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Oregon PowerNow Battery-Powered Chainsaws: Cordless Alternative for Light Work

Cordless Chainsaw Review: Two out of Three Ain't Bad

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Oregon PowerNow cordless chainsaw (picture) is a battery-powered chainsaw.

Picture: Oregon PowerNow cordless chainsaw.

David Beaulieu

My baptism into the world of chainsaws many years ago came courtesy of a gas-powered model. I used it one summer to build a log cabin. I became intimately acquainted with it, as it was my daily companion for that period of time. I knew exactly what I liked about it. I also knew exactly what I would change if furnished with the magic wand to do so.

What I liked about it was that it was powerful. It was meant to be used to fell large trees and to buck up logs of a massive diameter.

Minor complaints I had with this chainsaw included noise level and the fact that it was a heavy piece of equipment to haul around. But here are three major challenges that I wished would be eliminated:

  1. Eliminate start-up via pull cord
  2. Eliminate manual sharpening
  3. Eliminate manual cleaning

It didn't take a magic wand to have the first two of these three wishes fulfilled. All it took (on my part) was awaiting the passage of time. I didn't use chainsaws much for years after that initial experience. When I did, I used a Remington electric chainsaw, which obviated problem #1 above. But more recently, I tested the Oregon PowerNow battery-powered chainsaw. With this device, both problem #1 and problem #2 are solved. Unhappily, it is not self-cleaning (you still have to remove the guide bar to clean out sawdust).

But as they say, two out of three ain't bad.

Starting From Square 1

Not being a lover of gadgets, per se, one of the biggest turnoffs for me in testing a product for review is having to jump through a bunch of hoops before I even have a chance to use it. I'm glad to report that there were no such difficulties with the Oregon PowerNow battery-powered chainsaw.

For one thing, no assembly was required (although I read that, in some cases, the product will be shipped without the guide bar being attached). All that I had to do was test the charge of the lithium ion battery, charge it if necessary (which was, indeed, necessary), and insert it into the chainsaw. Unlike what happened with another battery-powered product I tested recently (a cordless string trimmer), the whole process went smoothly. It's especially convenient that you can gauge the charge left in the battery simply by pushing a button located on the battery, itself.

Particularly in the case of a chainsaw (but more generally with any outdoor power equipment), a big part of your preparations must involve understanding safety considerations. Fortunately, the manual is very clear in this regard. That's high praise coming from me, as I generally detest product manuals.

For example, the manual clearly explains both the most hazardous aspect of using chainsaws and a critical safety feature that this battery-powered chainsaw has to address it, namely:

  1. Kickback
  2. (And to address the kickback problem) the chain brake

The manual states that one of the first things you should do when preparing to use the cordless chainsaw for the first time is to test the chain brake, to make sure it's working. It's a simple test (the manual clearly explains how to perform the test), and it will boost your confidence in the safety of the saw (although by no means does the existence of this safety feature give you an excuse to let your guard down).

The "Pro" Part of My Review

Product reviews are more helpful bolstered by comparisons (since we don't buy products in a vacuum but rather choose between different options), so let me compare this battery-powered chainsaw to both gas-powered and (corded) electric models.

Oregon PowerNow's battery-powered chainsaw is lighter and quieter than gas-powered models. The battery is specifically a 40-volt lithium ion battery, a type of battery developed to be both powerful and lightweight. Corded electric models are also lightweight and quiet, but there's the disadvantage that you have to drag a cord around.

Here's another feature that battery-powered chainsaws share with their corded electric counterparts: easy start-up, the importance of which I cannot exaggerate (speaking from the perspective of a homeowner who only rarely uses a saw). All you do is push in (and hold) the start button while squeezing the trigger; there's no pull cord to struggle with (one of the worst features of gas-powered models). Almost right up there with easy start-up is the fact that you don't have to sharpen the chain by hand: you simply pull up on a lever (while the machine is running) to sharpen the chain -- no work on your part.

Another good feature is that when you take your finger off the trigger, the unit shuts down, unlike with gas-powered models. The latter stay on and vibrate, and the vibration makes them move around -- perhaps to right where you don't want them to be.

The "Con" Part of My Review

The Oregon PowerNow cordless chainsaw is not intended to be a tool with which to fell large trees, nor does the company tout it as such. Indeed, the second sentence in their manual's introduction informs us, "It is designed for occasional light duty use." So while this is a con in the sense of being a limitation, we can't accuse the company of a "con job"!

The battery lost its charge for me after about an hour of off-and-on work. According to the FAQ on the company's website, the standard-type battery (they do have a more powerful one called an "Endurance" battery) should last about 125 cuts per charge if you're cutting 2-3 inch diameter branches. Some of the limbs that I cut were bigger than 2-3 inches; maybe that's why the battery didn't hold its charge for very long.

Determining how much of a charge the battery still has at any given time (even during operation) is simple: you just push a button on the face of the battery (which summons indicator lights that tell you how much power you have left). The drawback of short battery life is not as big a deal for a battery-powered chainsaw as it would be for, say, a lawn mower (I have reviewed both a Remington and a Stihl battery-powered mower), since you're dealing with a much smaller piece of power equipment. It's easy enough to eject the battery and recharge it. Nor does charging take long: recharging the battery took about an hour's time. So for a moderately large project, you could do some work in the morning, recharge the battery while breaking for lunch, then go back outdoors in the afternoon to finish the job.

The manual states that, when buying oil for this cordless chainsaw, you should buy only the company brand. Depending on availability in your area, this could be a problem. Likewise, should you ever need to replace the battery, you would probably find yourself inconvenienced, at the very least.

Conclusion on Oregon's Battery-Powered Chainsaw

If you keep a chainsaw around just in case you may need to do some light cleanup after a storm or for the occasional trimming of that medium-sized tree whose growth you don't want to get out of hand, then this battery-powered chainsaw could be the right tool for you. Unlike with gas-powered models, the ease with which it starts up means that you can forget about it for months at a time, then begin using it more or less on the spur of the moment, as the need arises.

If this is how you plan on using your battery-powered chainsaw, here's the care regimen I recommend:

  1. When you're done with a cutting job, remove the battery
  2. Clean the saw
  3. Recharge the battery

At this point, you can store the battery. Don't put it back into your cordless chainsaw, and don't store it anywhere where the temperature will exceed 86° F. In answer to the question, "How long will a battery maintain its charge if not used?" the company's website answers that it "will retain approximately 90%" of its charge for up to 5 months. So if the saw will be in storage for a longer period than that, it might be a good idea to recharge the battery at some point, so that it's ready to go whenever you need it.

Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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