I’ve been using chainsaws for years to handle various tasks around my property. While gas-powered chainsaws have traditionally been my go-to, I’ve started to explore some of the other engine options now available. Chainsaws are such versatile tools that can make quick work of cutting and trimming trees, bushes, and logs.
With different types of chainsaw engines on the market, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of each to find the right fit for your needs and experience level. In this article, I’ll provide a comprehensive guide on the chainsaw engine types out there so you can make an informed decision when choosing a chainsaw.
What are the different chainsaw engine types available?
When you start shopping for a chainsaw, one of the first decisions you need to make is which type of engine you want. There are several common options, each with their own advantages and best uses. Let’s take a look at the main types of chainsaw engines currently available.
Gas-powered chainsaws are the most popular and powerful choice. They have two-stroke gasoline engines that deliver high torque and fast chain speeds ideal for cutting through dense wood. I’ve been using gas chainsaws for years to fell trees, prune branches, and cut logs on my property. They have the rugged durability and performance needed for frequent professional use as well as occasional homeowner tasks.
The downside is that gas chainsaws require fuel and oil mixes plus regular maintenance like spark plug and air filter changes. But if you need a powerful, heavy-duty saw, look for a gas model from trusted brands like Husqvarna, Stihl, and Echo. Just be prepared to invest some time and money into proper care and upkeep.
Electric (corded) chainsaws
For those seeking an alternative to gas, electric corded chainsaws are a great option. These saws have an electric motor rather than an internal combustion engine. Corded models provide consistent, reliable power as long as you have an outlet and extension cord handy.
Electric chainsaws work well for light to medium cutting tasks like pruning trees or cutting firewood. Their quieter operation and lower maintenance needs also make them ideal for homeowner use. Just be sure to use an outdoor-rated extension cord of the proper gauge to avoid power loss. Leading electric chainsaw brands include Greenworks, Worx, and Black & Decker.
Running on rechargeable lithium-ion battery packs, cordless battery chainsaws provide the ultimate in portability and convenience. I recently added a cordless saw to my collection for quick outdoor jobs where mobility is key. Cordless models work well for light tasks like cutting smaller branches or trimming hedges where you don’t need the power of a gas saw.
Look for a reputable brand like Dewalt or Milwaukee that offers a range of compatible batteries and chargers. The higher the voltage, the more cutting power and run time you’ll get from a fully juiced battery. Just note that batteries will need recharging after each use.
When you need to prune high branches or trim back tall trees, a pole saw is the ideal choice. These specialized saws have a chainsaw head attached to an extension pole that can reach up to 15 feet or more. I keep a pole saw ready to safely trim up high without using a ladder.
Pole saws are available in gas, battery-powered, and electric corded versions. I’d recommend a gas or battery model for the most flexibility and maneuverability when working off the ground. Popular brands like Remington and Sun Joe make quality pole saws suitable for home use. They’re a handy specialty saw to have around.
If you’re in a pinch and don’t have a powered saw handy, a manual chainsaw can get the job done. These hand-operated saws have a pull cord that drives the chain rather than an engine or motor. While too labor-intensive for major cutting work, I keep a compact manual saw for emergency tree removal or as a backup option.
Manual models are ideal for very small tasks where convenience and portability are priorities. They provide a good lightweight option for camping or putting in your car for emergencies. Leading brands like Silky and Fiskars make durable manual saws suitable for occasional use. Just don’t expect production-level cutting capabilities.
For specialized applications like underwater cutting, pneumatic or air-powered chainsaws are used. These saws have an air-driven motor and custom chains designed for use underwater or in other wet environments. I don’t currently own a pneumatic saw, but these niche tools are designed for unique professional needs.
Pneumatic saws require an air compressor capable of providing continuous high-pressure airflow during operation. Leading manufacturers like Husqvarna and Stihl produce pneumatic chainsaws mainly targeted at commercial divers, marine salvage crews, and other specialty operators. Unless you have a specific wet cutting need, a standard gas or electric saw is likely the better choice.
Factors to consider when choosing a chainsaw engine type
With several engine types to choose from, it’s important to weigh a few key factors to ensure you select the best chainsaw for your needs. Consider the following when deciding on gas, electric, battery, or other engine models:
First, carefully consider how you plan to use your chainsaw. Are you a homeowner needing an occasional tree trimmer or firewood cutter? Or a professional logging operator felling trees daily? Match the engine type and power to your expected cutting requirements. For heavy loads like logging, a powerful gas saw is likely the best fit. For lighter trimming tasks, a battery or electric model often suffice.
Your familiarity and comfort using chainsaws also affects the ideal engine choice. If you’re a beginner or only operate a saw sporadically, an electric or battery-powered model provides a safer, easier-handling option. More experienced users who handle saws regularly may prefer the rugged power of a gas chainsaw. Choose an engine type that matches your skill level and chainsaw know-how. Don’t take on more power than your experience allows.
