What Is a Wood Chipper Shredder?
Basically, a wood chipper shredder or simply wood chipper is a machine used to reduce small pieces of wood from trees such as tree limbs and branches into smaller woodchips or to create mulch for flower or plant beds. They are usually portable (there are also large industrial sizes available), and mounted on wheels on frames that can be towed behind a car or truck.
Wood chippers are usually made of a hopper with a collar. This collar serves as a partial safety mechanism to keep human body parts away from the chipping blades. Rounding the parts are the chipper mechanism itself, and an optional collection bin for the broken down chips. A tree limb is inserted into the hopper and into the chipping mechanism. The chips exit through a chute and can be directed into any container or onto the ground. The resulting wood chips have various uses such as being spread as a ground cover for flower beds or plant beds.
Why Do You Need a Wood Chipper Shredder?
If your yard, home, or property is surrounded by even small to medium height trees, then you most certainly need a wood chipper shredder. The traditional method of cleaning up almost all year round – with concentrations during the spring and fall – is to gather up the fallen branches, twigs, and other tree limbs and either gather them to be thrown in a dump or burn them. While the former is time consuming and tiresome, the latter will depend on where your property is located and if it is legal to burn garbage out in the open. Also, piling leaves and branches by the road for collection is time-consuming. And over time, any accumulated material including leaves and other small tree materials can kill your lawn or grass. In some locations, local ordinances prohibit leaves and brush in landfills, making it difficult to get rid of accumulated tree debris.
The wood chips that are spewed out from the wood shredder can make for an attractive and effective mulching material for flower beds or selected plant beds. The mulch can also be used to cover muddy spots on trails and walkways. If you have livestock, they make for good bedding. Shredded wood will decompose very quickly within a period of only 2 weeks. The mulch is also ideal for making compost to enrich any garden soil.
What is a Gas Chipper Shredder?
Compared to an electric-powered chipper shredder, gas chipper shredders are the big-boys. Gas chippers are larger and more powerful than their electric counterparts. When you have larger diameter sticks and branches to chip, a gas chipper shredder will definitely do the trick where the electric variants can’t. Gas chippers come in different styles such as walk-behind chipper shredder vacuums, heavy-duty chippers without shredding capability, and heavy-duty chipper shredders. These chipping machines are capable of chipping branches anywhere from 1 ½ inches in diameter all the way up to 7 inches in diameter. Though electric chipper shredders have lower maintenance, they require long extension cords and will only work in small yards. For larger yards and properties, a gas chipper shredder is more suitable.
The Pros and Cons of a Gas Chipper Shredder
Like any tool or equipment, a gas chipper shredder has its pros and cons. Let’s start with the pros or advantages.
Probably the biggest advantage of using a gas chipper shredder is that you don’t have to use your bare hands or doing back and forth motions with a rake, both of which will take longer than expected. Cleaning a garden or property with trees around is no easy job after winter, during summer, and during the fall. This advantage alone is more than enough to convince anyone to invest in a gas chipper shredder. Large tree limbs and branches are especially hard to throw away. Using a gas chipper shredder will speed up the work since more than 80 percent of fallen tree junk can be reduced by a chipper shredder.
Gas chipper shredders always come with a warranty, usually lasting for about two to three years, so you don’t have to worry about maintenance complications or risk of using.
Most gas chipper shredders are durable and made from premium materials such as steel and industrial strength plastic. Just don’t buy chipper shredder brands made in China that are made with substandard materials and tend to have shorter durability and lifespan.
For pricing, again, like any garden equipment, there are affordable models and the more expensive ones. Price range usually covers between $300 and $2,000. But if you have a small garden or property, then you’re fine with an average $500 gas chipper shredder. Compare any priced chipper shredder with a common rake and hiring a team of professionals to clean up that will cost a couple of hundred. In the long term, a gas chipper shredder is the better long term investment.
A gas chipper shredder is better than an electric version for the obvious reasons. An electric chipper shredder needs a very long extension cord for it to function. Of course, an electric chipper shredder needs little maintenance with no mess and oiling and gas. But electric versions aren’t as powerful as the gas chipper shredders. The gas versions can also handle bigger and longer branches and will not burn out quickly compared to electric versions.
Gas chipper shredders normally have a minimum of 2 years of warranty and have been tested to surpass any necessary given safety standards. Some gas models also come with a vacuum kit. Surprisingly, in spite of being gas powered, most models have almost zero carbon emissions (assuming this concept is real or at least viable as an environment protection standard) and is easy to transport because of its small to medium size.
