Electric Wood Splitters Pros And Cons – A Buyers Guide

Buying anything without some background knowledge and doing some due diligence generally ends up in a poor buying decision!

This obviously rings true for you, as it does for me too. I've made a ton of poor purchasing decisions in the past, but with this article in which I'll provide you with a detailed list of electric wood splitters pros and cons, the decision whether to buy or not to buy should be a lot easier.

I've written a lot about wood splitters recently, including this detailed article on how to chose the best log splitter that suits your needs and budget.. It covers all the main types of wood splitters and the benefits/limitations of each, but I want to focus specifically on electric splitters in this article, as they are one of the most common log splitting machines for the average homeowner on a budget.

If you don't have the time to check that out, I chose the Boss Industrial ES7T20 Electric Log Splitter, 7-Ton model as a great all-rounder with good capacity and budget too.

Preference of course, plays a big part in your decision. I tend to favor the electric models, as the limitations that they may have don't tend to affect the majority of homeowners. But read on and I'll help you with the decision making process.

Let's quickly recap on hydraulic splitters, and electric splitters specifically, and then dive in to some reasons to buy, or not to buy.

Man operating an electric wood splitter with split logs and a wheelbarrow being used to transport

Many people have used an axe or splitting maul to split firewood. Picking an axe up from a thrift store or at a sale often seems like the perfect, low-cost way to maintain your firewood supply. It's healthy too right? Some sweat and a little strenuous effort is good for your constitution 🙂

Manually splitting wood is great for some people, if you're good at it you can get a fair bit done in a few hours. But more and more people are looking for a safer and less strenuous solution, and the market for powered firewood splitters is growing massively.

Safety is a big one in my book, learning how to use a log splitter is really important, so always read the manufacturers instructions. But you'll definitely be a lot safer with a powered splitter over the axe and maul.

What Is An Electric Wood Splitter?

Electric wood splitters are generally a hydraulic splitter that uses an electric motor to power a hydraulic pump. This pump operates a ram (a bit like a hydraulic car jack) and pushes the log against a V-shaped wedge.

The pressure exerted by the wedge forcing it's way into the end grain and fibers of the wood result in the log having no option but to split apart. Splitters act by forcing the fibers apart rather than cutting them, as a sharp axe would do.

Electric splitters are the mainstay of automated log splitters for the homeowner, due to their relatively low price and overall effectiveness for splitting small to moderate sized piece of timber.

The 'affordable log splitters' (affordability is obviously a subjective number) generally have a maximum force of between 4 - 10 tonnes, plenty for most green logs up to around 12 inches in diameter. The bigger the diameter and length of the log, and it's hardness, the higher tonnage is required.

Let's spend a moment understanding how the electric hydraulic splitter works, it will be useful when we outline the pros and cons.

How A Hydraulic Electric Log Splitter Works

The log splitter is one of the simplest forms of hydraulic devices, working like a large car jack turned on it's side. With a car jack, you use your hand or food to operate the handle which then forces hydraulic oil through a valve, operating a piston that lifts your car.

With an electric hydraulic splitter, an electric motor replaces human energy to power the system. It works like this:

  • The motor is connected to the hydraulic oil pump and provides the energy to the system.
  • The hydraulic pump creates a high pressure oil stream which runs up agains a CLOSED valve (a pressure relief valve prevents over pressurization of the system).
  • The valve is operates via a switch or handle by the operator which actuates the hydraulic cylinder (ram), which pushes the log along a rail to the splitting wedge.
  • The log is pressed against the wedge with huge amounts of force, ultimately causing it to split.
  • Once split, the ram automatically retracts. This process is called the 'cycle'. The 'cycle time' is the time it takes for the ram to leave and return to it's housing.

Phew, that's the technical-ish bit done. If you want to know more, go here.

It's time to dive into whether an electric wood splitter is the right choice for you.

Considerations Before Buying

Place Of Operation

Before buying a wood splitter, you really need to decide where you will be using it. If you just have a small urban home and you get your logs delivered unsplit, you are going to keep the splitter in the garage all the time, then an electric is the perfect option.

If you have a large property, and don't really have a decent inside spot to operate it when the weather is rough, or have no easy access to electricity, a gas model might be your best bet, although they are a fair bit more expensive.

Some people have both, an indoor (electric) and outdoor (gas) unit, one to do the large stuff and the smaller electric model for regular use to get the wood down to fireplace/stove size.

Power Requirements

An electric wood splitter is slightly less powerful that some of the gas powered counterparts. Cycle time is generally slower, but a 5 ton electric splitter will split the same as a 5 ton gas model.

It's like comparing a ton of bricks vs a ton of feathers. The end result is the same.

To make rational comparisons, a 3 HP electric motor is roughly equal to a 10 HP gas one.

If you are going to split hard woods like cherry, or wood that has been well seasoned, a small output electric model may struggle, but you'll be surprised at just how capable they are.

Check out this article called 'What size log splitter do I need' - it will definitely help you out.

Price Range

Price is almost always a factor for any purchase. We want the best value for money out of the products we buy. This purchase is no different...

A domestic electric model is probably going to set you back between $250 for a 5-6 tonne model, up to around $600 for a ten tonne one. Is it worth paying the extra for the larger capacity one?

It might be. If you have a lot of wood processing requirements, or don't know what sizes are going to be coming your way, the larger machines will give you more leeway for the future. Their cycle times are often a little faster too.

But if you are sure that you are only ever going to be splitting smaller logs, there really is no point in spending the extra $300+ for the extra force that you are never going to use.

Electric Wood Splitters - Pros And Cons

splitting a log with sledgehammer and wedge

Romantic...YES? Fun....NO!

There are pros and cons, advantages and limitations, good and bad to everything. I'l going to detail as many of the possible pluses and minuses for electric splitters, it's for you to decide which are applicable to your situation.

Everyone is different. Needs, location, budget. A positive for your could be a negative for someone else.

Pros And Advantages Of Electric Splitters

  • Affordable, and not much more expensive that a good splitting maul
  • Relatively effortless, other than lifting logs onto the splitting bed
  • No exhaust fumes, can be used in a garage or outbuilding
  • Plenty of power for normal domestic use
  • Extremely quiet operation
  • Much safer than using an axe/maul or sledgehammer and splitting wedge
  • More environmentally friendly than gas models
  • Very efficient, and for the average home, more than up to the job
  • Far less maintenance than gas-powered splitters
  • Smooth operation

Cons And Limitations Of Electric Splitters

  • Requires access to mains electricity or a portable generator
  • Relatively slow cycle time, usually around 30-45 seconds
  • Log size is limited, generally 12" diameter and 24" long max
  • Do not have the same power as petrol or gas powered log splitters
  • Limited capacity, majority only up to around 10 tonnes

How To Choose Your Log Splitter (video)

This video looks at a range of options, including electric-powered splitters. I think it's definitely worth a look before you buy.

Summing Up

I hope this quick guide has helped you in your decision-making process. It's always really important to get some knowledge before making a relatively expensive purchase.

I truly believe that the pros and cons of the electric wood splitter that I have outlined in this article demonstrate them to be a good option for the small-scale homesteader or the homeowner who wants to reduce firewood costs and split some of their own wood.

Happy splitting, and let me know what you decided!

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