Electric chain saws are generally less powerful than gas models, and unless you get a cordless unit they are going to be tethered to a cord. But the additional power and freedom you can get from a gas powered chainsaw can sometimes make people buy a saw that is more than they really need.
Gas chainsaws are heavier, they need considerably more maintenance than electric models, and they can cost quite a bit more to operate over the long term. If you only use your chain saw for occasional jobs, or only for lightweight work, an electric chainsaw might be the best choice.
A few things to consider when choosing your chain saw include:
- Electric chain saws are less powerful, so your cutting time will increase compared to gas
- Electric saws are not built for cutting and bucking large trees
- Electrics will be limited by the length of your extension cord
- Electric chain saws are ideal for cutting smaller trees and pruning larger branches
- An electric saw needs less maintenance and are cheaper to operate in the long term
Operating an electric chainsaw is also easier in many cases. They’re lighter, and they generally have less vibration than gas saws, so if you’re doing smaller jobs they’re a lot easier to manage.
Electric chain saws can still be fairly powerful, however. Some models, such as the Poulan Pro 400E and the Craftsman 34118, have decent power output – 2 or more horsepower – and an 18″ bar. They have automatic chain oiling, which means there is very little maintenance for you to worry about. These saws also both have effective chain brakes that will activate if something pushes the handle against you when you’re cutting, or when the saw starts to kickback.
If your saw will get fairly regular use, such as if you’re using it to cut your own firewood, you’ll want to look for a model with anti-vibration handles. You may also want to look at an electric chainsaw at the higher end of the price scale, such as the Husqvarna 316E (roughly $270). This saw uses an inline design where the engine is mounted directly behind the bar. This results in quieter operation and makes the saw easier to handle because there is virtually no sideways torque when you’re cutting.
Several reviews have shown the Husqvarna 316E to be one of the quietest electric chain saws available, and the safety features of that particular model are also very highly rated.
Most electric chain saws are limited to a maximum cord length of 100 feet. If you want to use an electric saw but that isn’t quite enough distance for you, the Stihl MSE 140 C-BQ saw is one of the few that will let you use a 150 foot cord. You’ll need to ensure it’s a 10 gauge or better cord, however. If you try to run an electric saw on a cord longer than its limit, you can burn out the motor so this is an important thing to consider.
Many saws do have overload protection features, mind you, so if you try to run it beyond the limit they will often just shut down rather than burn out. This saves the saw, but it isn’t going to help you run the saw at more than 100 foot distances.
Whichever electric chain saw you decide on, the key is to really think about how you’re going to use it first. Matching the saw to your needs will not only save you money, it will ensure that the saw is more effective to use and operate.