Do you often prune the trees and shrubs in your garden? Are you left with waste that you don't know how to use? It's possible to recycle the branches and twigs using green waste bins, or to break the wood down with your hands. But a chipper shredder might be a more convenient solution.
With a chipper shredder, you can feed dead branches and twigs into the product itself. It then shreds them and creates wood chips, which you can use for mulching or other purposes. That's a quicker and easier way to recycle than most neighborhood methods.
Finding the right shredder is a difficult process. So we've taken a look at our top recommendations, along with some information about how to narrow down your selection.
Top 3: Best Chipper Shredders
Best Lawn Sweepers
This convenient machine is our top choice for electric chipper shredders. While electric models aren't as powerful as gas ones, they are simple and convenient to use. This particular model can handle the cleanup in most suburban yards.
The versatile design is built to chew through organic materials including small branches, twigs, shrubbery, and leaves. It converts these into small pieces of mulch, which can then be used in your garden or compost bin.
The 15-amp motor is one of the most powerful electric options on the market. As such, it's been proven to cut through branches of up to 1.73 inches in thickness without a problem.
Another advantage of this model is the portability. It is more compact than the majority of gas models, and there are 7-inch wheels mounted on the bottom. These allow you to drag or push the shredder over rough terrain, so you can use it on large properties.
Several safety mechanisms are in place. Perhaps most importantly, the motor will not turn on if the hopper is open. That means there's no chance of accidentally touching the blades while they're operating.
This extremely heavy-duty chipper is significantly pricier than the previous option on the list. But it is our top choice for people who need a gas-powered engine that can handle serious debris. It can break down branches of up to 3 inches in thickness, nearly twice the capability of the previous electric model.
The three-in-one design can be used for mulching, shredding, and chipping your wood. When you feed debris into the top hopper and chutes, the reduction ratio is 15:1. This means each piece is broken into 15 smaller parts.
The top hopper can hold debris of up to 0.5 inches in thickness. All you have to do is drop the items in, and then gravity goes to work. That makes it super convenient.
If you need to cut through larger branches, you can use the side chute. The chute accommodates branches of 3 inches or less in thickness. With the chute, you bypass the flails, which allows the blades to shred the material without chipping it.
Also included in the package is a leaf vacuum. You can walk around your yard and vacuum up the leaves without needing to rake. They will be sucked into the machine, where they'll be turned into mulch and compost. The vacuum can be attached and detached as needed.
This design uses slanted technology to keep the blades from jamming. The engine is also powerful, functioning at 7 horsepower and running on gasoline. It's recommended that you use 87+ unleaded gas without ethanol. The tank holds up to 0.7 gallons at a time.
When you want to transport the machine, you can easily attach it to your tractor, riding lawnmower, or ATV. A tow bar kit makes it easy to attach and detach. You'll need to purchase this kit separately, as it isn't included in the original package.
The package also doesn't come with engine oil, so you'll need to get some prior to using it. Failing to use engine oil can cause the components to overheat and break down.
It's important to use protection for your hands and eyes when using the machine. The user manual explains the safety guidelines. If you need to build a firebreak on your property or break down potential tinder to prevent fires, the machine can help. It also has an EPA and CARB certification.
This model is ideal for people in the gardening, forestry, landscaping, and recycling industries who need to cut through tree branches, mulch leaves, and shred shrubbery. There are a few purposes it shouldn't serve, which include petrified wood, pine cones, vines, and palm branches.
The 10-inch wheels are made of polyurethane, so they can be used on asphalt and other rough terrain. There's also a comfortable handle bar to allow for easier dragging and transportation.
This is another electric chipper design, this time from Earthwise. The purpose of this machine is to create mulch out of branches with up to 1.75 inches of thickness.
The model is outfitted with a large chute, which pulls debris down into the blades. This ensures that your hands stay far away from the dangerous components while the machine is running.
