Last year I was given a battery powered chainsaw by Husqvarna to try for a no obligation review. It’s the Husqvarna 540i XP model and having only used petrol powered chainsaws previously, I was interested to use one of the latest battery powered machines. I’ve been trialling it for over six months in a variety of situations for clients and on our own farm to put it through its paces.
What I used the chainsaw for
I’ve used the Husqvarna 540i XP primarily for coppicing and pollarding trees (where the tree then regrows), removing diseased trees and removing some larger branches. This has been across a variety of species including oak, willow, pine, birch, ash, elm and hazel. The size of the trees has varied from small all the way to larger 30cm diameter conifers. Most have been fairly large with trunk diameters of 15 – 25cm. This is the size of tree it is meant for, not for extremely large trees.
A general word of caution about chainsaws
Because many of my readers are gardeners, upfront I want to add a serious note about general safety when using a chainsaw because it goes without saying, in the wrong hands they are one of the most dangerous pieces of equipment to you and others. Not only are chainsaws dangerous but the trees being cut can fall in unpredictable ways, I’ve had dead branches fall on my head a number of times making me grateful for the protective helmet. Most accidents happen by people who haven’t been trained or who ignore the training guidance. Before I even considered using a chainsaw, I went on a week long course with full certified exam to learn how to maintain chainsaws and cut trees properly. Personally I would only recommend using a chainsaw after passing one of these exams. I always use the chainsaw in full personal protective equipment (PPE) which includes at least chainsaw trousers, gloves, boots, ear protection, face protection and a helmet.
I’ve been trialling the Husqvarna 540i XP chainsaw with a 16 inch bar (40cm) using a semi-chisel chain. Our course tutor recommended semi-chisel as being slightly safer because it’s less likely to kick-back, the saw bouncing backward.
The Husqvarna 540i XP has a high chain speed and I found it to be very powerful, cutting through all wood types with no problem at all. In fact, it’s pretty amazing, it seemed to cut more cleanly than petrol powered chainsaws I’d previously used. A downside to high chain speed is that it can make the saw slightly more dangerous than a lower chain speed, so you have to adjust your PPE to account for that.
Overall, I was very impressed with the cutting power, cutting through all types of wood with a pull that meant minimal effort for me and made jobs very quick. The cutting power is consistent whatever the battery power is on, it doesn’t gradually fade – the saw will simply stop when power runs out.
I found that I could use the Husqvarna 540i XP for about an hour on one charge with lots of stopping and starting between cuts, so perhaps about 40 minutes total run time. As I am a gardener and not a forester, this length of time was totally fine for me. Physically, it’s about as much as I could do before needing a break anyway because although the cutting is easy, lifting all of the cut wood around can be heavy work.
The battery takes about as much time to recharge, so you could always have two batteries to extend your cutting time and alternate, or recharge one over lunch or something. For anyone wanting to use the chainsaw for longer in places without mains power, there are larger professional back-mounted battery packs available. The battery can be used on other Husqvarna products.
The chainsaw weighs about 4kg with the battery and chain oil included, I found this pretty light really and I have to say it never once felt heavy or straining on my arms even after a couple of hours of use back-to-back.
I am extremely cautious around gardening equipment and the safety features are among the most important features to me. With chainsaws a lot of the safety comes down to maintenance, keeping the saw clean, checking the chain is sharp and undamaged, which makes the courses I mentioned really important to be able to do this correctly.
One of the advantages of battery powered chainsaws is that there are less parts to maintain, you don’t have the diesel tank and exhaust elements. The slight downside to that is that repairs to the electronics have to be done professionally. However, I did enjoy the lower maintenance with fewer parts to check and not having to worry about breathing in harmful petrol fumes.
Husqvarna 540i XP comes with all of the standard essential safety features, from blade cover, chain break etc. It has a double level of power on switches too. First, there is the on / off button to power on the machine. It is then active. Then there are two trigger switches as well as the chain break to switch to activate the chain.
I was worried that with the battery powered chainsaw, it’s easier to forget to hit the chain break between cuts, and I think this is true because the engine isn’t running loudly to remind you it’s live. So that’s one thing to remember. However, I can’t see that the chain would activate by accident because to make it run, you do have to slide one lever up before then pushing the trigger.
So I felt perfectly safe operating it, in fact slightly safer than a petrol powered chainsaw because it’s effectively off when you don’t have your fingers on the triggers.
I wanted to point out that the chain catch pin, which catches the chain if it comes off the bar, definitely works. Tiny twigs can sometimes get into the chain and lever the chain off and this actually happened by chance when I first used the Husqvarna 540i XP, the chain caught on the catch pin and the saw stopped immediately. I was particularly impressed at how this worked and kept me safe.
Something people don’t take into account with garden machinery is that their volume can harm your hearing over time, so you’re best to wear ear protection. Petrol powered chainsaws are particularly loud and Husqvarna 540i XP although loud enough to still warrant ear protection, is much, much quieter.
If there’s one thing that makes me favour battery or electric powered chainsaws over petrol, it’s the volume reduction making it much less likely to cause permanent hearing damage through use with ear guards.
Cleaning and chain maintenance
The chain can be tightened / loosened by a single screw using the tool that comes with the chainsaw, and likewise the cover operated by a larger bolt using the same tool. All bolts are attached to the covers so there is no chance of losing them out in the field.
I found this all very easy to use for easy access to the clutch and sprocket, and to remove the bar and chain for maintenance and cleaning.
Everything we humans make comes with some kind of footprint on the planet, including battery operated garden tools. So the first stop when it comes to sustainability is to consider, do you really need a chainsaw or would a regular handsaw do. If you are cutting large amounts of trees and wood, then a chainsaw may be essential in which case it’s good to make an informed decision.
To my mind, although lithium batteries come with their own impact on the planet, in the form of the lithium being extracted and then eventually becoming a waste product, battery powered machines are still better for the planet than fossil fuels like diesel. The one battery I have for this chainsaw will last for a good number of years and could be used across other devices like hedge trimmers. Compare that to filling up the engine every time to use it. As electricity increasingly comes from renewable sources, it further lowers the device’s impact on the planet.
Battery powered chainsaws do still use some oil to lubricate the chain for safety and to reduce wear. And of course all tools use materials like metal and plastic. There is some plastic on the Husqvarna 540i XP but not excessive amounts and I believe the saw will happily last for many years.
Overall, if you have to use a chainsaw for your garden work, battery powered devices such as this seem to be a relatively good option alongside some of the additional benefits that come with battery power mentioned above.
I’m really impressed with the Husqvarna 540i XP battery powered chainsaw, in fact I think it’s excellent. What particularly stood out for me:
- much quieter than petrol powered
- its significant cutting power on all wood types
- good battery life for what I needed
- ease of maintenance
- safety features
It essentially did everything I needed it to and there aren’t any negative things about it specific to the model that I can think of. All in all, I recommend the Husqvarna 540i XP for gardeners like me who are doing small to medium amounts of tree and forestry work.