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Think Green with Cordless Lawn Tools

Outdoor power equipment August 13, 2008 Matt Weber

Originally published April 2008.

In the era of global warming, many consumers are focusing on new ways to accomplish yard work while lowering its impact on the environment. According to the U.S. Environmental Protecton Agency, a gas-powered lawnmower pollutes as much in one hour as driving an automobile for more than 20 miles. With more than 30 million lawnmowers in the United States, that can accumulate into a great amount of pollution. As a matter of fact, gasoline-powered landscape equipment (mowers, trimmers, blowers, chainsaws) account for more than 5 percent of our urban air pollution.

However, battery-powered equipment generates none of the carbon dioxide or other emissions associated with gas. Plus, aside from the environmental benefits, electric equipment of all types has a lot to offer. You’ll be troubled with much less maintenance from electric units, and you can say goodbye to those stubborn pull-start cords that never seem to cooperate. Plus, electric equipment is quiet; the mowers are usually 75-percent quieter than gas units. And thanks to some major strides in engineering and battery technology, a few of the latest tools to hit the stores are boasting enough power to rival their gas-driven counterparts. In fact, one Colorado-based lawn care service is applying the environmentally friendly “green” initiative to its business model. Clean Air Lawn Care, Inc., provides lawn services that are entirely carbon neutral. Clean Air Lawn Care actually uses biodiesel in all its riding mowers, but the rest of its lawn equipment is electric and manufactured by Black and Decker. “We use their lawnmowers, string trimmers, hedge trimmers and edgers for their strong environmental performance,” says company founder, Kelly Giard, of the Black and Decker equipment. “There are no pull cords. No trips to the gas station. No gas or oil to mix. No gas to store or spill. No fumes. No tune-ups or maintenance. And more importantly—no emissions in your yard.”

(photo courtesy Black & Decker)

Mowing with Battery Power Of course, protecting the environment is great, but we all want performance from our tools as well. There’s no argument that a gas-powered lawnmower can outperform batteried unit, but are the units even comparable? Because nobody wants a gross sacrifice in performance. The truth is that battery-powered lawnmowers are only appropriate for yards less than 1/3 acre. It takes a lot of power to run a mower, and the batteries simply don’t have the stamina for larger yards. Also, the cutting swaths of most of these units are narrow, which reduces the rate of cutting production when compared to the larger gas units. You can also expect to mow more frequently, as most eletcric mowers struggle with very tall grass, so the lawn must be kept to a manageable height. Battery-powered lawn mowers are available from a variety of manufacturers. Black and Decker currently offers a 24-volt cordless mulching mower. DR Power Equipment will soon introduce two new 36-volt models, with a 14- and 19-inch cutting swath, respectively. DR’s new Neuton mowers can be charged on less than 10 cents worth of electricity, and a single charge can cut one third of an acre.

According to the manufacturer, DR’s new Neuton Mowers can be charged on less than 10 cents worth of electricity. For this article, the EHT staff tested the new Craftsman 37048 Cordless Mower, a 48-volt model that can cut small yards on a single charge with a run time of about 45 minutes. The mower has a 19-inch deck with three-in-one functionality, meaning it can bag, discharge or mulch the grass clippings. The large 7-inch front and 8-inch rear wheels make the mower easy to maneuver over the lawn, and you can easily adjust the cutting height with a single lever. The mower has a fold-down handle for easy storage, and an accessory grass-collection bag is included in the box.

Craftsman’s new 48V mower is available at Sears.

The mower’s 48-volt battery generates plenty of power for the blades to slice through the grass of the soccer field that served as our testing grounds. It may not have quite enough muscle for bush-hogging, but lawns appear to be no problem, and the new Craftsman performed very well in power and maneuverability. When shopping for your next mower, consider one more advantage of electrical units—they’re very economical to use. Electric mowers cost less to purchase than high-end gas mowers, and they cost only pennies to use each time. The typical electric mower uses about $3 in electricity each year.