Updated: Oct 12, 2016
Wood Chipper Reviews:
- What is a wood chipper/shredder?
- Benefits of using a wood chipper
- How much do wood shredders cost? Which should I buy?
If you are a new homeowner, cleaning up your yard is a simple task because yards have become smaller and smaller with less trees and bushes. Still, many people live in wooded or treed lots that require constant maintenance of downed limbs and broken branches. Winter months can wreak havoc on backyards that are loaded with medium to large trees that shed branches during rain and wind storms. Pick up can be time consuming and what are you to do with all those big limbs. Sure you want to turn some into firewood, but most brush and debris is just too small to burn so the end solution is chipping or shredding it.
Buying a quality wood chipper or shredder can eliminate the mess and give you a nice pile of mulch to throw back on your garden or around the base of trees and shrubs for a tidy landscaped look. When determining what size wood chipper to buy, you need to consider if you will be using it for just your yard or for a business (like tree trimming or landscape cleanup). Small wood chippers will cost about $750 and the larger residential wood chippers are $1500. Commercial wood shredders are much more expensive and can be priced as high as $20,000.
The video below shows the basic functions of a gas wood chipper from Patriot Products:
Wood Chipper Buying Guide
Most wood shredders are built with 2 chutes - a smaller chute with blades that shred branches into small chips and a larger chute that has blades, hammers, or flails that will reduce plant stalks and leaves into tiny mulch. A good home wood chipper should have at least a 5 HP engine that chips any branch up to 3 inches in diameter. Be sure to check the weight of the chipper as you want something that is both sturdy and stable. The bigger the machine the more capacity it can handle and the better performance (usually). If you want to shred lots of leaves and stalks, consider a model with lots of flails or hammers (the more the better).
Purchasing a wood chipper that has interchangeable screens will allow you to control how fine the shredded material will come out. Whenever possible, get a wood chipper with a clutch (they are more expensive). Having a clutch on your unit will allow you to not only "gear down" with heavier loads but you can also disengage the flails/blades when it's not in use. Chippers and shredders that come with clutches tend to run quieter than those without and they are faster to start.
Towing a wood chipper is fairly simple and the pneumatic or semi-pneumatic tires on them make for a smooth transport. Some chippers can be quite loud to operate and your neighborhood or city may have ordinances against them. Be sure to check with your local HOA or City Hall before buying the biggest and baddest machine on the market. Safety is another major concern when looking into a wood chipper. There have been countless stories of people losing arms, hands, fingers, and even a few have died from their injuries. Always wear gloves, earplugs, eye protection and a sturdy jacket or thick pants to help prevent unnecessary accidents and injuries while operating a wood chipper.
The top brands for residential home wood chippers are Troy Bilt, Echo Bearcat, Craftsman, MTD, and Patriot. We read reviews in tree service forums, landscaping forums, on Popularmechanics.com, and online at sites like Amazon.com to come up with our "best of the best" below. You can browse their up-to-date list of best-selling chippers and shredders here.
Best Wood Chipper/Shredder:
The top residential wood chipper for the money is the Earthquake 14267 Chipper Shredder ($620). The engine is a Viper 4 cycle engine (212cc) with a 3-inch branch capacity. Owners say this works great in small yards and can handle thinner branches or twigs. Works great on yard cleanup for shrubs and bushes that need yearly trimmings. It's not easy finding a quality chipper below a $1000 and this model was listed on several sites as a good "value buy". Has a 20:1 waste reduction ratio and includes a two bushel bag. The chipping knives and hammers are heavy duty enough for yard use. The unit weighs about 110 pounds so it's solid and will stay in place while breaking down yard debris.
If you are looking for a slightly more poweful chipper, consider the Earthquake 9010400 Chipper Shredder (sells for less than $1000 too). It features a 305cc 4 cycle Briggs & Stratton engine and the dual traingular hammer design. Reviews are near perfect on this model with a few complaints about the bag not fitting snugly. Otherwise you will see comments like 'pleased with the results' and 'great buy'. We rate the Earthquakes right up there with the Patriot line of chippers/shredders.
To check out how to use a wood chipper/shredder properly - click the image below to go to video.
Electric Wood Chipper:
As a warning to buyers, the electric wood chipper market has been knocked for delivering less than adequate chippers and shredders that don't have the durability or power to shred up branches and debris. The exception to the rule are the McCulloch Electric Chipper/Shredder and the Patriot Model CSV-2515 Wood Chipper.
The Patriot electric wood chipper shredder sells for about $800 and has been featured on Home & Garden TV show. The 1.5 horsepower engine can chip up to 2 1/2 inch branches and it turns on easily with the flip of a switch (no gas or oil needed to start). Plugs into a standard 110V outlet and weighs less than 100 lbs so transporting it around your yard is easy (has wheels). Comes with a 2 year warranty, safety goggles, and a collection bag. The Patriot CSV-2515 was rated a "Best Buy" from Consumers Digest magazine and the user reviews are positive for its ease of use. Great for the average homeowner who needs help cleaning up debris after wind storms and winter conditions.
