Stihl BGA 100 36V Handheld Blower
The powerful, positive attributes of the Stihl far outweigh its lack of cruise control and high-end price tag. The backpack design gives you lots of muscle - and runtime - to get big jobs done!
We have good news for you if you missed our stupendously big cordless blower shootout in August: the internet never forgets anything (that might actually be bad news) AND we’ve started spotlighting some of the 16 blower competitors with their own reviews. We began the spotlights with the EGO 575 CFM (one of two EGO blowers in the shootout). Today, we’ll move along to the Stihl BGA 100 36V Handheld Blower. This Stihl blower has a bit of twist we’re eager to assess.
The Stihl brand is well known even to the untooled, and you can see plenty Stihl reviews at our sister site, www.ProToolReviews.com, but did you know that Andreas Stihl developed the first electric chainsaw in 1924? Stihl was also neck-and-neck Emil Lerp in the race to develop the first gasoline-powered chainsaw in the 1920s. Lerp’s company was Makita’s forerunner and, needless to say, the pedigree of Stihl’s tools is also one of innovation and high-performance. Now as battery technology supplants gasoline power, at least in part, Stihl is again at the forefront. Alright, history class is over, let’s test a tool!
Motor, Battery, and Power
The vast majority of the shootout’s competitors feature brushless motors, including this Stihl BGA 100 36V Handheld Blower. Because brushless motors extend tool life and allow for “smart” electronics that prevent thermal overload, manufacturers typically highlight them as a selling point. Stihl hasn’t emphasized it, but the BGA 100 features an EC motor, that is, Electrically Commutated – or brushless.
Cordless blower batteries usually weigh in the 10- to 12-pound range. The Stihl weighs upwards of 25 – but don’t dismiss it out of hand. The interesting twist we alluded to above is that Stihl is the only competitor to put its battery in backpack form. The backpack distributes the relatively monstrous 29.3 Ah battery’s 17+ pound weight on the user’s back while the very light 5.5-pound blower remains in the hand.
We predict that if the backpack is comfortable, the Stihl will have a competitive advantage since its competitors’ batteries average 5 Ah batteries. Furthermore, the BGA 100’s rear intake, inline axial fan – a design shared by 9 other shootout competitors – reduces friction and boosts efficiency. Stihl also points out that the blower is ambidextrous – the user’s leg can’t block the intake.
Alternatively, you can wear Stihl batteries on a belt. It’s important to note that you can’t see the fuel gauge of the Stihl’s backpack battery, but you can see it on the belt.
Variable Speed but no Cruise Control
The Stihl BGA 100 36V Handheld Blower features four performance levels modulated by a variable speed trigger. Anyone who’s ever made more of a mess with a blower on full blast will appreciate the ability to feather the airflow. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a “cruise control” which means the user must squeeze the trigger constantly. Given the big battery and Stihl’s intention for the BGA 100 in commercial use, this seems like an oversight that can result in hand fatigue.
Other Notable Features
The BGA 100 features Stihl’s Reduced-Emission Engine Technology. That means emmissions are cleaner than EPA and/or CARB exhaust standards. It also features a strap point for hanging from the shoulder, a keyhole hanging slot, and a retaining latch that prevents unintentional starts.
We like to start reviews with more subjective measures – how does it feel, what’s it like to pick it up and start using it? This acclimates us to the tool before moving on to objective measures of power and performance. As we’ve said before, sometimes new shoes just feel different, but that’s not wrong – so we want to walk up and down the store aisle a little before we decide what’s good and what’s bad!
Backpack to the Future
The Stihl BGA 100 36V Handheld Blower was one of two designs that put the battery in a backpack. We think this might be the direction blowers will have to head for commercial applications. There’s no battery compartment in the BGA 100 blower itself. Although the user can wear the batteries on a belt, we were surprised by how comfortable it was to wear them on your back. Adjust the frame and straps, connect the cord from the backpack to the blower, and pull the trigger. It’s pretty cool!
One small issue came up with many of the tested blowers: a pronounced, raised seam of overmold or tool plastic where the halves of the handle come together irritated the bare hand. The Stihl’s seam was noticeable enough to point out. Hopefully, there’s a simple manufacturing fix for the slightly annoying feel.
Don’t you just love it when your neighbor – or your neighbor’s lawn care company – fires up the power tools at the crack of dawn on Saturday morning? For this reason, we’ve been hearing of more communities placing decibel restrictions on OPE. In addition to disturbing the peace, noisy tools have done their share of hearing damage after prolonged use. Quiet operation is a nice side effect of battery powered tools, and Stihl wins the gold medal in this category. With an impressively low 81 dB at the user’s ear, it bested the field whose decibel level ranged up to 95.
A Common Denominator
There’s always been a “Great Taste / Less Filling” debate about blowers’ MPH versus CFM – one, of course, being the airspeed while the other air volume. A blower needs the right combination of both to do work, and a helpful simplification that accounts for both numbers in their proportions is the Newton Force measured, well, in Newtons.
The Stihl BGA 100 36V Handheld Blower’s airspeed at WOT (Wide Open Throttle) earned the top spot at 168 MPH. But at 494 CFM, its Newton Force tied it for the competition’s third spot at 14 Newtons – still an impressive podium finish. In Boost (turbo) mode, it earned second place with 17 Newtons – and it’s Stihl’s most powerful dedicated handheld blower.
A quick note: cordless blowers have come a long way, but there’s still a performance gap between them and gas-powered commercial blowers. The Pros’ heavy hitters reach upwards of 600 CFM and 200 MPH, or around 40 Newtons!
The Bottom Line
Stihl has made a valiant effort to meet the lawncare Pros’ needs – especially those working in noise-restricted communities – with a Tested Runtime of 1:08:07. Although no cordless blower can yet reach its gas-powered counterparts’ performances, the Stihl BGA 100 36V Handheld Blower’s performance was exemplary. The large backpack battery allows the runtime and power capabilities to skyrocket and distributes the weight comfortably about the user’s body. Interestingly, the blower produces enough force to hold its own weight when pointed at the ground!
As with everything else in life, there are tradeoffs: in this case, it’s the cost. Although it’s on the high end at $350 which makes its bang for the buck on the low end of our value measurement, don’t let that dissuade you for consideration: it placed an overall 2nd of 16 in our competition. Sure it lacks cruise control and has a little bit of an irritating seam on the grip, but with the second highest Newton force (in turbo, third in WOT normal mode), the highest MPH, quietest operation, and the comfortable backpack setup – it might be just what the lawncare Pro ordered!
Stihl BGA 100 36V Handheld Blower Features
- Stihl Reduced Emission Technology
- Hanging Slot
- Retaining Latch
- Multi-function Handle
- Stihl Electric Motor
Stihl BGA 100 36V Handheld Blower Specifications
- Model: BGA 100
- Air Speed: 168 MPH
- Air Volume: 494 CFM
- Tested Noise Rating: 81 dB(a)
- Tested Runtime: 1:08:07 (29.3 AH backpack battery)
- Bare Weight: 5.56 lbs
- Battery Weight: 17.44 lbs
- Tested Battery: 29.3 AH
- Warranty: 2 years
- Price: $349.95
- Included in Kit: Battery & charger sold separately