Electric Chain Saws

Cutting firewood with electric chain saws is cleaner and quieter than using gas-powered.

| October/November 2005

  • Electric Saw
    Neil's electric saw "emits no exhaust and requires no maintenance other than refilling the chain-oil reservoir and sharpening the chain."
    Photo courtesy NEIL SODERSTROM
  • Electric Chainsaws
    The Remington 625-01 electric saw features a hole and hitch on the back handle that prevents the extension cord from pulling out.
    Photo courtesy NEIL SODERSTROM
  • Chainsaws
    The three electric saws we tested cover a wide range of prices and features.
    Photo courtesy NEIL SODERSTROM
  • Electric Cords
    Outdoor-rated cords are round-jacketed and stamped with a suffix of “W” or “W-A,” for Wet or Wet-Applications, as in SJTW or SJTW-A.
    Photo courtesy NEIL SODERSTROM
  • 212-065-tab1.jpg
    Cord gauges and allowable lengths suggested by the manufacturers of the three saws tested, assuming grounded, three-wire, 15-amp circuits (except as noted).

  • Electric Saw
  • Electric Chainsaws
  • Chainsaws
  • Electric Cords
  • 212-065-tab1.jpg

In 1997, I traded my two gas chain saws for an electric model, and I’ve never regretted it. My electric saw emits no exhaust and requires no maintenance other than refilling the chain-oil reservoir and sharpening the chain. With just a flip of the switch, my electric saw shuts off, providing welcome silence while I reposition logs. Also, unlike a gas-powered saw, my electric always starts.

In contrast, long after using my gas-powered saws, I could still smell the exhaust in my nostrils. To keep a gas saw running well, you must dispose of stale fuel, mix fresh gas with engine oil, adjust carburetor settings, and occasionally replace a faulty spark plug or a broken starter cord. Besides, unused fuel left in a saw for a season or two tends to gum up, which can damage the carburetor. Also, gas saws generally weigh up to 2 pounds more than comparably powered electrics.

Electric saws have drawbacks too, most notably the limited work space imposed by the length of their cords. Dragging and repositioning a power cord can be bothersome, as well. What’s more, temperatures below 40 degrees dramatically reduce cord pliability.

The chain of an electric saw travels slower than that of a gas saw. This means you will need to be a bit more patient with an electric as its chain works its way through wood. Of course, after a power outage, you will have to wait until the power returns to do any work with the electric saw.

Although the power cord makes electric saws less appropriate than gas saws for the felling and limbing of large trees, electrics are great for bucking logs for firewood, as well as for cutting landscape timbers and notching logs for log building.

If you need a chain saw for these and other types of work near a power source, an electric saw will serve you well.

8/19/2011 8:43:51 AM

I have a Worx chainsaw, not rated in the article. It's 15 amp with 18" bar and weighs 11.2 lbs. I'll never go back to gas. A chainsaw, gas or electric, is only as good as the chain attached. If the chain is dull the saw will be slow and unsafe. As long as I keep my chain sharp my Worx saw hasn't met a tree it couldn't handle. In the woods I use a generator to supply power to the saw. I have the power to run a radio or cooler, works great. The generator is easy to drain and I can dump it in my truck for the trip home. I could also use an inverter hooked up to my truck if I was going to work out there a lot and it would be far cleaner and quieter than a chainsaw. It's no different than a carpenter building a home. They start out using generators and when power is finally run to the house they use the electrical in the house. The reason I first switched to electric was because of what a Stihl saw shop owner told me. He said they were getting a lot of ruined saws due to two problems. The first problem was the gas being left in the tank for a couple of weeks and having the ethanol in the gas attracting to much water into the gas and ruining the engine. The second problem was finding gas with up to 30% ethanol, which also ruins the engine. You can drain your gas every time you use your saw, but what do you do if you find 30% ethanol in the gas? Buy a new saw I guess. So I'll keep my chain sharp and make do with electric and a generator when I have to.

8/18/2011 5:15:26 PM

I have cut 80% of the wood for my stove with an electric chainsaw (Remington $65 at Tractor Supply) for the past Three years. When I'm out in the woods I cut everything to 6 and 8 foot lengths to fit in my truck and trailer. Then stack it at home and cut to stove length with the electric, as needed or at my leisure. The electric doesn't spin as fast but has more torque and will power through anything the blade will fit, without bogging down.

Abbey Bend
8/17/2011 5:57:20 PM

Outside of this article is older than my current saws, electrics have little use outside of the shop or around the house to trim smaller stuff, under 14-16 inches. They are just too slow to really be useful for larger items and fatigue is a problem when you are attempting to do very much with a saw. As for those thinking they are more eco-friendly, nothing could be further from the truth! Electric saws use electricity produced most likely by fossil fuels and more of it for the same amount of work. Also a good set of chaps will just as easily stop and electric saw as a gasoline one. The best bet is to pay attention and not need to be relying on the chaps to save your leg! In felling thousands of trees, I have only needed them once and that was because I was too tired, knew it, and put myself in a bad position, knew it! Once you pay attention to what you are doing and do not push yourself past the point of exhaustion, chaps are just a nice thing to wear, protecting your jeans! Really, electric saws are nice in shop but have little real use outside of a shop. A decent gasoline saw is easy to maintain, drain the gasoline when you park it, not that hard to do, unless you are just lazy. Lazy people should not be using a chainsaw in the first place, they are too dangerous for lazy people. And if you like your equipment don't use vegetable oil for a lubricant, it has very little lubrication quality, and the equipment will quickly suffer for it!

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