Milwaukee brand, because they already had many of their other tools, so the batteries would be interchangeable. The Milwaukee M18 18-volt 18-inch bar saws were purchased at the Tool Barn (RentToolBarn.com), on Lower Plain Road in Bradford. The owner, Dan Perry, said a lot of contractors use the Milwaukee line of tools, and he decided to carry the saws because he found them quite interesting. (They do not rent chainsaws.) It is enlightening that nearby towns such as Corinth are also using battery chainsaws as a better option for their highway department. Fire and police departments are also using them.

Greg Whitchurch: We’ve been heating our home exclusively with wood for 45 years, using large Jonsered and small Poulin and Echo chainsaws, and a bulldozer with a winch. In the winter we also heat our water with wood and cook on a wood cookstove. This spring we moved up to the Greenworks 40-volt 10-inch commercial arborist saw, the 80-volt series chainsaw, the multi-head weed whacker and tiller, and the self-propelled lawnmower.

We have 2.5 and 5 Ah batteries, and the wearable harness for the big battery to further lower the weight of the (already lightweight) tools. The harness places the battery on one’s back at waist height with a five-foot cord that plugs into the machine. I still have my big Jonsered saw with 16- to 36-inch bars but haven’t used it in months.

I especially like the quietness and light weight of these tools. Plus, I don’t have to pull-start in the cold, let it idle between cuts, mix the fuel, remember to find a safe place for my cigar when refueling, or worry about the pollution.

Professionals usually invest in a “battery line.” That is, since the batteries are expensive, if one already has Makita, DeWalt, or whatever-brand power tools, and those same voltage batteries fit their chainsaws, then they’ll probably continue with that line. [Ed.: Greenworks (GW) tools are also rebranded for other major names; so, you might be using a GW tool already.]

Geoff Whitchurch (son of Barb and Greg): Over the past 35 years, I have been using gas-powered chainsaws for logging firewood for home heating. I’m 47 and started using chainsaws as a kid and continue to use them today. This past summer, my father, my son, and I had to remove a massive silver maple from my yard. (The largest branch of this tree was 25 inches in diameter, and the smallest branch was not much smaller.) I was prepared to use my four gas-powered saws, of differing sizes, for taking the tree down.

My father arrived wielding his new Greenworks 80-volt and 40-volt battery-powered saws. I figured we would use those saws to limb the small stuff, while using my gas saws to do the work’s brunt. I was WRONG!

The tree sat in a small yard, and its branches spanned at least 50 feet across my house, carriage house, and over two neighbors’ houses. Since it reached far above the two-story houses, we used an 85-foot boom lift and removed it in small-ish pieces.

The GW saws worked great, and we ended up using them for 95% of the tree removal. The 5 Ah battery lasted around an hour of on-and-off cutting. We would swap for the 2 Ah battery while the larger battery recharged. The charging time for the larger battery coincided nicely with the time it took to drain the smaller battery.

Advantages of the GW saws include: extraordinary noise reduction (chainsaw noise can cause user fatigue quickly, but I didn’t feel the need to wear hearing protectors); not breathing two-cycle engine exhaust; the saw doesn’t run when not triggering the throttle; the small-kerf bar and chain glide through the wood; and it’s environmentally clean. I now have my own GW 18-inch 80-volt saw, string trimmer, and lawnmower!

Nancy Rae Mallery, publisher and owner of Green Energy Times: I tried both the Greenworks 40-volt 14-inch and the 80-volt 16-inch. Initially, I thought the 40-volt sounded tinny and toylike compared to the 80-volt, but I used it to cut up a downed pine, about nine inches in diameter and 24 feet long, with lots of branches. The lighter weight makes it easy to reach out farther. The saw ran for long enough to nearly cut up the full log. It did a great job.

I previously used the 80-volt 16-inch saw to cut up a roughly 12-inch diameter, 27-foot ash tree with big branches. I was able to cut the majority of the log with one 2.5 Ah battery charge, cutting continuously — and it didn’t miss a beat!

I wouldn’t hesitate to use the 80-volt 16-inch or an 18-inch chainsaw on even larger trees or a big stack of firewood. The battery would run low sooner, but not its performance. If cost is an issue, the 40-V 14- or 16-inch models are great choices.

For me, the bottom line is this: battery-powered chainsaws have evolved into an awesome alternative to using fossil fuels. These chainsaws get the job done!

Nancy Rae Mallery is the owner and publisher of Green Energy Times. Barbara Whitchurch writes for G.E.T. and owns a Passive House in Middlesex, VT.

Captions (Photos coming)

Greg and Geoff Whitchurch up high dissecting the tree with two Greenworks saws. Inset: Geoff Whitchurch loading up the saws. Photos: Barbara Whitchurch.

Greg Whitchurch with the big battery pack on his back and the arborist and large chainsaws. Photo: Barbara Whitchurch.

Tyler Gillis (left) and Grant Poliquin of the Bradford, VT Highway Department with one of their three Milwaukee battery-powered chainsaws, which have replaced all of their gas-powered saws. SheBear, the authors Newfoundland dog, approves. All of the town trucks sport a “Clean Idle” certification. Photo: N. R. Mallery.

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