There’s nothing like the satisfaction of chopping wood. That particular thump sound as the axe drives home, the two halves flying from the cutting block. It’s a primordial task dating back to the first tools.
But that’s also the downside. It’s a technology that hasn’t changed for thousands of years (the first handled axe dates to around 6000BC). Sometimes you need to get through that wood pile with speed and ease. And that’s where a log splitter comes in. If you’re looking to chop your wood with least time and effort, you need a mechanical log splitter. But which type is the best?
With this article, we’re going to look at electric vs gas log splitters. We’ll examine the pros and cons of both types, and the major features. You’ll be able to make an informed decision based on the things that matter to you.
We’ll tell you that electric splitters are usually cheaper, but that gas versions are more powerful. And that gas versions can be more mobile even though they are usually heavier and larger. You’ll also discover that a gas splitter requires more maintenance and that electric versions are quieter.
So, if you’re wondering about which type of log splitter is right for you, read on for the battle of the log splitters.
What is a Log Splitter?
Technically, a log splitter is anything that splits wood. So, this includes axes, wedge splitters, manual hydraulic splitters, gas and electric, hydraulic and kinetic.
For this article, we’ll be talking mainly about gas and electric powered splitters. Mostly, the features apply to both hydraulic and kinetic splitters, but where there are differences, we’ll point them out. If you want the full lowdown on kinetic vs hydraulic log splitters check out that article here.
No matter the type you use, remember to use it safely. With any splitter, there are sizeable forces at work. Don’t forget your safety glasses, gloves, and boots. Always read the manual before you start and always pay attention.
Comparing Log Splitter Features
When deciding on your splitter, there are several factors to look at. You need to think about where you’re using it, the type and size of wood you’ll be splitting, and what about weight, mobility and maintenance?
What are the pros and cons of electric and gas splitters?
What are the features that set them apart?
Let’s get down to business.
Electric splitters are lighter than gas powered ones. They only have an electric motor and don’t need the internal combustion engine that powers a gas splitter. This makes the weight difference quite significant.
You can lift your average electric splitter into the back of your vehicle without assistance. Whereas with a gas splitter you’ll probably need two (or more) people. So, if you need to manually move yours around a lot, then an electric one is going to make life easier.
As well as heavier, gas splitters tend to be larger, which means you need a bigger storage space.
An electric splitter will always need a power supply. If you’re planning on using yours near the house or in the garage, this isn’t usually an issue. But if you’re thinking of working in the forest, you’ll probably be better off with a gas powered one. Unless you want to bring along a portable generator as well.
Both versions usually come with a set of wheels and are designed so that you can manually drag them around a bit. The larger gas splitters come with a tow attachment so you can pull them behind your vehicle (just check the speed rating before you go charging off).
Combine the tow function with the lack of a need for cables and you’ll often find a gas-powered splitter is the better choice if you’re taking it mobile.
Before you decide on the power you need, you need to think about the wood you’ll be splitting. If it is hardwood, knotty or bigger than 15 inches, then you’ll need a powerful splitter with well over 20 tons of force. And that usually means a gas-powered version.
Smaller, softer woods don’t require the same power, and an electric splitter with 5-10 tons of force will usually be enough. Although most electric splitters come with a recommendation of around 12-inch maximum size, you can often manage 15-inches or even more, depending on the type of wood and force of the splitter.
Horizontal and Vertical positions
Electric splitters usually have fixed horizontal working positions. This gives you a comfortable working height, but can mean a lot of bending up and down if you’ve got a lot of logs to get through. It can also mean lifting quite heavy logs repeatedly.
Some gas splitters will allow you to choose between a horizontal and vertical position. This means you don’t need to lift the heaviest logs and can just roll them into place. But it also means you’re always bent over while working in the vertical position.
If you’re planning on using your log splitter on a Sunday morning in a residential neighborhood, then you should consider an electric version. Electric splitters don’t have an engine, and so they make a lot less noise than a gas-powered version. (think of the sound an electric car makes vs a normal one). If noise is an issue, electric is preferable.
Electric splitters don’t give off any fumes, they’re not burning gas after all. This means that if you want to run your splitter indoors, say in the garage or the shed, then an electric version is the only proper choice.
Gas-powered splitters need more maintenance. The engine in a gas version requires regular inspection to keep it running optimally. This means you need to check filters, plugs and fluids regularly. You’ll also need to keep the carburetor clean to make sure you’re getting all that power.
Gas versions use a four-stroke engine and are usually both reliable and easy to fix. But if you don’t want the hassle with regular maintenance, think about an electric version.
Log splitters start at a few hundred and rise to many thousands of dollars. And as with most tools, you get what you pay for. So, if you want bigger, stronger, (and in the case of kinetic splitters) faster, your budget goes up.
But the first thing to ask yourself is: what do you need? If you’re planning on splitting 25-inch hardwood, then you’re going to need the biggest, baddest machine you can find. But let’s face it, most of us aren’t. If you’re dealing with 12-inch softwood for the winter log store, then you can aim for something more modest that won’t break the bank.
As a general rule, electric splitters are considerably cheaper than hydraulic. Although, some electric kinetic splitters are more expensive than some gas powered hydraulic.
While it is mainly the engine and hydraulic power you pay for, build quality also increases with price. For a tool that is going to take some punishment (as most log splitters are) then it’s worth paying a little extra to get something that will last more than a season or two.
Electric vs Gas Log Splitters: Conclusion
Both electric and gas-powered versions have their place. As you can see from our extensive feature list, there are pros and cons with both types. So, when deciding the right one for you, you need to factor in how yours will be used and decide based on your needs.
Are you going to use yours at home? Do you live in a residential area? Are you mainly looking for something to split firewood for the winter? If the answer to these questions is yes, then an electric log splitter is probably the best choice.
Electric splitters are usually cheaper, lighter and require less maintenance. They can be used indoors and won’t scare the neighbors. But, if you’re planning on using yours a lot, have some big, heavy logs to split or want to take yours with you into the woods to split the logs at source, then a gas-powered splitter is probably the right choice.
Gas-powered splitters are more powerful, can usually be towed by a vehicle, and give you the option of a vertical or horizontal working position.
We’ve covered the major features and pros and cons with both electric and gas-powered log splitters. Now you’ve got all the information you need to make the right decision. It’s time to head-on down to the hardware store (or purchase online from the comfort of your electronic device). Here’s wishing you some happy splitting!