Electric vs Gas Powered Chainsaw: Which is Better?

gasoline powered chainsaw

Perhaps you’re looking to buy a new chainsaw, but you’re not sure what kind of chainsaw to buy. There are all types of them out there and they each have different capabilities and limitations. So, how do you figure out which is the best option to buy?

The easiest answer to that question is to examine what you need a chainsaw for. For example, think about if you’ll be doing any large cutting projects or just trimming your trees in the backyard. These are worlds apart, and the chainsaw you buy should be able to accommodate your needs. That’s why we’ll be comparing the two main types of chainsaws: gas and electric.

Side by side, we’ll examine what each chainsaw can do and what they’re best suited for.

Which Chainsaw is More Powerful?

craftsman gas chainsaw

One of the first things people want to know when buying a chainsaw is how “powerful” it is. Whether you’re cutting through hardwood or softwood, you’ll need a chainsaw that’s powerful enough to cut through anything in its way.

Gas-powered chainsaws are extremely powerful machines. This is because of their larger 2-stroke engines with displacement ranging from 30cc to 120cc. They are able to generate more horsepower and cutting torque. In short, as long as you have a big enough engine you’ll be able to tackle pretty much anything.

Electric chainsaws are less powerful than gas powered options. This is mostly because they run on either a battery or direct electricity and not a specific type of fuel. Your power with an electric chainsaw is equivalent to the ampere output. Corded electric chainsaws will usually range from 8-15 amperes due to National Electrical Code requirements and because most circuits are 15-20-amps.

However, some outlets do exist that are 30 and 50-amps but these are typically only used by heavy duty appliances like cooking ranges and dryers. On the off-chance you have a larger ampere circuit, you could technically buy a larger amperage capacity chainsaw.

The edge though will obviously go to the gas-powered chainsaw. It’s use of fuel, and large engine is enough to take on any task with ease. Unlike the electric chainsaw, the gas chainsaw has plenty of power for all sorts of tasks and isn’t limited by battery life or ampere output.

Which Chainsaw is Easier to Use?

Another thing that people would like to know when purchasing a chainsaw is how easy it is to use. Most of us aren’t professional lumberjacks, and we typically only use a chainsaw every so often. This makes it to where we need a chainsaw that’s easy to use and doesn’t present too much of a hassle.

Gas-powered chainsaws, as stated earlier, are powerful machines. However, their power makes them more difficult to handle for some. Chainsaw kickback is a very dangerous situation where the chainsaw violently throws itself back up towards the operator. This happens more often with gas-powered chainsaws as they operate at higher speeds. Gas chainsaws are also much heavier due to their large engines and moving parts making them more difficult to carry. They are also quite difficult to start in the winter. Once they’re revving though, they’ll continue to operate for as long as you have fuel.

Electric chainsaws are much easier to handle. This is because they are lightweight and feature far less moving parts; In contrast a gas powered motor is a 2 stroke combustion engine featuring several heavy moving parts. For beginners, an electric chainsaw is perfect because you can maneuver it without much trouble. You can also start it up much easier than a gas chainsaw.

It’s important to note that you are greatly limited by work capacity with an electric option. For instance a corded electric chainsaw will require an outlet and a long 12-gauge extension cord. Battery powered options also require several batteries in order to operate longer than 100+ cuts.

In terms of ease of use, we give the edge to electric chainsaws because of their easier handling and maneuverability. Most people aren’t used to handling chainsaws on a regular basis and having a lightweight chainsaw that is easy to use is a bonus.

Which Chainsaw is “Safer” to Use?

corded electric chainsaw

Each year, thousands of injuries occur from chainsaw-related accidents(1). The truth is that chainsaws are a dangerous piece of machinery that should be handled correctly. So, when you’re looking to buy a chainsaw, you want one that is safe for you to use without considerable risk of injury.

Note: Regardless of type, both gas and electric chainsaws are dangerous machines. “Safer” isn’t necessarily an optimal word to describe both machines when they have an equal potential to do significant damage when handled improperly.

Gas powered saws are not the safest type out there. These machines are powerful, and this makes them prone to kick back more often than other chainsaws. This is due to their higher operational speed and using full chisel chains for efficiency. Gas chainsaws are also louder, operating at around 109 dB. This can be dangerous and hearing protection should be worn.

Nothing is more terrifying than a spinning chainsaw rushing up towards your face when a kickback happens. While kickback is preventable, the chances of it occurring with a gas powered saw is higher than others.

The electric chainsaw is one of the “safer” chainsaws you can buy. The lower powered motor means it has a lesser chance of kickback than other chainsaws. Also, the fact that electric chainsaws are considerably lighter means that people have a much easier time handling them, making them easier to use. However, safety gear like chainsaw chaps aren’t nearly as effective against electric chainsaws as they are direct drive whereas with gas chainsaws they are a bit more effective. Electric chainsaws also operate at a lower sound rating of 90 – 102dB(2) making them safer to operate continuously. Hearing protection should still be worn when operating for longer than 20 seconds.

When it comes to safety, we give the edge to electric chainsaw. Their lower risk while operating them makes them the much safer chainsaw to use. To reiterate, both machines are dangerous, especially when operated incorrectly.

Cost Considerations

The last thing to talk about are cost considerations. Gas powered chainsaws typically run much higher than any other type. Sometimes, they can even cost double the price of an electric option.

Corded electric chainsaws are cheaper than gas chainsaws, however battery operated versions will cost more than both in some cases.

Conclusion

In the end, it all comes down to what your intended use is. If you’re looking to do some light yard work like pruning, then purchasing an electric chainsaw may be the better option. It’ll be quieter, less expensive, and it will be safer for you to use. All the while, still being able to get the job done well.

However, if you plan to do heavy lumber cutting, then you need a gas chainsaw. The larger engine will allow you to cut all the hardwood you need. However, it will cost significantly more than an electric saw and they’re a bit more intimidating so safety should be a top priority.

Sources

  1. Preventing Chain Saw Injuries During Tree Removal|Natural Disasters and Severe Weather. (2017, October 17). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/chainsaws.html
  2. Is a Quiet Chainsaw an Oxymoron? (2005). Retrieved from https://www.nonoise.org/library/qz7/QuietChainsaws.pdf

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