For its work, gas chipper shredders are easy to load up even with armfuls of branches or long straight branches of up to 3 inches in diameter. And all gas chipper shredders are easy to use because they easily start. They are also durable because of the almost all-steel structure.
Actually, there are very little cons or disadvantages.
While some models are affordable, other models can be expensive, so if you need to clear out a large property of fallen tree debris, you will need to invest in a more expensive model. But again, in the long run, the expensive investment will pay off than constantly hiring professionals to clean out your property. However, some medium and large models for large properties may require a tractor or other heavy equipment for power and towing.
Some gas chipper shredders must be fed in manually because they don’t have the vacuum or blower features.
Be careful with some affordable models with only hard plastic funnel and chute parts. Also, because of the size of some gas chipper and shredder models, it may take up a lot of storage space.
The fact that gasoline is needed to power a gas chipper shredder means that you’ll need to spend on fuel. This may be a bit expensive especially during the spring, summer, and fall periods where cleanups are necessary.
Generally, like gas powered garden equipment like lawn mowers, gas chipper shredders are noisy because if its engine.
General Designs of Gas Chipper Shredders
By now, we all know the three basic types of chipper shredders to be electric, gasoline powered, and gasoline walk behind vacuum. But what about the general design features for the chipper shredders? There are four basic design features:
Disk. Disk chippers are the most common design feature in gas chipper shredders. The design is very versatile and can handle almost any tree debris that is thrown into the chipper shredder. The way they work is simple: a flywheel with blades attached to the end is spun up to very high speeds. The shredder power is determined by how heavy the flywheel is. A heaver flywheel means a more powerful chipping and shredding tool.
Screw. Screw chippers are the second most common design feature for gas chipper shredders. It is also one of the most powerful and intense on the market today. They have huge screws that rotate slowly, pulling branches in and obliterating them. Most people will not be able to buy a screw chipper simply because they’re too powerful and tend to be very expensive. You commonly see these types of chippers attached to trucks or in clearing very large areas of tree debris.
Drum. This is the very first and original design type of chipper shredder to come out in the mass market. Today, the drum design is still being used by some gas chipper shredder models. For the greatest effect, they work by rotating a drum or drums with many sharp metal teeth on the outside. These are spun in opposite directions and pull in any debris, making short work of it by grinding it with intense pressure. If you are chipping a lot of material at once, go with a drum chipper design.
Flail. Flail designed chipper shredders are lightweight and are accordingly designed for lighter yard debris. They work by attaching hard plastic strips or metal chains to a drum and spinning the said drum fast. Some lower end models are only made to deal with soft tree waste and leaves, while the higher end models can handle leaves, sticks, shrubbery, and small branches. These are great if you want a cheaper model but don’t have a lot of heavy tree debris to get rid of.
Main Features to Consider When Choosing a Chipper Shredder
Although chipper shredders are easy to use, being gasoline-powered, they are also complicated garden equipment and definitely not easy to maintain, especially for models made for large properties. So, when deciding to purchase a chipper shredder, here are some features to consider in making your choice:
Hoppers. There are some gas chipper shredder models that come with a hopper mounted on its top. This provides convenience because it simply means you can drop the yard waste over the shredder. Just drop all the yard rubble on the hopper and let gravity do the rest. As you check the models using a hopper design, make sure it is durable and can withstand the weight of the yard waste that is normal in your property to be shredding.
Branch Chute. Some models of gas chipper shredders also come with a side-mounted branch chute designed to handle larger debris such as tree branches. This feature of the chipper shredder allows the bigger debris to skip past the flails and go directly to the blades instead. One thing you need to see and inspect yourself is that in handling bigger sized debris, the blades should also be bigger, and thus, so also should be the chute. In short, the larger the chute, the larger the branches you can send through, which means the blades or flails should be larger.
Wheels. All gas chipper shredders come with wheels for better mobility. There are large assortments of wheel sizes that come with this equipment. One important thing to consider about your garden is its terrain. If the property is just flat and even then you can go for models with small wheels but if you’re dealing with property that has rough and uneven terrain then you would probably be better off with bigger wheels.
Weight. Another important factor to consider about getting a gas chipper shredder is its weight. If you’re looking to move around most of the time for your garden maintenance and the garden or property terrain is uneven, then it would be better to have a lightweight chipper shredder. On the other side of the coin, lighter models are usually a lot less powerful than its heavier counterparts.