The McCulloch chipper is much cheaper at around $250 and you get what you pay for on this one. Although most people had little trouble with the chipping aspect of this machine, plenty of people complained that the shredding of leaves (especially wet ones) clogs and jams the shredder too often. Another drawback is the problem with putting it together, those that are technically sound had no trouble, but quite a few amateurs say it took too long and was complicated. Once past the hassle of assembling the unit, owners say it does what it's supposed to do and works well (except for the jamming issue). If you only plan on chipping or shredding once a year, then consider this model at $250 or possibly renting a wood chipper for the day and getting rid of all your larger debris as well.
For mulching leaves and smaller debris, also consider the Flowtron Ultimate Mulcher 8 Amp Electric Leaf Shredder. This mulcher can cut your bagged leaves down by a factor of 10 (10 bags are mulched into 1), and it has settings for grass and pine needles as well.
Heavy-Duty Residential Wood Chipper:
If you have a larger yard with acreage or a wooded lot, a more durable, heavy-duty chipper is essentially for maintenance. We suggest the BCS Bio 100 Chipper ($1600) with an 8 HP Briggs & Stratton engine that is equipped with a centrifugal clutch for easy starting. The machine chips limbs up to 3" in diameter with a hardened steel knife. The shredder does up to 1" brush with 28 free swinging flails. The wheelbarrow handles and wheels make this heavy-duty wood chipper easy to move and transport.
BCS is a reputable wood chipper with gardeners because it offers durability and performance. It can easily chip heavy branches due in part to the heavy-duty flywheel (37 lb). The Bio 100 will chip/shred the "toughest limbs, brush and debris". RECOMMENDED - The Patriot Products CSV-3090H Gas Wood Chipper Leaf Shredder is another top rated model with a Honda engine. The Patriot will chip up pine cones, old leaves, new branches, old branches, and turn them into nice mulch. It's priced about the same as the BCS Bio but we feel it's superior in performance. Check out our other reviews on log splitters and chain saws.
Commercial Wood Chippers:
When you get into more commercial or industrial wood chippers, there are other features you need to look at than compared with home wood shredders. See if the model has a feed stop bar or is an automatic feede. Automatic feeders from Vermeer let the chipper adjust the roller speed based on the resistance detected. A major safety feature on SmartFeed chippers from Vermeer is that the machine will automatically reverse the rollers when it jams. What about drum vs disc chipping? Drums do much better with stringy fronds from palm trees and they are more productive with larger branches or pieces of wood. Disc-chipping mechanisms will give you an end product that is smaller and finer than what a drum will produce. Talk with your local dealer to find out which is best for the type of trees and brush you will be chipping or shredding.
The 2 big names in the commercial wood chipper business are Morbark and Vermeer. We can't say one is better than the other, but perhaps they have products that suit your needs better. Morbark.com carries a complete line of brush chippers like the Cyclone 8, Twister 12, Blizzard 14, and Hurricane 18. With over 200 HP the Hurricane 18 is a monster of a wood chipper and comes equipped with a 23 1/2" wide x 36" diameter chipping drum w/ 4 (staggered) double-edged knives. It has a feed rate of 120 fpm and a chipping capacity of 18". Vermeer has been making brush chippers for years and the new BC600XL is a "top of the line performer" with Auto Feed II, Bottom Feed Stop Bar, and a 27 HP engine. This disc-style chipper does excellent work for landscaping professionals, golf course managers, tree service contractors, and outdoor work crews.
The Vermeer BC2000XL Brush Chipper is the biggest chipper they offer with three Caterpillar Tier II engine options and a drum-style. Works great for land clearing jobs and high volume brush removal. Check out all the latest wood chippers from Vermeer by going to Vermeer.com. UPDATE 2016 - take a look at the Merry Mac Highway-Towable Chipper/Shredder - 10 HP - reviews point to this product since it's cheaper than the more expensive commercial chippers from Vermeer but still does exellent work with tree cleanup.
Should I Rent a Wood Chipper or Buy?:
One question that comes up a lot with specialized machinery like wood chippers is "should I rent one for the day/weekend or bite the bullet and buy one?". Some jobs are too much to do in a day or weekend and so buying a wood chipper is your best bet. If you can successfully gather all the downed tree limbs and brush from your yard and get it in one central location for a weekend of shredding and chipping, you may be better off renting a heavy-duty unit. The cost analysis is for renting (when you need a heavy-duty machine) unless you do this for a living. If you want to clean up yard debris and rubbish 2 or 3 times a year and a smaller wood chipper will do the work, go with purchasing one since the cost to rent over the long run doesn't make sense.
More videos and resources are here on our Wood Chipper Resource Page.
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