The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Pros and cons of battery-powered chainsaws

Battery-powered chainsaw

When Mark's gas-powered chainsaw died after only a couple of years of use, I decided to see if there were any battery-powered chainsaws out there.  It turns out that quite a few battery-powered saws are starting to look like possibilities for homesteaders who just need to cut enough firewood to get them through the winter.  Is a battery-powered chainsaw a good option for us (and for homesteaders like us?).

While attempting to answer that question, I came across many pros and cons for battery-powered versus gas chainsaws.  The major disadvantage of battery-powered chainsaws is that they're not quite up to handling the same extreme cutting conditions that gas-powered saws are.  Most reviews of even the best battery-powered chainsaws suggest that cutting trees more than 9 to 12 inches in diameter (depending on the hardness of the wood) might stress your saw, and you'll need to be pretty careful with maintaining chain sharpness to get even that level of cutting.  Similarly, you can't cut all day with a battery-powered saw since the battery usually gives out after an hour or two, and, in the long run, replacement batteries usually cost over a hundred bucks once the cell stops accepting a charge.  (Of course, Da Pimp might extend that battery life considerably.)

Assembling an Oregon chainsaw

On the other hand, battery-powered saws have a major appeal for folks like us who wouldn't usually be cutting for more than a couple of hours at a time anyway.  There's the quietness factor --- not only are battery-powered saws silent when not cutting, they're much quieter than a gas-powered chainsaw even when zipping through wood.  We'd never have to fight those ornery pull starters (that always seem to get harder and harder to pull as a gas-powered saw ages), and maintenance in general is likely to be much simpler with a battery model.  Homesteaders who go for months without cutting won't need to be as worried about their saws if they opt for battery-powered versions since there's no fuel to go bad, and battery-powered saws probably cause less overall pollution than a typical two-stroke gas saw.  Finally, a battery saw definitely feels safer since the motor isn't running at all as you move between areas to cut.

Is the pleasantness factor worth the lack of power?  We received a review saw from Oregon to see if we can answer that question.  Stay tuned for a bunch of posts from Mark as he experiments with our trial saw, and for a later post from me explaining how we narrowed down the battery-powered chainsaw choices out there.  In a few weeks, I hope that we'll be able to tell you whether or not a battery-powered chainsaw is worth the expense for homesteaders.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I know it is a LOT more work, but have you considered a felling axe and a crosscut hand saw? Additionally, you would need the sharpening and setting tools for the saw. It would probably be similar outlay to purchase (if good quality new), but ongoing costs would be almost zero for the rest of your lifetime.
Comment by Jim Wed Aug 20 08:49:50 2014

Hi Mark and Anna,

When the battery died in an old cordless screwdriver, I connected it to a plug in power supply. I am still using it :). Works well!

ALL batteries die, get weak, don't last very long, etc.

Given how cheap high power 110VAC plug in power converters are:

IT AMAZES ME THAT no manufacturer offers a 110VAC/ 220VAC plug in battery pack sized power converter for their cordless whatever !!!???

Imagine that your battery goes dead again. You unplug the battery. Replace it with your plug-in module, plug in your gizmo and continue working!

That doesn't work when you are out of extension cord range. But LONG extension cords are simple and easy. So what if you have less power 1/2 mile from home, at least you can keep cutting, drilling, etc.

Or you just plug into your car's power with a simple, easily available 110 VAC converter.

The ONLY part missing is the 110VAC or 220VAC input power converter for you "cordless" whatever.

Manufacturers GET BUSY. MARKET opportunity !!

John BSEE, MSE(EE), etc.

I want one to play with too :).

Comment by John Wed Aug 20 09:00:21 2014
Let me suggest another alterative, the Milwaukee Hackzall, a cordless reciprocating saw. It has the same problem of limited battery life as the electric chainsaw but does not have any of the annoyances that come with a chain: tension, oil, etc. It accepts any Sawzall-compatible blade including nearly foot-long 'pruning' blades and requires no tools to change blades. A handy thing to have around for other than firewood purposes.
Comment by NinetyEight Wed Aug 20 10:00:10 2014

The decline of Li-ion batteries has to do with parasitic reactions between electrodes of the charged battery and the electrolyte.

These reactions are accellerated by high temperature and especially high voltage. And to the best of my knowledge these reactions are not reversible in Li-ion batteries. To combat these reactions, battery makers add several different additives to the electrolyte.

There are different kinds of Li-ion batteries, most significantly differing in the transition metal used in one of the electrode.

Since da pimp does not seem to regulate charging (you have to keep an eye on it) it could be relatively easy to overheat a battery or charge it at too high a voltage.

A voltage of 0.2V over the rated voltage of a cell is enough to get the electrolyte to break down really fast. Once a layer of (solid) electrolyte degradation products coats the graphite elctrode enough to close the pores in the electrode, the battery is dead.

Comment by Roland_Smith Wed Aug 20 16:15:34 2014

A few years ago I bought a battery powered lawn mower from Home Depot, their brand, Homelite. A friend suggested I purchase an extra battery, which was a good idea. Because I have a substantial amount of lawn to mow, the second battery has been great.

Last year I purchased a battery powered Black & Decker week whacker that came with two batteries. This has held up very well.

All this to suggest you buy a second battery. It is also very helpful to charge these batteries every month, whether they have been used or not.

Comment by Sheila Wed Aug 20 23:17:07 2014

The thing I like most about electric chainsaws (corded or cordless) is that they're on when you're cutting, and they're off the rest of the time.

My typical chainsawing workflow is to position the wood (or position myself around the wood), make some cuts, set the saw down and reposition the wood (or reposition myself), make some more cuts, etc.

When I set my petrol saw down, it's idling, and I feel the urge to rush the repositioning so I can pick it up and keep cutting. Idling time feels like wasted fuel, and I want to get cutting again quickly.

When using an electric chainsaw, the saw is off when I put it down. There's no noise, no fuel being wasted, and I can take my time with the repositioning. I tend to work cleaner (moving the cut wood out of the way as I go), I'm less rushed, and I have the wood in a better position for the next cut.

I know it's all in my head, but I really feel my electric saw encourages safer work practices and a more methodical, relaxed cutting session.

My preferred system now is to use my petrol saw for the gathering of wood (where I don't have power available), cutting branches down to trailer-length, human-movable size, and then doing my final processing at home with the electric saw.

Comment by Darren (Green Change) Thu Aug 21 18:30:39 2014
"Finally, a battery saw definitely feels safer since the motor isn't running at all as you move between areas to cut". The first thing we practised on the chainsaw course was engaging and disengaging the chain brake, "brake on", "brake off". No one was allowed to walk more than two paces with chainsaw engine running and without the chain brake applied. It soon becomes second nature. I had used a chainsaw for 25 years before my course, never applied the brake! Just after my course a bloke was killed when he was walking with the chainsaw running, tripped and cut out his throat. Cheers, John.
Comment by John Woody Sun Apr 22 03:40:40 2018

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