Feed Capacity. The feed capacity of any gas chipper shredder model will tell you how much debris you can feed into the shredder. If you’re dealing with bundles of garden debris fed to the shredder at the same time then it would be wise to go with one with a large feeding capacity as well as one with multiple chutes. This also goes if your shredding will involve a lot of large branches from fallen tree debris. Some models with multiple chutes may have different values for each chute or entry point.
Blades or Flails. Actually, the more number of flails and blades you have in your chipper shredder, the longer the equipment’s lifespan and usage. The increased number of flails and blades also means you don’t have to sharpen them as often. Remember that the blades and flails are the lifeline of any shredder so check these out as well.
Maintenance. Each type of chipper shredder requires a different level of maintenance. The hardest type of chipper shredder to maintain is the gasoline powered chipper shredder for the simple reason that its engine requires gasoline but may not always be in perfect running condition especially during the winter months or when the shredder has had a long hiatus from use. In addition, gasoline powered chipper shredders have more parts compared to other types and generally this takes longer to clean and maintain.
Noise Levels. Just like all shredders of any type or design, the chipper shredder is also a noisy piece of equipment, and the noisiest of them all is the gasoline powered chipper shredder. If you’re sensitive to high noise levels then the electric powered models may be more suitable for you. However, despite the high noise levels, gas chipper shredders can do double or even triple the shredding work of electric models, making gas shredders the better choice when it comes to the work of shredding itself. Perhaps the homeowner can invest in a nice pair of ear muffs or ear plugs to keep the noise levels of the gas shredders down.
Reduction Ratio. The reduction ratio of your shredder is a rough guide to the volume reduction that your chipper shredder can achieve in cutting down and grinding down all types of fallen tree debris. These range from 10:1 to 20:1, so this means that they can cut the volume of any tree debris to 5-10% from the original volume.
Additional Features for Convenience. Some gas chipper shredders come with features that are added for better convenience for the user, such as blades that sharpen themselves, tow bars, electric starters instead of pull starters, and hoppers that can be tilted to one or both sides.
Warranty. Although warranties can sometimes be hard to enforce or make use of, the strength of a chipper shredder’s warranty will show the true quality and honesty of the manufacturer. A stronger and longer warranty should increase your confidence in your purchase. Again, steer clear of cheap foreign brands that even offer up to a year of warranty, especially from brands made in China.
Chipper Shredder Maintenance Tips
Whether you decide to buy the cheaper electric shredders or the heavy duty gas chipper shredders or the heavier gas walk behind vacuum types, like any piece of equipment, chipper shredders need good maintenance to always stay in top running, and shredding, condition.
Buy a powerful model for your needs. Whatever land area you have, don’t scrimp on the budget and buy the chipper shredder that you really need for your property. This also means that the blades and motor are under a lot of stress when they’re in use, and cleanups and shredding even on a quarterly basis will mean pushing the machine beyond its limits. If you can afford a higher powered machine, then do so. You may never max out the ability of the chipper shredder, but you know for a fact that you won’t over-stress it, and this is the number one cause of chipper shredder blowouts around the country.
Shred properly. It’s best to avoid shredding wet clumps of small debris like grass or leaves. Remember and think just how a chipper shredder works. It performs best when the debris is hit multiple times by the blades and flails, allowing it to break up the debris as much as possible. Wet and clumped material acts like one large, amorphous piece of debris that can get stuck or make it through your machine relatively unscathed.
No matter what type of chipper shredder you have, there are a couple of universal rules to caring for them. First, always keep the blades sharp. The duller the blade, the more the motor has to work, shortening the lifespan of the shredder. Most chipper shredders come with blade sharpening tools or extra blades, so do the proper maintenance. When not in use, store the shredder in a cool and dry place like a shed and don’t leave it out in the elements.
- Monitor oil levels. Using the machine when the oil is low can degrade the parts significantly and shorten the lifespan of the engine. Keep a few bottles of extra oil handy at all times.
- After the first 10-20 hours of use, replace the oil completely. Then schedule oil changes for every 100 hours.
- Watch for oil leaks or parts that won’t function properly and take care of them immediately.
- Keep extra air filters on hand, and replace them liberally.
- Get the right type of extension cord. It’s not good for the shredder to have a sudden voltage drop to happen, so using a large gauge cord will help prevent that.
If you own a garden or a lawn especially when the area is large and with trees around, it would be best to have your own chipper shredder. All the above-mentioned suggestions and options are excellent in providing you with efficient debris shredding. Probably the main influencing factor in your choice of shredder will depend on the volume of the yard debris. If you’re looking to deal with a large volume of yard debris, we thus, recommend the one that packs the most power with a hopper that can handle the biggest volume.