What's the Best Wood Chipper Hopper?
Types of Wood Chipper and Chipper Shredder Hoppers
Before you use a powerful piece of equipment like a wood chipper, it’s important to understand how it works. That means that it’s important to understand how its parts work.
The hopper or feed chute is the part that you load with all the material you want to chip.
Believe it or not, not every hopper works the same way and the way that the hopper feed functions on your chipper can affect the way you use your machine.
Let’s take a look at the types of feed chutes you’ll find available on different kinds of chippers and what they mean for wood chipper operation.
Horizontal Chipper Hoppers
The main hopper on your chipper or chipper shredder might not be completely horizontal. There’s a good chance that it’ll stick out from the machine at an angle that’s slightly diagonal.
Still, this hopper is the chute where you insert the branches that you’re going to chip. You’ll see horizontal hoppers on machines of almost every size at almost every level of power.
Truly horizontal feed chutes are likely to be found on professional-grade chippers, such as PTO chippers, where they’ll support the weight of large branches. Angled chutes are more common on consumer-grade chippers, where they allow users to hold branches at a more comfortable angle.
No matter the exact angle that the hopper attaches to the chipper, horizontal hoppers work in three different ways:
- Manual chipper feed
- Self-feeding hopper
- Self-feeding hopper with an automatic control system (such as Intellifeed)
Manual Feed Hoppers
The most basic kind of wood chipper feed system you'll see is a manual feed. Just as the name suggests, this kind of hopper requires you to actively feed branches into the chipper.
You will get some assistance from the wood chipper’s blades. As the rotor turns, the blades pull branches into the machine. The force isn’t enough to pull in branches by itself, though. If you own a chipper with this type of machine, you will need to push branches into the chipper yourself.
Manual hopper feeds are usually available on the smaller, less expensive chippers designed for homeowners.
As wood chippers get larger and stronger, they tend to get upgraded features that make using them easier. A self-feeding hopper is one such feature.
True to the name, these types of feed chutes actively pull branches into the machine toward the chipping blades. They’re able to do that with the help of two rollers built into the chipper that, when they turn, essentially function the way a conveyor belt would.
With this kind of chipper infeed, you don’t have to tamp material down into the hopper with a stick. However, you do need to keep an active eye on the chipper while it’s operating to make sure that no branches get stuck.
Self-Feeding Hoppers with Control Systems
As if a self-feeding hopper wasn’t helpful enough, some chippers with self-feeding chutes also come with built-in systems that automatically adjust the rate at which the machine takes in material.
An example of this kind of control system is the Intellifeed system, found on Wallenstein chippers. Intellifeed uses a module that bases the speed of the hopper feed on the speed of the rotor that houses the chipper blades. If material is bogging the chute and slowing the rotor, the control module adjusts the speed.
Intellifeed is a feature specific to the Wallenstein brand, but other manufacturers might offer a comparable feature under a different name.
Automatic control modules are particularly helpful on commercial-grade chippers. With one of these at work inside your chipper, you have the freedom of placing branches into the chute and walking away to get more wood, knowing that the machine will adjust itself if materials slow it down. This adds efficiency to any commercial wood-chipping operation.
Gravity-Fed Shredder Hoppers
If horizontal hoppers are where you insert wood to be chipped, then gravity-fed hoppers (also called drop-in hoppers) are where you insert leaves to be shredded.
These vertically oriented hoppers work the way that either name suggests. You drop your material into the chipper hopper, and gravity pulls it down toward the blades to be shredded.
Because they depend on gravity, drop-in hoppers work best with lightweight materials:
- Small twigs
As a result, you usually find them on electric chippers, chipper shredders or other equipment listed as having shredding capabilities. Often chipper shredders will have two hoppers: a horizontal chute for branches, and a vertical drop-in chute for leaves.
The Right Chipper, the Right Hopper
When you invest in a large piece of equipment like a chipper, you want to be sure that you’re getting exactly what you need for the work you plan to do. Are you a professional trying to chip as many big branches as possible on the clock? Or are you a homeowner trying to keep the lawn leaf-free?
Whatever the task, knowing how the feed chute on your wood chipper works can help you be sure that it’s the right equipment for the job.