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My grandson mowing my lawn in Lindon, Utah. April 25, 2018. Photo by Fritz Hasler

Consumer Technology

Is It Time To Ditch Your Old Gas Lawnmower? (& All Your Other Gas Tools)

Many of us live in semi-urban, suburban, or rural areas in the east where a grass lawn is common. I never needed to water my lawn when I worked for NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and lived near Annapolis, Maryland. We moved there because I could practice my trick water ski competition sport on the nearby South River, a tributary to the Chesapeake Bay. When I retired we moved to the western desert in Lindon, Utah, only a few miles north of Provo, near our son, daughters, and 10 grandchildren. The house we chose still has a lawn that is watered with “grey water” using an underground sprinkler system.

We spend our summers on Laurel Lake in Three Lakes in northern Wisconsin, where our yard is mostly pine cones, dead leaves, and needles, and we don’t maintain a lawn at all. More recently we spend part of our winters in our daughter’s home in the “ultra-desert” in St George in southwest Utah. Her yard is mostly desert landscaping with cactus and gravel, and only postage-sized grass areas which are maintained by the property association. With the US southwest in a 1000+ year drought, it is clear that the lawns in the west that have been put in to remind owners of their previous homes in wetter climates need to be replaced with desert landscaping.

I am on my fourth electric car and have been driving electric for almost 8 years now. We have solar panels on the roof of our house in Utah now for 5 years now. My main hobby now is biking. I ride about 20 miles per day on city and off-road trails on a big full suspension electric mountain bike. It makes the old man feel like he is 20. So, I am doing at least some things to move towards a greener world.

My Son Still Mows My Lawn With A Gas Mower

At age 82, I’ve just stopped mowing my own lawn with a gas-powered lawn mower. A few years ago, when my Briggs & Stratton-powered lawn mower died, I tried to convince my son that I should buy a battery-electric mower. Since he promised to do all the mowing, I relented and bought the new gas-powered model that he preferred (see top image). See below to see what I would do if I was shopping for a new mower now.

How About You? Are You Ready to Ditch Your Old Gas Lawnmower?

I recently checked some stores to see what battery-electric lawnmowers are available these days.

  • First stop, Home Depot: Home Depot had a whole line-up of 6 RYOBI battery-electric lawn mowers. 4 were 40V 21” self-propelled, ranging from $749 to $399 (See Fig. 2) and two were push (yourself) (See Fig. 3). They also carry a couple of other brands. The main difference was the size and number of the batteries. The most expensive comes with two 6 Ah batteries and 70 minutes of runtime. The least expensive comes with two 4 Ah batteries. For comparison, my big mountain e-bike has a 17.5 Ah battery. I think the 70-minute runtime for the most expensive comes from using both batteries. Bottom line: you can mow any size lawn, but you may need buy more batteries or take a break of at least a couple hours or overnight before you finish the job.
  • The push mowers (Fig. 3) ranged from $349 to $299. The least expensive is an 18V 16” model that comes with no batteries but uses the same 6 Ah batteries as RIOBI’s other power tools
  • Second stop, Walmart: It’s August now and Walmart only stocks seasonal products before and during each season. Walmart was out of electric lawnmowers and only had a few gas mowers left in boxes.
  • Third stop, Menards: Menards is a massive home products store like Home Depot and Lowes, but is mainly in the Midwest. Menards had a few electric lawnmowers, but they were all in boxes.

Figure 2: Four RIOBI self-propelled 21” battery-electric mowers from $749 to $399. Home Depot, Rhinelander Wisconsin. Photo by Fritz Hasler

Figure 3: RIOBI 16” $349 and 13” $299 battery-electric push mowers. Home Depot, Rhinelander, Wisconsin. Photo by Fritz Hasler

Figure 4: EGO cordless electric lawnmower (Lowes website)

Let’s look at a battery-electric lawnmower in action in Fig.4. The battery-powered electric lawnmower in Fig. 4 is self-propelled and costs $569. But there are models that cost as little as $149 for a 14” push mower. Since electric motors have great torque, this mower should make quick work of that tall grass like that shown above, which tends to stall a gas mower.  With extra batteries that can be easily changed out, an electric lawnmower can handle any size lawn.

Like electric cars, your battery-electric lawnmower is going to cost more up front, but it will last a lifetime, you will save something on fuel, and won’t have to mess with going to the gas station and spilling the stinky gas that doesn’t make it into your mower.

Artificial Intelligence Robot Auto Lawnmowers

Everyone has heard about robot vacuum cleaners that will roam about your house cleaning the floor and carpet without intervention. It turns out that there are also robot lawnmowers that operate on the same principles.

Figure 5: Husqvarna robot lawnmower. Three Lakes Hardware, Three Lakes, Wisconsin. Photo by Fritz Hasler

On most days, you can see a robot lawnmower like this one (See Fig. 5) busy at work on a large level grass field across from Three Lakes Hardware in Northern Wisconsin. You can buy one for your lawn for only $2499 at the hardware store. It uses a random search pattern to cut the lawn, and when it is low on charge it automatically finds the charging station and gets a refill (See Fig 6). There is a buried wire around the perimeter of the field to keep it within bounds, but otherwise it keeps the lawn mowed perfectly without any supervision. You can see another Husqvarna robot mower in action in Fig. 7.

Figure 6: Charging station for Husqvarna robot lawnmower. Three Lakes, Wisconsin. Photo by Fritz Hasler

You probably won’t be surprised to know that the little hardware store and the adjacent field being mowed by the robot mower are owned by the owner of the Three Lakes Winery across the street. In the Winery parking lot are three Tesla 48A destination chargers and one generic 1772 L2 charger. You can charge your electric car there for free. It’s the only electric car charging station in Northern Wisconsin, but a new Tesla Supercharger is under construction in nearby Minocqua. The owner also owns a Model S Ludicrous Performance vehicle that he purchased in 2015.

Figure 7: Husqvarna Automower in action. (Husqvarna website)

All Your Home & Garden Tools Should Now be Battery-Electric

Not just your lawnmower, but also your leaf blowers, trimmers, edgers, chain saws, etc., can be battery-electric now, and you can throw away your ear protectors.

All your portable home shop tools like drivers, jig saws, circular saws, Sawzall reciprocating saws, planers, nail guns, etc., can be battery-electric now. No professional home builder would be on the job nowadays without battery-electric power for any of his or her portable tools. If you buy the same brand, you can use the same batteries for all of these, including your lawnmower and chainsaw. You can keep one set of batteries charged and ready to go for any job you have on your schedule.

Beautiful Desert Landscaping

Who says you need grass to do beautiful landscaping in the desert?

Figure 8: Cactus buds and blooms, bikers, and Snow Canyon Parkway Bike Trail in Saint George, Utah. April, 26, 2021. Photos by Fritz Hasler

 

 
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Arthur Frederick (Fritz) Hasler, PhD, former leader of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization & Analysis Laboratory (creator of this iconic image), and avid CleanTechnica reader. Also: Research Meteorologist (Emeritus) at NASA GSFC, Adjunct Professor at Viterbo University On-Line Studies, PSIA L2 Certified Alpine Ski Instructor at Brighton Utah Ski School.

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