This is a good choice for people who want an electric shredder with a larger collection bin than the previous model. It can handle the lightweight debris from a larger yard without needing to be emptied. The collection bin holds 1.2 bushels of mulch and can be easily emptied when full.
The portable design has wheels on the rear, allowing you to push and pull it to any part of your property. The other two legs have no wheels, so they stabilize the model when it's in use.
The machine components are crafted from a combination of plastic, metal, and aluminum. They're built to last longer than most other electric designs. The motor reaches speeds of up to 4500 rotations per minute, allowing it to process debris quickly and efficiently.
As an electric model, the design is environmentally conscious. It also doesn't need much maintenance or upkeep. You don't need to refill a gas tank or change an air filter or check any oil levels. No toxic fumes or harmful materials are emitted into the air.
Ultimately, this is a great choice for people who need an affordable electric chipper that's portable, easy to use, and has a large collection bin.
Best Grass Shears
Our top choice for an electric shredder model is the Sun Joe. This convenient design is compact enough to be wheeled from place to place, while the motor chews through 1.7-inch branches. It's one of the most powerful electric options in the industry. Just keep in mind that it's sized for small jobs.
For gas models, our top recommendation is the SuperHandy chipper. While it's not as expensive as an industrial model, it can handle more than an electric motor. The chute will chew through 3-inch branches. You can purchase a vacuum to attach, which lets you mulch leaves straight off the ground. It can also be attached to a vehicle with a towing rig for portability.
Frequently Asked Questions
As the name implies, chipper shredders are machines that shred pieces of wood and turn them into chips. The machine can also cut through other types of organic matter, like leaves and mulch.
There are three main reasons that people might use this type of machine.
The first is for composting. When you use the shredder, you can break down large branches to create smaller pieces. Since the wood now has a larger surface area, it will break down and compost more quickly. Chipper shredders allow you to break the wood down so that your compost becomes high-quality fertilizer.
The second reason is for mulching. You can turn large branches and sticks into chips of wood that are great for mulch. Layer the mulch over your garden to prevent weeds from growing and protect the soil from degrading. Using your own clippings to create mulch will save you money and be better for the environment.
The last reason is for disposal. Maybe you don't need mulch and don't have a compost bin. If that's the case, you might wonder what you'd get out of investing in a shredder. But these machines break down heavy wood with ease, so you can get rid of it without any hassle.
Chipper shredders come in many shapes and sizes. Simplistic designs use sharpened blades that cut wood, while harder components bludgeon small components like leaves.
Some shredder designs use electric power, while others use gas. Each power source has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Electric models don't generate the same power level as gas ones. That means they might not be able to handle the same thickness or length of branches. However, they can chew through sticks, light shrubs, scraps of food, and sticks. With a high-end electric model, you can chew through small tree branches.
An advantage of electric models is that they range in their weight. There are certain lightweight models that only weigh about 12 pounds, making them great for people who need a portable option. Other heavy-duty models might weigh more than 100 pounds, so they're perfect for people needing something sturdy and solid.
The reasons you might want an electric chipper include:
However, their disadvantages include:
Gas-powered devices run on gasoline, similarly to many lawnmowers and snowblowers. Most people choose to invest in a gas-powered model simply because of the extra power. If you have a lot of large branches to cut through, an electric design won't do the trick.
The least powerful gas models have motors of around 4 horsepower, compared to about 2 horsepower for the most powerful electric models. You can invest in shredders with motors that have 10 horsepower as well. These high-power designs are typically used for massive properties and industrial purposes.
Similarly to the power levels, the lowest weight of a gas model is about as much as the heaviest electric option. Lightweight gas models are about 100 pounds, while industrial-strength models might be more than 200 pounds.
The reasons most people choose gas chippers are:
But there are certain downsides:
More powerful models will be more expensive, but they'll also be faster. The amount of power you need just depends on how much debris you intend to shred.
