The blower side of the tool is generally rated by the air speed or volume of air flow it develop; the greater the air speed, the heavier the engine. Small hand-held blower/vacs usually weight ten pounds or less, while backpack models can go as high as 30 pounds. Expect any model to weigh a pound or two more when in the vacuum mode, and anticipate that the weight will increase as the leaves are collected in the bag draped over you shoulder.
On the vacuum side of the tool, the main issue is the device used to chop up the vacuumed materials. There are two issues. One is the material used for the chopping device. Some are made of tough plastic and some are made of metal which lasts longer. The other issue is how small are the pieces of material coming out of the chopper device. The company may say 10 to 1 reduction, but most tests show that you are lucky to get a 5 to 1 reduction which we consider sufficient to do the job.
Electric models should have a 16-gauge cord and adjustable speed controls. The throttle should fit in your hand. Some models adapt well for left handed people. Note how accessible the on/off switch is and, for gasoline-driven models, how easy it is to use the throttle and the choke.
While most of these tools come already in a box, if you can arrange it try to actually “try on” any models you are considering do so. Note how they feel and how well they work on your back and in your hands in both blower and vacuum mode. Some models have two handles to accommodate the different positions used for blowing and vacuuming. Attach and detach the hose or tube and note how easily they work. In some models the motor won’t turn on if the tube is not properly attached and that is a good safety feature.
Some brands have an added feature – an extension wand that allows you to stay safely on the ground while removing leaves and debris from the gutters around your house.
Noise pollution - All blower/vacs – electric or gasoline – make serious noise when in operations. Even the “quiet” models require ear protection. So if the ad says low noise, remember that is a relative term and you still need to protect your ears.