Like any other tool or device a prepper might consider, a battery-powered chainsaw deserves a little scrutiny. Due to recent events, I am keen on learning more about drawing as little attention to myself as possible when I start my future homestead. Believe it or not, chainsaws actually fit into this.
Are battery-powered chainsaws any good? With manufacturers taking advantage of new battery technologies, many battery-powered chainsaws perform at the same rate as conventional chainsaws in their class. They have several advantages that everyone from preppers to landscapers will find appealing. They are quieter, require less maintenance, and are often easier to handle.
There’s a big caveat here. If you find yourself in a bugout situation with no transportation, you don’t want to carry a chainsaw out with you. If that’s why you’re here, think about what other survival items you should instead use that weight for.
However, if you have a stash, a bugout vehicle, or already have a homestead or piece of property started, read on to find out how they could benefit you, too.
Why Battery-Powered Chainsaws Are Good For Preppers
Though they do have some drawbacks, I’ve discovered that the type of chainsaw you want entirely depends on your situation. A battery-powered chainsaw would be useless to lumberjacks, I imagine.
But for preppers, there are a lot of reasons why you would turn to them.
If you believed half of the internet, you would think that cordless chainsaws were magically silent devices. This isn’t true.
While they do produce less noise than fuel-consuming saws, electric chainsaws still create plenty of noise. They are about as loud as a gas lawnmower, which is much quieter than a gas-powered saw. It is still loud enough that several health agencies recommend using ear protection.
There is another reason why they should be considered quieter. The only point that the saw actually makes noise is when the trigger switch is pressed. The motor doesn’t need to run if it’s not cutting, so it will immediately stop as soon as you let go of the trigger.
When you have a saw that isn’t as noisy, and it doesn’t make noise unless it has to, it’s better for someone like me. It means that I can create a smaller noise footprint and hopefully draw less attention to myself when I’m in search of firewood.
They Start Every Time
When I’m off-grid, I want something that starts the first time, every time. Pull cords are the bane of my existence, going back to when mowing the lawn was one of my biggest childhood chores. When they’re new, motors started by pull cords might start beautifully, but that fades with time. I don’t have time to sit around and try to figure out how to get something running.
A battery-powered chainsaw starts every time because the motor does not run unless you are actively holding the trigger switch. There isn’t a pull-cord to make you miserable. You aren’t restricted by an extension cord that will only let you go so far.
There are only a power button and a trigger switch, so all you have to do is bring it to where you want to work.
No Fuel = No Pollution
I don’t want to store fuel. Stabilizers must be added to store fuel long term. Then, it needs to be mixed with oil.
Expensive premixes have taken the mystery out of the complicated oil-to-fuel ratios, but they still must be stored.
It’s a messy, stinky situation, and you haven’t even started your saw yet. Inhaling all that exhaust isn’t exactly healthy, either.
These issues don’t exist for chainsaws that run on battery power.
There is no need to stop to refuel with a battery-powered chainsaw while you’re working. It runs until the battery needs charging.
The downside is that you need to charge your battery. Still, if you have other power tools, you may also have a second and third battery ready for use.
Charging the Battery Under Different Circumstances
A battery chainsaw requires electricity. If you are preparing to be in an area or situation without power, there are some simple solutions.
It can be a relatively easy DIY job for those of us that like to do things themselves. Some home-built solutions include a small solar module, an RV battery and case, and a DC battery charger from your chosen tool line to get going. This system won’t power much and isn’t the most stable, but it will charge a few batteries a day.
A quick online search turns up many DIY plans and recommendations. I found this hodgepodge at instructables.com which gives a few different options on how to do this.
Other options for starting out include prebuilt solar/battery systems. However, they tend to have smaller batteries and may be less reliable. For roughly the same price or less, a small gas generator may be a better option.
If you already have a stable power source, such as gridded electrical, your own renewable energy, or a generator, you’re ready to go.
There is no real maintenance at all, really—just a few tasks to keep it running in peak condition.
The saw chain needs to be regularly sharpened, tensioned, and protected between uses. Like other styles of chainsaws, battery-powered saws need chain oil, too. Just check the reservoir before each use and top up as required.
As I said earlier, these machines don’t use fuel. Gas-powered saws can have an oil filter, a fuel filter, and an air filter that needs to be checked and replaced regularly. Battery saws have none of these, and therefore no need to maintain or replace them.
Though most manufacturers recommend servicing all tools periodically, there is no need to weatherize a battery saw or measure its spark plugs.
They Can Be Used Indoors
Consider this situation. It’s the first cold snap of the year, and you realize you still have some firewood to cut into logs. You’d prefer to do it someplace warm, like in your garage that’s heated by the woodstove in the corner.
Battery operated chainsaws can work indoors with little or no ventilation. If your chainsaw doesn’t burn fuel, there isn’t any exhaust or strong fumes. And that means you don’t have to worry about carbon monoxide buildup, poisoning, or, uh, dying.
The second reason why they can be used indoors is that they’re quieter than gas versions. I won’t say they’re silent because they’re not, but they don’t have the roar of the gas motors. As I already said, they aren’t really all that quiet, but in a shop or garage, it would be the difference between a little on the loud side and blowing your eardrums out.
Are battery chainsaws as good as gas?
For most people, they will work just as well, if not better than gas.
They let you work smarter, not harder. While a battery-powered chainsaw is going to be about the same weight as a gas saw, the former is more compact, better balanced, and doesn’t vibrate nearly as much. This means that they are more maneuverable than gas and require less arm power from you to get the same job done.
Battery-powered chainsaws tend to be a little cheaper to operate. This is particularly true if you already have invested in batteries for other tools. Electricity, especially if you generate your own, tends to be cheaper than oil and fuel.
Power is becoming less of an issue with newer high-capacity lithium storage cells. Some cheaper models are not very good for anything beyond trimming trees, but newer models can make short work of cutting up smaller logs for firewood. Check out this video I found for an example of the Stihl MSA 200. It’s the first of two videos about cutting up about 1/3 of a cord on a single charge.
Are battery-powered chainsaws safer?
There are a few reasons why they might be safer. They’re balanced very well, which makes them easy to handle. Reaching up to do some limbing isn’t quite as strenuous.
These chainsaws are also safer because if you let go of the trigger for whatever reason, the motor stops automatically. They still have safety mechanisms to brake the chain in certain situations, as all chainsaws do.
Of course, if you don’t have experience with chainsaws, you must learn about chainsaw safety. You need to think about proper protective equipment, including ear, eye, and leg protection, and learn about proper posture and stance for cutting.
This Old House has a great video a lot of great safety tips, and Tractor Supply has an excellent article for beginner chainsaw users.
I originally intended to give a relatively brief and broad overview of whether battery-powered chainsaws were any good. What I found was a style of chainsaw that will meet the day-to-day demands I expect to see in my prepping. I also now know I have a lot more to research and write about.
The only real drawback I found was that battery-powered chainsaws are not as fast as gas and that they weren’t suited for using to cut big logs. But when weighed against the ability to pick up the saw and go, it becomes an almost relaxing experience.