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How to Pick A Lawn Mower

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), traditional gasoline lawn mower is a public nuisance to say the least. Using one of them for an hour generates as many volatile organic compounds—dangerous airborne pollutants known to exacerbate human respiratory and cardiovascular problems—as driving a typical car for 350 miles. The EPA estimates that, with some 54 million Americans mowing their lawns on a weekly basis, gas lawn mower emissions account for as much as five percent of the nation’s total air pollution. Beyond that, homeowners spill some 17 million gallons of gasoline every year just refueling their lawn mowers.

So what’s a green-minded property owner to do about keeping the grass down? Go electric, of course!

Electric mowers, which either plug into a wall outlet via a long cord or run on batteries charged up from the grid, create no exhaust emissions and run much cleaner than their gas-powered counterparts. They also need less maintenance, with no spark plugs or belts to worry about, and are easier to use, as they tend to be smaller and come with push-button starters. The icing on the cake might be the fact that electric mowers are cheaper to run, using about as much electricity as an ordinary toaster. Most electric mower owners spend about $5 a year on electricity to keep their grass trimmed just right. The non-profit Electric Power Research Institute reports that replacing half of the 1.3 million or so gas mowers in the U.S. with electric models would save the equivalent amount of emissions of taking two million cars off the road.

But going electric has some minor trade-offs. Electric mowers tend to cost up to $150 more than their gas-powered counterparts, and the plug-in varieties can only go 100 feet from the closest outlet without an extension cord. And the cordless models last only 30-60 minutes on a charge, depending on battery size and type, though that’s plenty sufficient for the average lawn (just remember to re-charge it in time for the next mow).

And, of course, just because electric mowers don’t consume fossil fuels or spew emissions directly doesn’t mean they are totally green-friendly. Most people derive their household electricity from coal-fired power plants, the dirtiest of all energy sources. Of course, running an electric mower on electricity generated from clean and renewable sources (solar, wind or hydro power) would be the greenest of all possibilities, and those days may be upon us soon.

In the market for a new lawn mower, but not sure which type is best? Let us help you navigate the debate on electric vs. gas lawn mowers.

With more lawn mower models on the market than ever before, and so many sizes, styles and features to consider, making the best choice isn’t as simple as it once was. And now, electric mowers are making a big splash in the lawn care industry.

Not long ago, mower motors required too much juice for a cord or batteries to be practical. Not anymore. Modern refinements and innovations allowed corded and battery-powered electric mowers, such as twin-battery mower, to burst onto the scene with gusto.

Gas-burning mowers ignite a mixture of air and fuel, compressing it in a cylinder, then igniting it with a spark to create a miniature explosion which is harnessed to power the machine. Electric mower motors, however, feature magnets interacting with electromagnets, energizing metal coils to move rotors and create power. Electric mowers can be powered by batteries or a 120-volt receptacle via extension cord.

Motor Power

Lawn mower manufacturers can be disingenuous about the real world power levels of their products. It’s not uncommon for electric mowers, for example, to have their “max torque” specs touted as evidence they match gas-burning models in power output. This is deceptive.

Max torque gives an inflated perspective of a mower’s true power because it measures engine torque under little or no load. The fact is, horsepower is the only reasonable unit of measure for lawn mowers, which I suspect is why electric mower manufacturers don’t share this figure. The real-world horsepower of most electric mowers is half, or less than half, the horsepower of a similarly sized gas-powered machine.

Run Time

It’s hard to measure exactly how much run time you’ll get from a tank of gas in your average fuel-burning mower, because much depends on the speed you run it and the density of the grass you’re cutting. It’s a safe bet, though, that a tank of gas will last longer than a fully charged battery on any equivalent electric model.

Most electric mower manufacturers give a maximum run time estimate, which for push and self-propelled mowers is almost always an hour or less. Riding electric mowers might run two hours, tops, on a single charge. Plug-in mowers don’t require batteries and will keep running continuously unless there’s a power outage. In that case, a generator with sufficient voltage capacity can keep you going.

The Environment and Noise

While power and run time certainly favor gas-powered mowers, noise and environmental considerations support electric. Battery-powered mowers have zero carbon emissions, so running one won’t contribute to climate change.

Noise is also a factor worth considering. Many municipalities regulate the acceptable amount of yard noise. Big, beefy gas-powered mowers can easily exceed these guidelines, but battery-powered mowers almost certainly won’t.

Note: Some users find vibration is more severe and bothersome with gas burning mowers than electric.

Operating and Maintenance Costs

Although it’s tempting to believe battery-powered mowers will always cost less than gas-burning mowers long-term, this isn’t necessarily the case. Although you’ll almost certainly spend less on electricity charging your batteries or running your corded mower then on gas and oil for your fuel-burning machine, there’s more to the equation.

