We put as much time and effort into maintaining our yards as we would in preserving an artifact. The grass is watered everyday either by a sprinkler, a timed watering system or a simple hose. Lawn ornaments add a touch of character while deterrents scare away pests and feeders attract colorful wildlife. But there is only so much greenery lawn mowers and string trimmers can cut. If you have any shrubs or hedges on your property, you probably use a hedge trimmer to prune for a neat and clean appearance while others use them for topiary. There are two types of these shaping devices: electric and gas-powered hedge trimmers. You can also use hedge clippers, which are giant scissors, to get the job done under your own power; however, if a lot of pruning is required, a hedge trimmer will save you time.
Electric Hedge Trimmers
Electric models are usually preferred by consumers who do a lot of trimming and who have moderately-sized branches to deal with. These trimmers are relatively quiet compared to those powered by gas.
A Cut Above The Rest
* Electric hedge trimmers are lightweight, quiet, and easy to start with simple maintenance.
* They don't produce any exhaust, which is better for the environment and your health.
* They are less expensive than gas models because there is a consistent power source. You won't have to worry about charging or refueling.
* If your yard is small but you still have one or two hedges that need trimming, you can always invest in an edging converter. These transforming trimmers often convert from a weeding to a trimming device, allowing you to not only prune but control those infectious weeds and other unsightly plants.
* Costs between $20 and $400.
* There is limited mobility because the length of the cord restricts your range.
* Before you purchase an electric hedge trimmer make sure you check out how the spool is changed. Many people often overlook this step and are surprised when they find out electric trimmers have spools. This adds to the maintenance of these pieces of gardening equipment. If this part is hard to change in a store, it will also be hard to change at home.
Cordless Electric Trimmers
* There are less powerful (but equally expensive) battery-powered trimmers that eliminate the cord.
* They aren't able to cut branches more than 1/4" thick and they do eventually run out of juice.
* Keep in mind that the battery will usually need anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes to recharge fully, and may not get that much done per charge.
* Cordless trimmers are good for light maintenance and small projects.
Gasoline-Powered Hedge Trimmers
Gasoline powered trimmers are typically geared towards professionals and commercial trimming. They may also be preferred by consumers with large and/or extensive hedges or shrubs.
: '''Gassed Up''': Hedge trimmers that operate with gas can reach anywhere without a cord. This makes transportation from one side of the yard to another a breeze. These machines are also much more powerful than their electric counterparts, allowing them to cut through thick branches and foliage.
: '''On Empty''': Unlike electric hedge trimmers, which stop working when power is cut off, gas-powered trimmers need to be refueled every time they're used. They produce fumes and are louder and heavier. And let's not forget about maintenance: when the cold weather kicks in and there's nothing left to trim, winterizing must take place, and gas and oil should be mixed. Gas versions also tend to be more expensive, although there is a lot of overlap in price ranges. These trimmers cost anywhere between $50 and $400 or more depending on the level of work.
What To Look For
If you think hedge trimmers are only distinguished by their source of power, think again. The blades on a hedge trimmer vary by length and motion.
* For small 3-5 foots shrubs, keep the blade length shorter (under 20 inches), otherwise it will be difficult to maneuver.
* If you need a trimmer for commercial jobs or anything larger than 6 feet, choose a longer blade, up to 30 inches.
* Hedges from 10-15 feet may need a blade that is 30-40 inches long.
The spacing between blades should be as large as possible: this makes cutting through smaller branches easier and increases the trimmer's capacity for slicing through stronger, thick branches. This is especially important for commercial trimmers.
Handle By Design
* The handle of a hedge trimmer will depend on what you prefer: comfort and mobility or safety.
* If you want the ability to move around at odd angles, opt for a wrap-around front handle, which gives you optimum mobility in different holding positions.
* If you prefer to protect your hands, go for a design with a front-handle shield.
Safety and Maintenance
Hedge trimmers are not exactly the safest tools around--they are sharp even when turned off--so you should always take the necessary precautions to make sure you stay safe.
* Look for the UL label (Underwriters Laboratory) to confirm that the trimmer has the required safety features.
* Always wear protective work gloves, eye protection, and good shoes.
* If you are using a gas-powered trimmer, make sure to have hearing protection, whether it's earmuffs or ear plugs.
* Always verify the stability of your ladder if you are using one.
* Make sure the cord flows away from the trimmer at all times.
* Anti-vibration features may help improve a user's control over the trimmer, making it safer. It will also reduce arm fatigue.
* A lock on the throttle switch keeps the trimmer from being turned on accidentally.
* Kill switches are an invaluable safety feature, but are not found on all models.
* Look for locks that keep the blades from moving while the engine idles.
* Trimmers are mostly metal and therefore prone to rusting. Protect them from the elements and store in a cool, dry place. Gas-powered trimmers should never be stored inside the house.
These models were recommended by ConsumerSearch as top picks among reviewers.