It’s the ultimate battle of traditional power sawing against modern tech, but what format is better in an electric vs gas chainsaw face-off?
At one time, gas-driven units were the only option for professional arborists and home users looking for a timber-cutting behemoth. However, developments in circuitry efficiency and lithium cell power have allowed electrical machines to challenge the wood shearing stalwart.
This chainsaw electric vs gas duel faces these machines against each other, to discover which one is the champion of hardcore felling and lopping. To discover more information about each individual format, check out our top picks for corded, cordless, and gasoline chainsaws.
Chainsaw Gas vs Electric — How They Work
Essentially, whether you’re looking at a gas or electric chainsaw, the cutting operation is exactly the same. A chain continually rotates around a guide plate (known as the bar), and when addressed to timber, the teeth on the chain cut through the wood.
However, the way in which the chain is driven in the two formats differs.
In electrical machines, the energy is sourced from either a mains lead (corded models) or a lithium-ion cell (cordless models). This electricity passes into the internal circuitry, where the armature converts the volts and current into mechanical grunt — known as torque. Through gearing, this torque drives a shaft, which in turn, forces the chain to circumnavigate the guide bar.
In liquid fuel chainsaws, instead of internal circuitry and components, the inside of the machine houses a combustion engine.
Working in the same manner as a car or lawnmower, the gas is forced through a carburetor where it combines with air. The mixture enters a cylinder, where a spark induces ignition — basically a mini-explosion.
The energy of this baby bomb drives a piston back and forwards, which in turn, drives a crank connected to a centrifugal clutch. And finally, the clutch drives the sprockets, which rotate the chain.
In reading the above explanation of how electric chainsaw vs gas units differ in their working process, one thing should be clear — gas machines contain more moving components and more complicated energy transformation than their electrical siblings.
This will be important later.
Chainsaw Gas vs Electric — How They Work
It’s time for these two sluggers to leave their corners and enter the ring for a full-on battle. This is how these two machines compare — and their relative advantages and disadvantages.
Just one quick pointer.
If you have neither the time nor the inclination to read the below in-depth differentiation — head straight to the easy-to-digest comparison table instead.
As chainsaws are undoubtedly the mother-of-all timber saws, both machine formats can be considered the heavyweights of the timber cutting world. However, while the electrical format has the ripped physique of Anthony Joshua, the gas version has the bulked-up monster build of Tyson Fury.
As you will recall from earlier when we looked at how the internal mechanisms of gas vs electric chainsaw compare — the liquid fuel-driven units are comprised of significantly more moving internal parts than an electrical version.
And this has a serious impact on their heft.
Metal mechanical components are heavy, making gas units substantially more weighty than their voltage-powered cousins. This needs to be taken into account if you’re lacking in the strength department or looking at completing time-lengthy projects.
Overall mass varies greatly — as it depends on the bar size of the tool. However, generally speaking, expect a gas unit to be 15-25 pounds heavier than a comparable electrical model.
And, as Columbo used to say, just one more thing.
Electric chainsaws can be either mains powered or battery-driven. Due to the additional mass of lithium-ion cells, cordless models are therefore heavier than corded machines — although still lighter than gas.
An excellent lightweight electrical machine is the Greenworks 20222, which weighs in at just eight pounds.
The sound of a chainsaw is unmistakable — whether you’re hearing the loggers in a forest or enjoying The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974).
However, that loud, phutting, screeching sound is created by gasoline machines, not electrical.
Typically, a liquid fuel machine knocks out around 100 decibels — dangerously high levels that require the use of ear defenders. Electrical models are easier on the ears by around 5-10 decibels — hence still necessitate donning protective gear.
So, if you want to be slightly more considerate to your neighbors, a corded or cordless machine is preferable to gas — although by no means offering quiet operation.
When you compare corded vs cordless vs gas chainsaw, one factor is clear — electrical models are much more convenient in the power sourcing department.
Unless you’re Amish, you have ready access to electricity at your home — meaning you can operate an electrical saw at any time. Using a liquid fuel machine means a trip to the gas station, and/or storing up highly dangerous reserves of gas in your garage.
Furthermore, two-stroke chainsaws require mixing with oil before use — an additional headache that means purchasing yet more fuel and the hassle of wasted prep time.
Unless you’re particularly stupid, you don’t put your head within two feet of your car exhaust. However, with a gas chainsaw, that’s effectively what you’re doing.
Research shows that gasoline machines emit carbon dioxide concentrations that are higher than the permissible exposure limit of 50 ppm (parts per million). This means that under all circumstances, you must don a ventilation mask when using one of these tools.
Furthermore, the CO2 and nitrogen dioxide spewed out by these machines contribute to greenhouse gases, and accelerate climate change. I recommend considering a gasoline machine such as the Poulan Pro, which promises to reduce emissions by 70 percent.