Lithium ion batteries don’t last forever and eventually need replacement. They’re not cheap, either. If your electric mower comes with a generous warranty, you might be lucky enough to get a replacement battery (or batteries, if your mower takes two) for free when yours bites the dust. Otherwise, you could be looking at a $200 to $400 expense.

Ease of Use

Robotic lawn mower is usually simpler to use and maintain than their gas-powered counterparts. They don’t need gas, oil changes or new air filters, and you don’t have to make sure the carburetor and spark plugs are clean and functional.

Electric Lawn Mower Pros

  • Much quieter;

  • Lower maintenance (no fueling, oil changes, belt replacements, air filter changes, etc.);

  • Zero carbon emissions;

  • Lighter weight (matters for push mowers you need to lift and store).

Electric Lawn Mower Cons

  • Battery power only lasts a couple hours (and often less) before requiring charging;

  • Corded models can only be used near a power source, unless you have an extremely long extension cord;

  • Extension cords are troublesome to lay out and roll up again for storage;

  • Often have much less power than most equivalent gas-burning models;

  • Replacement batteries are often expensive.

Gas Lawn Mower Pros

  • Generally much more powerful than electric mowers;

  • Don’t require cords or batteries;

  • Often built tougher;

  • Replacement parts are often less expensive than those for electric mowers.

Gas Lawn Mower Cons

  • Considerably louder than electric mowers;

  • More costly to run (unless you need to replace a battery outside the warranty period);

  • Require more maintenance (oil changes, fuel preservative added during off-season, etc.);

  • Generate carbon emissions.

How To Choose the Right Mower

Battery-powered mowers work best for people with small lots who want to minimize maintenance, noise and carbon emissions. But if noise and exhaust don’t bother you, and you just want to mow and be done with it as quickly as possible, you’re probably better off using gasoline engine.

Whether you go with gas or electric, it’s important to choose the right model for your needs. If you’ve got an acre or less to mow, a self-propelled walk-behind mower is probably your best bet. If you’ve got a larger lawn or simply don’t like walking and mowing at the same time, a riding mower will make your life much easier.

More detailed considerations like engine power, blade speed, deck width, regular range and other features come down to personal preference and available budget.

Cordless Lawn Mowers have taken over the lawn and garden section in many retail stores. Six years ago, Tool Box Buzz ran a Best Cordless Lawn Mower Head-to-Head test of five cordless mowers, so we were really interested in how the field of manufacturers has increased and how the offerings have changed after six years.

Our 2020 cordless lawn mower head-to-head will answer the question of whether cordless mowers’ performance “cut it” when compared to a gas-powered mower.

Why Cordless Lawn Mowers?

Even when operated correctly, gas-powered mowers require lots of service including oil changes, fuel filters, spark plugs, and air filters. Oftentimes people wait to do service until the mower won’t start! Anyone who has had to get a small engine repaired knows the hassle and time-sink that can be. Cordless mowers eliminate all of the above-mentioned maintenance, last-minute fuel purchases and they’re quieter to operate and do not emit fumes.

Landscaping on wheels. Thats what lawn and garden tractors provide. If you're serious about having a professional looking lawn, then you need to move beyond a simple mower. At this level, mowing becomes just one task out of many that you need to perform.

Enter the lawn tractor, a heavy-duty machine that lets you handle whatever curveballs your lawn throws your way, from dethatching, to aerating, to snow plowing. Keep reading to learn about the different types of lawn tractors and how to pick one.

How to Choose a Lawn Tractor

When deciding what kind of lawn tractor is best for your yard, you should consider what you'll be using it for. If you just need it for some light mowing on a small yard, then a standard lawn tractor will work fine. However, if you want to use heavier attachments for aerating, dethatching, or even tilling, then you'll need a heavy-duty garden tractor.

Two important factors to consider when shopping for the perfect lawn tractor are the grade and the deck size of the tractor.

1. Select a Grade

Lawn tractors can be grouped into the following grades:

Standard Lawn Tractors

Standard lawn tractors provide great power and versatility. They have twin cylinder engines for low-end torque and are a must if you intend to mow large areas or use any attachments on a regular basis.

Some tasks that lawn tractors can perform with the proper attachements include aerating, dethatching, spraying, spreading, and even snow plowing during winter.

Lawn tractors are designed with hydrostatic transmissions, which offer simple speed adjustments while driving. There are two hydrostatic transmission options: lever or pedal-operated. The pedal-operated option provides the most comfort and flexibility in speed.

Garden Tractors

Garden tractor is lawn tractors on steroids, capable of everything lawn tractors can do plus tilling, furrowing, towing heavier cart loads, and more. Their rugged decks, anti-scalp wheels, and powerful engines enable them to slash through tough brush.

They also include forged or cast iron axles, which are stronger and a good indicator of overall quality level. Finally, their larger back tires provide extra ground clearance and enhanced stability on slopes and inclines. However, if you're dealing with slopes greater than 15%, you should consider a tractor with a traction control system or locking rear differential.

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