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Battery-powered chain saws

Their growth in power makes them a viable, low-maintenance alternative to gas-driven saws.

The advent of high-capacity lithium batteries and brushless motors has produced something amazing: a battery-powered chain saw that truly rivals a 35- to 40-cubic-centimeter gas-powered engine saw.

Take my word on it.

Being a cordless-tool junkie (admittedly, I am a total tool junkie), I purchased one of the first versions of cordless chain saws on the market, which was made by Echo, several years ago. I figured it would come in handy cutting branches and limbs.

Soon, however, I was using it to fell and part out whole trees.

Not huge trees, mind you. Those with 14- to 16-inch-diameter trunks aren’t a problem for my saw, which employs a 14-inch blade. For larger trees, I reach for my 22-inch engine-drive saw and am glad for it.

But now, more often than not, the saw I grab and throw in the pickup when tackling small cutting jobs is that battery unit – and for good reason. 

Advantages of battery saws include:

No mixing of fuel.

No priming, choking, and pull starting. Depress the saw’s trigger and you are cutting at full power and torque, unlike the buildup time required by gas-powered saws.

No spark plug or air filter to maintain.

Less vibration. You don’t avoid the vibration of a chain cutting wood; however, engine vibration is eliminated.

Quieter operation. A cordless saw generates 90 to 100 decibels. A motorized saw turns out 105 to 120 decibels. Regardless of the type of saw employed, you still need to wear ear protection to prevent hearing damage.


With all those advantages, battery-powered saws have their limitations. As mentioned, they have limited capacity. For large jobs and big-diameter timber (18-inch diameter trunks or larger, for example) you will need a large, engine-driven saw. 

What they can't do

The cost of battery saws is higher than engine-driven units. The saw Maxwell, Iowa, farmer Terry Wells evaluated for Successful Farming magazine’s Product Test Team, the Milwaukee 2727-21HD, retails (with battery and charger) for $424.99.

“That’s certainly more than the price of a 16- or 20-inch gas chain saw,” Wells says. “On the other hand, you don’t have all the yearly maintenance and fuel costs that come with a gas saw.”

That $424.99 covers the cost of the saw, battery, and charger. Retail cost of the saw alone (Milwaukee model 2727-HD) is $269, which is comparable to engine-driven saws.  

Successful Farming magazine arranged to have Wells evaluate the Milwaukee saw a year ago. Originally, Wells was willing to try it, although he didn’t expect to do much more with the saw than trim small branches. “When I got the saw, my brother and I were taking trees out of fencerows, so it was given a good test,” he recalls. “What first impressed me was its power. It was instant and plentiful. We were taking down good-size trees (12 inches in diameter and larger) with the Milwaukee, and it didn’t lug down while cutting. Soon the battery saw was seeing more action than the gas saws.”

Wells particularly appreciated the saw’s instant power. “Pull the trigger and you are instantly at full power with no lug down when you start cutting,” he observes.

Wells also liked that he didn’t hazard burning himself on a hot muffler as is possible with engine-driven saws. He didn’t miss having to maintain the battery saw either. “Beyond refilling the chain lube reservoir and recharging the battery, there really isn’t any maintenance with the Milwaukee unit,” he adds. “No spark plug or filter to replace each year. And no
mixing fuel.”   

Wells points out that the Milwaukee cordless saw seemed to weigh about the same as his gas saws. Successful Farming magazine research, reflected in the comparison table above, found that in many cases, battery saws weigh more than their gas-powered equivalent.

We compared the largest battery-powered saws on the market (seen above). All these saws come with either 14- or 16-inch-long bars and are powered by the largest battery (some saws use two batteries) available by their makers. Beyond differences in features, the decision as to what battery saw you choose may come down to the cordless-tool battery system you are now using.

Staying within a battery system opens the opportunity to purchase a saw by itself without a battery and charger. That can cut your investment nearly in half. 

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