A walk-behind chipper shredder is a machine that looks similar to a lawnmower. Like many traditional lawnmowers, it also runs on gas power. With this model, you push the device along your lawn, and it chews through whatever debris is underneath.
This design maximizes efficiency when you're doing yard cleanup. Instead of having to rake and then feed materials into the shredder, the machine rakes and shreds at the same time. Since the model sucks the debris into the blades, you also don't need to expend as much energy as you do when raking.
Once the debris is chopped into pieces, it is deposited into a carrying bag on the back. This allows you to transport the mulch for disposal, composting, or use in your garden.
The engine power of these models tends to be anywhere from 5 to 10 horsepower. Some have additional features, like detachable vacuum hoses for hard-to-reach garden areas. There are also some models with a branch chute, so you can pick up large branches and feed them in as you go.
Because of how easily this machine automates the yardwork process, it is extremely expensive. Most people only own one as a luxury.
Different chipper shredders use different internal mechanisms to cut debris apart. Each type of design has pros and cons. The four main types of design are:
The vast majority of chippers you encounter will use some variation on the disk design. With these models, a wheel with blades spins around at fast rotations. The blades then cut through the debris inside. The heavier the wheel is, the more powerfully it can shred through the contents.
A flail chipper is lightweight, which makes it a good choice for people needing portable options. However, it is also only built for handling lightweight debris. With this model, blades or chains are attached to an internal drum. The drum is then spun quickly.
With the most inexpensive flail chippers, you can cut through leaves and soft food. But you won't be able to handle tougher materials. More expensive flail chippers can take care of twigs, small branches, and shrubs. If you're shopping on a budget and don't need to break down large branches, they're a good choice.
The drum model was the first type of design that hit the market. Though other designs have been patented since, you can still find drum models. Their internal mechanism is powerful enough to handle many jobs. If you need to shred a lot of voluminous material, a drum design is your best bet.
The drums inside are mounted with many sharp metal spikes. Then they spin in opposing directions. This allows them to pull any objects into the spikes, grinding it down to fine pieces using enormous pressure. Since these are so quick and efficient, they're often favored by industrial workers.
A screw chipper is intense, built for handling the heaviest debris. If you're working in an industrial area that deals with massive logs, you'll probably use a screw chipper. Some models can even break down metal.
Instead of being built for speed, screw chippers are built for power. The rotating rows of screws pull in objects and slowly crush them. The majority of at-home users won't require this type of machine, as it's expensive and built for big jobs. But industry professionals might appreciate it.
Chipper shredders all serve the same basic purpose: using a motor to break down yard debris. But some are built for different types of jobs. In addition, there are certain convenience features that you might look for, since these make yard work much easier.
One thing to look for is a top-mounted hopper. When the hopper is on top, you just drop your branches and leaves inside. The blades pull the debris down using gravity. This prevents you from needing to bend over, and it also saves time since you aren't feeding pieces in one by one.
If your yard has a lot of large tree branches, or you often cut through branches when doing pruning work, you might want to look for a branch chute. Branch chutes are placed on the side of the model. They allow you to feed large tree branches inside without the material being caught on the flails.
These chutes are ideal because they automatically send the branches to the blades that will damage them. They also prevent the outer flails from being worn down. Larger chutes can handle larger branches.
If you need any degree of portability, you might want to look for a model with wheels. Lightweight electric models don't need wheels, since you can just carry them from place to place. But gas models tend to weigh at least 100 pounds. If you ever need to transport them, you'll have a much easier time if they have wheels.
There are several different types of wheels you might find:
If you plan to use the shredder often, or you have a lot of waste to go through, you'll want a model with extra flails and blades. More blades means a higher level of efficiency. In addition, the blades will last longer, so they won't need to be sharpened or replaced as often.
There are a variety of important specifications to take into account when you decide on the right shredder for you. It helps to understand what these mean and why they're important.