There can be significant price differences between types of chainsaw engines. Gas models with the most power and durability often cost the most upfront. Battery-powered saws require investing in compatible batteries and chargers too. Consider your budget for the chainsaw itself plus operating costs over time like fuel, oil, batteries, and repairs. Choose the most economical engine type that still meets your cutting needs.
Some chainsaw engines demand more maintenance and care than others. Gas models need the most attention, requiring regular filter changes, spark plug replacements, carburetor adjustments, and more. Electric saws simply need blade and belt upkeep. And battery models just need batteries charged and replaced over time. Consider the maintenance time and costs you’re willing to take on when deciding on an engine type.
Chainsaw safety features
While engine power is important, don’t overlook key safety features when selecting a chainsaw. Adding options like chain brakes and vibration reduction improves your protection and control during use. Here are some to look for:
A chain brake is a critical safety component that stops the cutting chain whenever sudden kickback or a loss of control occurs. Having this instant stopping power minimizes kickback injuries and accidental contact with the spinning chain. I always check for a sturdy chain brake before buying any model of chainsaw.
Reducing vibration makes a chainsaw easier and less fatiguing to operate, especially during extended use. Models like my Stihl utilize effective anti-vibration technology to dampen vibrations generated by the motor and cutting chain. This adds comfort while also improving safety and control.
A chain catcher prevents injury in the event that a chain derails or breaks during cutting. This safety guard catches the fast-moving chain before it can strike the operator. For added peace of mind, look for a chainsaw with a sturdy, well-designed chain catcher.
Chainsaw accessories and attachments
Once you choose the right chainsaw engine, you can further outfit it with handy accessories for transportation, maintenance, and safety:
A durable chainsaw carrying case keeps your saw and any accessories protected during transport and storage. Look for a case designed specifically for your saw make and model, with secure straps or foam lining to prevent shifting and damage. A good case keeps everything organized and safe between uses.
A quality chainsaw sharpener helps maintain the cutting teeth on your chains in peak condition. Look for compact electric or manual file guides that make quick work of routine chain sharpening. Keeping chains razor-sharp improves cutting performance and safety.
Don’t forget essential safety gear like chainsaw chaps, gloves, eye protection, and hearing protection. Chainsaw kickback and flying debris can cause severe injuries if you’re not properly equipped. Invest in professional-grade protective wear designed for use with high-powered cutting tools before firing up your new chainsaw.
Whether you choose a versatile gas model, a quiet electric saw, an agile cordless chainsaw, or a specialty option like a pole saw, selecting the right engine type improves performance, convenience, and safety during use. Carefully weigh your experience level, budget, intended cutting tasks, and maintenance commitment when deciding on a chainsaw power plant.
And don’t forget essential accessories like carrying cases, sharpening tools, and protective gear to get the most from your chainsaw. With the proper saw and safety equipment, you can tackle all sorts of woodcutting jobs with confidence and ease. Let me know in the comments if you have any other chainsaw engine questions!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best chainsaw engine type for a beginner?
For beginners, an electric or battery-powered chainsaw is the safest and easiest to learn on. Avoid heavy, powerful gas models until you gain more experience handling and controlling a running saw.
How often should I maintain my chainsaw engine?
Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for tune-ups and component replacement intervals. For gas engines, air and fuel filters should be inspected and changed every 25 hours of use. Replace spark plugs yearly or as needed.
Can I convert my gas-powered chainsaw to an electric one?
Unfortunately no, the engine and drivetrain designs of gas versus electric saws differ too greatly for conversion between fuel types. You’ll need to purchase a dedicated electric model.
What is the average lifespan of a chainsaw engine?
With proper maintenance, gas and electric chainsaw engines can typically last 500-1000 hours of use over 3-5 years. Battery powered models last about 2-3 years before needing battery replacement.
Are there any environmentally friendly chainsaw engine options?
Electric and battery-powered chainsaws produce zero emissions during use, making them the most eco-friendly options. Some gas models also utilize fuel-efficient engines to reduce air pollution.
How do I know when it’s time to replace my chainsaw engine?
Look for decreased power, difficulty starting, increased smoking or oil use, chronic hard-to-correct issues, or when repair costs exceed replacement cost. These all indicate an engine may be dying and due for replacement.
Can I use a chainsaw engine for other power tools?
This isn’t recommended, as chainsaw engines are designed specifically for high-rev operation while driving a cutting chain. Using one to power other tools could damage the engine.
Michael Boyle is the founder and main author of Chainsaws Finder, boasting over 20 years of experience in the chainsaw industry. Hailing from Texas, Michael combines his extensive knowledge and hands-on expertise to provide reliable advice and top-notch service. His vision is to empower chainsaw users to tackle any project with confidence, making Chainsaws Finder a trusted resource in the field.