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Choosing a Chipper or Chipper Shredder

If you have any trees on your property, you've surely been stuck cleaning up after Mother Nature every spring, fall, or anytime there’s a storm. Did you know that you can turn that mess into money by chipping it?

Rather than burning your brush pile or leaving it to rot (which is an eyesore), you can put it through a chipper or chipper shredder to make your own mulch and compost. Save yourself the time and money of buying these yard materials every season and invest in a chipper instead!

Differences Between Chippers and Chipper Shredders

Chipping and shredding are separate mechanical functions that require dedicated systems to process different types of lawn debris.

Chippers are designed for cutting thick materials like branches and have one chute. Chippers feature big hoppers with heavy flywheels and are the most efficient choice for constant wood chipping.

Chipper Shredders combine two machines into one with a chute for branches (to be chipped) and another for lighter debris (to be shredded). If you occasionally have branches but are primarily dealing with lightweight material, a Chipper Shredder covers all your bases.

... Chipper (left) vs. Chipper Shredder (right).

Features to Consider

1. Chipping Capacity

A chipper is only as good as its ability to cut large branches! A big hopper makes a significant difference in processing yard debris – it’s easier and less time-consuming to put all branches into a wide chute. You might not notice it much on small jobs, but chipping a large brush pile with a small hopper will take all day.

2. Power

Chippers and chipper shredders use powerful motors to turn a strong blade or shredding hammers with enough force to cut through debris. The blade and hammers are driven by torque, which is the rotational force that a motor imparts on an object. Torque is measured in foot-pounds (ft-lbs), with most residential chippers having a torque rating anywhere from 7 ft-lbs up to over 20 ft-lbs.

3. Feed Type

Manual Feed chippers require you to push branches into the machine’s spinning blade. The spinning blade motion can help pull the branches into the blades, but you must maintain pressure. 

Horizontal Feed chippers have a chute that sticks out sideways with an upward tilt of about 45°, so you can feed branches in from the side while preventing small twigs from falling out. 

Self-Feed Residential chippers use a combination of vertically oriented hoppers, powerful air channels, rollers, and/or gravity to pull the branches through the spinning blades. You can load branches into the chute and then collect more while the chipper goes to work.

Self-Feed Municipal Style Commercial chippers feature large horizontal rollers to actively pull branches toward the blades. Many come with built-in control systems that automatically adjust the input rate to avoid bogging the chute.

... A self-feeding system is ideal for heavy clean-up since you can continue working while it chops away.

4. Transportation Method

When deciding between models, always take into consideration where you’ll be chipping and how the machine will get there, especially for large properties.

Walk-behind chippers have handles and wheels for manual transportation. These are usually compact models for easy maneuvering.

Pull-behind chippers use a pin hitch and wheels for towing behind a tractor, ATV, or even a pick-up truck. If you’re interested in a towable chipper, be sure to find out if it’s DOT-approved for public roads. Many models are towable around private property but not on roads.

... If you don’t have a vehicle to tow your chipper with, a walk-behind model is the perfect solution.

5. Manual or Electric Start

Most small chippers and chipper shredders are manual-starting due to their compact size. Larger chippers/shredders usually come with a choice of manual or electric start for ease of use.

6. Gas or Electric Power

Electric-powered chippers are low-maintenance systems for light clean-up. Just plug the chipper into a regular household outlet and start chopping, even from inside your garage, since you don’t have to worry about exhaust fumes. They also don’t need any oil changes or spark plug replacements.

Gas-powered chippers offer more power to process larger debris. These systems aren't limited by a cord, so they're practical for large properties. Overall, gas-powered chippers are much stronger and can handle wider branches.

7. Discharge Method

Some high-end chippers feature an interchangeable discharge chute that accepts a swiveling extension. These can turn up to 180° and allow you to direct woodchips into a pick-up truck, container, or directly onto your landscaped area.

Others use a fixed chute that’s close to the ground. If you want to better control the discharge on these models, consider adding a debris collection bag. This attaches to the end of the chute and is great for use around flower beds and other sensitive spots.

... Being able to quickly collect the chipped/shredded materials makes a big difference in time and effort.

Check Back for More to Make Chipping Easy!

We will continue to expand our collection of products and how-to articles to help make your chipping and shredding projects easier, so check back with us soon! Meanwhile, take a moment to sign up for email updates and we will deliver them to your inbox!

Last updated: 8/10/2022


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