First of all, you'll need to consider the weight of the model. If a shredder is more lightweight, it will be easier to move to different places. However, lightweight models don't have very powerful motors.
More powerful models can weigh more than 200 pounds. In fact, some industrial-strength shredders are built to be hooked to trucks instead of used by themselves. These models might not be easy to move, but they will cut through tougher debris with ease.
You'll need to consider whether to buy an electric or gas model. Gas models have more powerful motors but more difficult maintenance. Electric models are easy to use, but less powerful and attached to extension cords.
The product specifications for different shredders should talk about the reduction rate. This number is presented as a ratio. All the reduction rate tells you is how much smaller the volume of your debris is when it's finished.
For example, a ratio of 15:1 indicates that one piece of debris is cut into 15 pieces.
The largest shredder pieces usually have a 10:1 ratio. These are good for small debris, but they might not work well for larger branches. More heavy-duty shredders can have ratios of 20:1, which means they create twice as many pieces as their 10:1 counterparts.
The next technical term is the feed capacity. This tells you exactly what volume of debris you can feed through the machine simultaneously. If your chipper has several openings or chutes, it's possible that each chute will have its own feed capacity.
If you're going to be shredding huge piles of leaves at once, the feed capacity is a big deal. But if you're only going to be shredding a few branches at a time, this specification doesn't matter as much.
Are you bothered by loud lawnmowers and weed whackers? If that's the case, you might want to look into the noise level of your ideal model. Electric motors are extremely quiet, but gas motors are not. Many manufacturers will tell you the motor's decibel rating. You can expect more powerful motors to be louder.
Another serious factor to take into consideration is the maintenance. What do you need to do for upkeep? How many parts need maintenance, and how often? Do you need to buy any special accessories to maintain the machine? Do you need to store the model away from winter temperatures?
Electric shredders have easier maintenance routines. If you have a gas engine, you'll need to do maintenance to keep it safe during the winter. There are also more moving components that need to be dissembled and cleaned in gas engines.
One aspect of maintenance is taking care of the blades. Some models will need their blades replaced or sharpened after doing a lot of work. If your model has more blades, they'll wear down less slowly. So for fewer sharpening sessions, invest in a high-blade density.
You might consider certain convenience features as well. In addition to the ones listed in the last question, you might find models with:
The final consideration to take into account is whether the product comes with a warranty. How long does the warranty last, and what is covered? Are there separate warranties for different parts?
The longer a warranty lasts, the more high-quality you can expect the machine to be. If a warranty covers several years after your purchase, then you know that your machine is supposed to last longer than that.
There are several models that work well for suburban life, but most people will be served best by any electric option.
When you live in the suburbs, you don't generally need to deal with huge tree branches. You'll be working with grass, leaves, twigs, and shrubbery. So you don't need the heavy-duty motor power of the gas models.
The other important factor is that gas models are extremely noisy. In fact, they may be noisier than gas-powered lawnmowers. Even if you don't have a problem with the sound, your neighbors might. In a close-packed suburb, a lot of people will be within hearing range.
Some cities have certain ordinances regarding the use of suburban gardening tools. You might not be able to use gas chippers on your property. It's important to research the rules of your city and HOA before you make a purchase.
When you're living in a rural place, you probably have more space on your property. That means you accumulate more debris than the average suburban homeowner. There's also a good chance that you have large trees and other plants on your property, so you might be dealing with big branches.
If you intend to shred the branches and leaves that fall into your yard because of weather conditions, a disk shredder will work. It should be gas-powered, since gas models handle branches better. The disk can be lightweight rather than a heavy industrial model.
On the other hand, if you intend to process cut-down trees into mulch, you need a significantly heavier disk chipper. For those who intend to process a lot of felled trees, a drum shredder is ideal. These models are more expensive, but they cut through debris faster than any other design.
As with rural spaces, you can expect to deal with larger properties and more debris on a farm than the suburbs. Farms have other considerations to take into account, though.
