Thursday, July 9, 2015

Cut the clatter with battery-powered lawn equipment


On one recent Saturday morning, my neighborhood sounded like a NASCAR racetrack. Noise from an armada of yard equipment greeted me at breakfast and didn’t stop until sunset. There were lawn mowers, hedge cutters, leaf blowers, string trimmers and even a nearby chainsaw, all contributing to a raucous gas-powered symphony.
But a few blocks away, it was a different story. My son-in-law was also doing yard work but you wouldn’t know it unless you saw him pushing his new battery-powered mower or using its companion string trimmer. The mower made about as much noise as an automatic dishwasher while it cut his grass as well as any of the power mowers doing their boisterous work down the street.
Just as electric-powered cars are earning a spot in American garages, so are the newest breeds of cordless outdoor power tools. A few years ago, no battery-powered mower had enough power or stamina to tackle an average suburban yard. But today’s cordless gear comes with beefier batteries that make them much more competitive with gas-powered equipment. You can even find a battery-powered riding mower that comes with cruise control.
Gas-powered lawn equipment has never been a friend to the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that gas mowers account for five percent of U.S. air pollution. And the Union of Concerned Scientists says one gas mower running for an hour puts out about the same amount of pollutants as eight new cars driving 55 mph for an hour. And that doesn’t include the additional pollution that results from spilled gasoline.
Traditional lawn equipment companies like Echo, Ryobi and Husqvarna have joined with tool companies like DeWalt and new brands like EGO in pursuing a growing market for battery-powered outdoor equipment. In general, their cordless equipment is more expensive than comparable gas-powered gear. For example, the EGO 20-inch mower sells for about $500, more than double the cost of a comparable-sized gas mower. The higher-quality electric string trimmers typically cost more than $200.
But cordless equipment have other advantages. For example, there’s no gas to buy, spill or smell up your clothes. If you stick with one manufacturer, you can build a family of tools – mower, trimmers, blower and chainsaw – that all share the same quick-charge battery.
The EGO Power+ mower runs on a single rechargeable battery comes with headlights for after dark mowing that won’t disturb the neighbors.
There’s also the benefit to the environment and to your physical well-being. When your mower is lighter and easier to use, you might put it to work more often. And when you do, your neighbors will appreciate the peace and quiet.


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Follow me on Twitter @ricmanning and read my technology columns at My Well Being.


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