Electrical chainsaws emit no such dangerous gases — meaning they are theoretically safer for you and the environment. That said, still wear a face mask during operation — unless you want to breathe in sawdust that can cause respiratory afflictions, and, in worst cases, cancer.
Grunt is crucial — it can mean the difference between effortlessly slicing through a log or struggling to make an indentation in the wood.
In virtually all circumstances, gasoline chainsaws are more brawny than electric. Unfortunately, manufacturers don’t make comparisons straightforward, as the power output in gas machines is measured in cubic capacity (cc), and electricals in amperage (amps).
However, a high-output 15 amps corded machine — such as our top pick Makita UC4051A (mains-driven offers more brawn than cordless) is virtually the same as a low-powered 32 cc liquid fuel.
Hence, When you’re considering an electric or gas chain saw — think about the demands of your target material. Addressing softwoods, general pruning and trimming, and light tree felling can be completed with an electrical machine — ideal for the home gardener.
Tackling dense hardwoods, larger tree felling, fire log cutting, and milling will necessitate the use of a more herculean gas model.
Your wife may say that length isn’t important — but she’s just trying to protect your feelings.
Length is crucial, both in the bedroom and in timber cutting. Although, don’t get the two scenarios mixed up — wielding a chainsaw in your bed or trying to chop down a tree with your Johnson will both end in disaster.
The bar is the metal plate around which the chain revolves and can range in size anywhere from 10 to 34+ inches. The longer the bar, the wider the diameter of the wood the machine can cut in a single pass.
This means electrical units — both corded and cordless — are restrictive, as it’s challenging to find a machine with a bar longer than 16 inches. Gas-powered models are significantly meatier, with bars available up to 72 inches.
For more information on chainsaw sizing, and how it relates to your wood-cutting jobs, check out my What Size Chain Saw Do I Need article.
Maintenance and Service
With more internal components, gasoline chainsaws require more attention than their electrical siblings.
Naturally, the more moving parts a tool has, the increased likelihood of failure. Furthermore, gas-driven saws require filter changes and cleaning, component lubrication, and fuel-mixing (for two-strokes).
Electrical units are significantly more straightforward. Apart from cleaning and oiling the chain, there’s little maintenance to complete — making them ideal for the casual or novice operator.
However, the downside is, when they go wrong — you’re pretty screwed. Unless you know a micro-electronics expert with knowledge in chainsaw PCBs (printed circuit boards) — getting one fixed can be challenging.
Conversely, anyone with a basic understanding of combustion engines can repair a gas chainsaw.
Keep on runnin’ — so sang the Spencer Davis Group in 1965.
These British rock meisters were undoubtedly (possibly) extolling the benefits of corded chainsaws — praising their ability to power onwards however long the timber cutting project.
Their other, less-well-known song, My Chainsaw Has Run Out Of Juice*, bemoaned the fact that both battery-powered and gasoline machines require backup energy sources — either additional lithium-ion cells or a can of fuel.
Hence, it’s worth bearing in mind that if your projects are time-heavy — you will need fuel reserves if you don’t have a corded-electric model. Typically, both a battery cell unit and liquid fuel machine will run continuously for around 30-40 minutes before running out of energy.
*not strictly true.
While an important consideration, the cost of the tool shouldn’t be your primary criteria when judging between electric or gas chainsaw machines. There’s little point in opting for a bargain basement unit if it’s incapable of tackling your timber projects.
However, assuming both formats are suitable — prices do vary significantly.
The most affordable units on the market are the corded models — making them ideal for novice or light users. Lithium-cell versions hit the wallet harder, while gasoline chainsaws — with their complicated and part-heavy combustion engines — are the most pricey.
Corded vs Battery vs Gas Chainsaw Comparison Table
|Corded Electric||Cordless Electric||Gas-powered|
|Noise||64-85 dB||64-85 dB||71-90 dB|
|Emissions||None||None||CO2 and NO2|
|Fuel Source||Mains lead||Lithium-ion Cell||Gasoline|
|Bar Length||<16 inches||<16 inches||<72 inches|
|Running Time||Continual||30-40 mins||30-40 mins|
Corded vs Battery Chainsaw vs Gas Conclusion
That’s it. The bell to the final round has rung — and the decision has to be a draw.
The truth is, the ultimate chainsaw format depends on your project demands, experience level, and budget.
Gasoline machines are ideal for experienced operatives, can tackle extreme timber jobs, and offer straightforward repair. The downside is they’re heavy, hard on the wallet, and expel noxious fumes.
Electrical models — both corded and cordless — excel at light trimming and pruning work, offer lightweight wielding, are more affordable, and knock out no dangerous gases. However, they struggle with dense and wide-diameter woods, lack grunt, and can be awkward to fix.
I hope you thoroughly enjoyed this article, and found the information detailed and interesting. And, if you have a friend, buddy, or colleague you believe would also benefit from this Electric vs Gas Chainsaw face-off — please feel free to share!