Are Battery Powered Chainsaws Ready? The EGO CS1600

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Last summer, our lawnmower died. An old Toro self-propelled gas model, years of rough use had made it harder and harder to start until the day it just wouldn’t start at all. Having seen the writing on the wall, I’d already been looking around at mower reviews and come to the tentative conclusion that our replacement would be a battery powered model. Between advancements in battery technology and the small size of our lot, a battery powered mower seemed viable, and in the event that it wasn’t Home Depot’s return policies are excellent.

That’s how we ended up with an EGO lawnmower; this one, to be specific. I went with the cheaper of EGO’s two models which was not self-propelled, but given the size and slope of our lawn that’s not necessary. As expected, the battery powered model was more than adequate for our needs, and I didn’t need to take advantage of Home Depot’s generous return policy.

Besides having a new mower, it also meant that I had a reasonably sized 5.0 Ah battery – one that could be leveraged across a variety of other EGO outdoor power tools. After fighting with our little Husqvarna one too many times this winter, I started reading about the EGO battery powered saw.

My initial expectation was that battery powered chainsaws would be insufficient power-wise. We don’t exactly have a woodlot so I don’t need a full-size, rancher model, but we do have enough large dead trees that I need to be able to cut something thicker than large branches. It’s one thing to cut blades of grass, carving up the large oak sections left over from our last arborist visit is another matter entirely.

After reading reviews in the Wirecutter, Amazon, Home Depot and elsewhere, though, I saw enough to at least give a battery powered chainsaw a shot. My choice was made easier by the mower; once you’re in on a given battery system, it takes a lot to pick a product from another manufacturer given the cost of the batteries. That plus a Wirecutter recommendation made picking EGO’s 16″ chainsaw a simple call.

The question was whether it would be up to the job.

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The tl;dr is that it has significantly exceeded my expectations. I’ve been out with the saw three or four times, making a series of cuts each time in large, thick oak to produce rounds to split. I have yet to run out of battery power, have the saw seize up, or fail to complete a cut. The oak is heavy, dense and thick – some of the sections cut have been better than thirty inches in diameter, and the EGO’s bar is only 16 inches.

No matter.

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For those who want a more detailed take, here are some further thoughts on the saw in general.

Environmental Considerations

While the environmental impact of extracting lithium from the ground is clearly non-trivial, one less two stroke combustion engine in the world – or two, actually, counting the mower – seems unequivocally like a good thing. The sense of virtue wouldn’t justify a saw that wasn’t fit for purpose, but if I can cut through the oak I need to with a battery rather than gas at a reasonable enough pricepoint that’s an easy call.

Ease of Use

Here’s the really surprising thing, though: even if there was no environmental advantage to a battery powered saw, I’d still buy it. It is simply easier to use and maintain than a gas saw. Consider the following:

  1. You don’t have to deal with fuel mixtures. There is no more mixing oil with gas, trying to remember whether the saw requires 40:1 or 50:1, and which of the two is in the small mixed gas can.
  2. There’s no need to have to run the saw dry before storing it. With a gas saw, you have to be careful to not to put it up with fuel left in the lines lest you clog up the carb and render the saw inoperable.
  3. Perhaps its most important advantage, however, is on startup. Pull start saws can be tempermental, and in some cases can’t be started in the hand but rather have to be placed and braced on the ground. With a battery powered model, it’s a simple push button start.

Weight and Balance

The weight of the device with a battery is not distinguishable from the other similarly sized chainsaws I’ve used. The placement of the battery away from the blade and towards the rear of the saw seems to balance it nicely. The saw is not awkward either to hold or cut with.

Non-Issues

One of the most frequent complaints in reviews – and one that made me pause – was the assertion that the chain regularly came loose while in operation. After using the saw, however, I’m inclined to attribute those critical reviews to a lack of familiarity with chainsaws in general rather than a failure of the model. As anyone who’s used a chainsaw understands, when the saw sustains cuts the chain tends to heat up, which causes the metal to expand and become loose. This is an issue for all saws, not something unique to the EGO.

If anything, in fact, the EGO’s chain management is easier to use in this respect. With a lot of saws, including the Husqvarna this is replacing, when a chain becomes loose you need to first loosen the chain bolts, then use a screw driver to extend the bar until the chain is tight, then retighten the bolts. And if you don’t retighten the bolts sufficiently, they vibrate off and get lost (I’ve lost enough that I bought extras and have them in my kit).

On the EGO, there are no tools necessary. You have two dials; one that essentially unlocks the bar, the other which extends or retracts it. It’s pretty slick.

The other question that tends to come up is the thin kerf blade the saw comes with. I can’t speak to its long term performance, but I can say that thus far I’ve had seen no difference between it and the regular kerf blades I’ve used historically.

Areas for Improvement

One common complaint that is legitimate is the filter on the bar chain oil receptacle. It’s well intentioned to keep non-oil materials out of the oil reservoir, but it slows filling the oil to a crawl and isn’t necessary.

On a related note, the oil inspection window doesn’t seem to work particularly well in my case; it’s difficult to judge how much oil is in the saw in my experience.

The Net

If you have a wood lot and cut a lot of wood, this probably isn’t going to be the saw for you as the runtimes won’t be long enough and a 16″ bar has its limitations. Gas is still your best option.

For everyone else looking for a home owner saw, a smaller backup or camp saw, or just a tool to take apart the occasional downed tree, the EGO is something I’d strongly consider. I always just accepted the frustrations of running a gas saw because there wasn’t an alternative; now that there is, there’s a lot less friction in getting the saw out and up and running.

It’s also worth noting that the EGO outdoor power tools are getting high marks broadly speaking, so if you invest in one of the tools and a battery, the cost of the rest of them comes down significantly. I would recommend using at least a 5.0 Ah battery in the saw, however, as most of the reviews I’ve seen suggest that 2.5 Ah models are very limited in their runtime.

Overall, however, there are a lot of reasons to buy an EGO chainsaw and comparatively fewer arguing against the idea. If I had the chance to do it over, I’d certainly buy this saw again.

Disclosure: The product links above are Amazon affiliate links, included to see which if any recommendations people follow.

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