If you're maintaining and cleaning up your property, you can use a disk chipper with a medium-weight disk. For those who have very large properties or a lot of tough tree branches, a heavy disk model is a better bet.
Farms require a lot of upkeep, though. If the chipper will be used in multiple areas for multiple heavy-duty purposes, you're better off investing in a drum or screw model. Look for one that you can hitch to your truck for easy towing from place to place.
Drum models are good for those who want to process debris quickly. Screw models are good for those who have extremely tough debris that needs to be chewed through. They work more slowly, but they can break down massive pieces of wood and sometimes even metal.
It's important to buy a machine that's powerful enough to meet your needs. The more powerful the motor, the faster it will work. More powerful models can also break your debris down into smaller pieces.
The goal of the machine is to destroy branches, leaves, and other yard debris. If you don't have a motor that can handle your needs, you'll find yourself frustrated by the ineffectiveness. It's better to pay a little extra for a strong machine than to end up with a tool that doesn't work for you.
There's another reason to invest in powerful machines: maintaining the motor. If you feed too-large debris into the blades, your shredder might just die from overtaxation. In fact, that's the biggest reason that shredders break down or stop working altogether.
You should also be mindful about the types of materials you shred. There are certain materials that you should avoid, even if they aren't massive branches that will overtax the motor.
For example, you don't want to feed massive clumps of wet leaves or grass into the model. Most user manuals will say that wet leaves and clumped materials aren't a problem. But shredders work by using their force to bludgeon and slice materials many times.
This method of stabbing and hitting allows the machine to break the debris up. But if you have a wet clump of material, the blades and flails might not break it apart. Instead, it might move through the machine without being torn apart at all.
If you are going to get rid of leaf litter, make sure the leaves are dry. Since dry leaves don't stick together, they're perfect targets for the blades and flails. You can use shredded leaves to pad your compost bin or to grow leaf mold.
Different types of chipper shredder will have different maintenance protocols. They should come with a user manual that tells you how to care for the device.
With that said, regardless of the model, you can and should follow these rules:
Failing to sharpen the blades affects more than just the machine's performance. To break up the debris, your motor needs to work much harder to be effective. This can lead to the motor becoming overtaxed and damaged, even with lightweight debris.
If you leave the machine outdoors, it will be more vulnerable to rust, corrosion, and degradation. Even the most high-quality designs shouldn't be left in extreme weather conditions.
Gas and electric models have different maintenance considerations to take into account.
With a gas machine, you'll need to do more maintenance than with an electric model.
One piece of maintenance is to monitor the levels of oil in the engine. Chipper shredders need a well-oiled engine, just like cars do. If there isn't enough oil, the engine components can break down and shorten their lifespan. It's best to have several bottles of extra oil around for if your motor runs low.
After you use the model for anywhere from 10 to 20 hours for the first time, give the machine a complete oil change. After that, oil changes should happen after 100 hours of machine use. Try to keep track of how much time you've spent using it so that you can time your oil changes appropriately.
Since a gas-powered model has more components, it also has more pieces that might break down. Keep a lookout for leaks in the oil or pieces that aren't working. It's important to repair any leaks or damaged components before they can harm the rest of the engine.
It's also a good idea to keep several extra filters on hand. The air filter helps prevent the machine from releasing potentially toxic fumes into the air. Replace the filters often, especially if you have certain lung conditions that fumes might irritate.
Electric machines tend to be very low-maintenance. You don't have a tank to refill, and you don't need to change any oil. The motor runs without releasing fumes, so you don't need to monitor an air filtration system, either.
One thing to keep in mind with an electric model is the extension cord. It's important that you use the correct type of cord. A voltage drop could fry your motor or otherwise damage your machine, and using a heavy-duty cord will protect against that.
You might want to calculate exactly how heavy your extension cord needs to be. If you input your machine's specs into a voltage drop calculator, the algorithm will tell you what extension cord is best to keep the power supply steady.