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Things To Consider Before Buying A Wood Chipper

by Hugh Snyder

If you've got a relatively large yard that has a significant number of trees in it, a wood chipper might come in handy. Understanding the different considerations involved when choosing this type of equipment will help you narrow down exactly which is the best wood chipper for your purposes.

Potential Benefits

Wood chippers can be used to turn branches that have fallen into the yard into wood chips, which can then be used as mulch, saving you from having to purchase this garden supply or having to hire someone to clear this type of debris from your yard. Some wood chippers also act as shredders, allowing you to shred yard waste, such as finished crops from your vegetable garden and fallen leaves and twigs from the trees in your yard. This material can then be added to your compost pile. Even if you don't compost, the shredder can reduce the amount of space the waste takes up so you don't have to put as many bags out on the curb for yard waste collection. Check the reduction ratio of the chipper shredder to see just how much less waste you'll have. For example, a chipper shredder with a 10 to 1 reduction ratio will be able to turn the equivalent of 10 bags of leaves from your yard into just 1 bag.

Types Available

A shredder will only shred soft waste, such as leaves and small twigs, while a chipper will be able to handle larger sticks and branches. Chipper shredders have hoppers for each type of material to be fed into. An electric model is more environmentally friendly and requires less maintenance, but it also needs to be plugged in and can only handle smaller branches of up to about 1 3/8 inches in diameter. This is why homeowners sometimes opt for gas chippers, which can handle branches as large as 7 inches in diameter depending on the model you choose. For the most heavy duty chipping, people purchase PTO chipper shredders, but these require the use of a tractor to run them, so they aren't usually a feasible option for many homeowners. 

Features to Consider

Those who need to use their chipper in multiple areas of the yard may want one with a trailer hitch or tow bar that allows them to pull it using a lawn tractor to various locations. For shredding, a hopper that tilts down to ground level can make it easier to get the leaves into the hopper and a vacuum to suck the leaves into the hopper. Some chippers have self-sharpening blades, collection bags or electric starters, all of which can make them easier to use. 

Choosing a Chipper

Choose a chipper that has at least 4 horsepower, as the models with less than this typically aren't as versatile and aren't able to handle very large branches. Compare those that are within your price range to choose the one with the largest chute, as this will make it easier to load the debris, waste and branches into the machine and make the job go faster. Skip the shredders made of thinner sheet metal and look for those made with 10 to 16-gauge steel, especially if you're buying a larger shredder.