Tom Lohr is an avid home DIY enthusiast. He prefers to spend the money he saves on new tools and gardening supplies.
Gas or Juice?
The only good thing about cutting the grass is that it means summer is here. Despite the immense satisfaction of having a neatly trimmed, green yard around your home, it is one of the most frequent and monotonous duties of owning/renting a house. Having no yard to tend to is one of the main reasons many people choose to live in apartments.
It is a springtime ritual to drag the lawn mower out of the shed or garage and get it ready for a summer of sweaty work. Getting your mower ready for grass cutting season could take you the better part of an afternoon. Internal combustion engines require maintenance.
But there is a way to forego all of that time-consuming maintenance, as well as making your home safer and helping keep the planet's air clean. It might be time for you to consider purchasing a battery-powered lawn mower.
It's the 21st Century
When I first saw an electric lawn mower in the 1980s, it was some poor sap cutting his front lawn with a long extension cord plugged into his electric mower. While it did the job for small yards, it was easily bogged down in taller grass, and you had to keep from tripping on or running over the extension cord. I knew right away it wasn't for me. I would end up being that guy that was electrocuted after chopping up the power cord from mowing over it. For me, it would be the loud, gas guzzling mowers that dominated the last half of the last century.
After decades of damn near pulling my arm out of socket with the temperamental pull start cords, I witnessed someone using a battery-powered mower. This guy was mowing his lawn, and I could barely here the machine; and it did a great job. Two weeks later, I was walking behind the latest Ryobi brand lawn mower, manicuring my yard. I was sold. No more gas-powered mowers for me.
Are You Ready to Make the Leap to Battery Power?
As with all decisions, there are pros and cons to making it. The same is true on wether or not to purchase a battery-powered mower. I will give you the rundown of both the positives and negatives of owning one after three summers of using my Ryobi machine. I chose Ryobi simply because they are the leader in battery-powered machinery/tools. Plus, it is carried by Home Depot. Ryobi has some sort of exclusive deal with Home Depot, so don't look for a Ryobi mower at Lowe's. They have their own brand called Kobalt. I really cannot say if one brand is better than the other, but any decently built battery-powered mower experience should be the same as mine.
The biggest advantage of using battery power is that you ditch the internal combustion engine. That engine can cause all sorts of issues and duties for you to perform. The main ones being:
- You have to buy, haul and store gasoline. Gas is extremely flammable and dangerous to handle. Think of it as a bomb just waiting for someone to light its fuse.
- You have to change the oil. Just like any internal combustion motor, it need oil to keep all of the moving metal parts lubricated. It doesn't hold much, and a quart will usually get you through two summers. But you still have to drain the old oil and put in new, and then you have to properly dispose of the old oil. Not to mention that it will often run out if you need to place the mower on its side or upside down for service underneath the unit.
- It has a spark plug. Fortunately, it only has one. Still, it takes a special plug that you have to get at a hardware store, and many times they are a booger to get out.
- It has a muffler. Just like your car's engine, without a muffler its engine is extremely loud. Mow without a muffler and you won't be able to hear for a week. Then the mufflers go bad, it is usually because they rusted apart. Changing a muffler should be simple: you unscrew the old one and screw a new one back in. The only problem is, if it rusted enough to fall apart, it will fall apart even more when you attempt to remove it. It can be a major pain.
- It is loud. Even when the muffler is brand new, a lawn mower is loud. There is a reason hearing protection is recommended when using one. Not only is it loud for you, it is loud for your neighbors. Everyone loves the guy who decides to mow his lawn with they are trying to have a family barbecue.
- They get hot. The engine on these contraptions gets really hot and you have to wait until it cools down to fill it up with gas. And you can also burn the bejesus out of your fingers if you touch it. Don't ask me how I know this.
- It pollutes the atmosphere. Just like a gasoline-powered car, a mower with an internal combustion engine pumps out polluting gases. Dangerous gases as well. More than one person had committed suicide by running their lawn mower in a closed garage.
As you can see, all of the issues with a gas-powered mower stems from its internal combustion engine. Here is the routine maintenance for a battery-powered mower:
- Keep the battery charged.
- Clean it up before putting it away for the winter.
That's it. Additionally, since there are no flammable liquids in the battery-powered version, you can safely store it indoors. They also tend to be lighter than gas-powered mowers.
If you wait until a store's promotional period, you can often get a leaf blower included for the same cost or very little extra.
They fold down for easy storage. In winter, I hang mine on the wall in my basement. Because it folds, it also fits easily into my cheap plastic storage bin.
If you wait long enough, there is always a free gas-powered lawn mower popping up on Craigslist. It's hard to beat free. But if you look at self-propelled, walk behind mowers at Home Depot, the battery-powered and gas-powered versions are nearly the same: between $250–$350. If money is extremely tight, a free mower beats a new one every time.
Your battery might not last long enough to mow your entire yard. I have a medium sized yard and my Ryobi mower can trim my entire lawn on one battery charge. But barely, and I have to bump up the adjustable speed on the flat parts to ensure my batter does not die. A drained battery is a pain as it takes three hours or more to recharge it. An option to ensure you have enough batter power is to buy an extra battery, but those batteries are expensive. Most Ryobi models have an extra battery storage slot next to the battery being used so you can carry an extra with you.
So, Is It for You?
My only regret getting a battery-powered lawn mower is that I didn't do it sooner. Regardless of brands, I highly recommend switching from gas to battery. It makes an unpleasant chore a little less unpleasant and won't cause you to go deaf.
Think of all the time you will save when you don't have to run to the gas station to fill up your gas container, or stop, let the mower cool down and fill it up with gas before continuing. You could be doing more important and enjoyable things with your weekend . . . like washing the car.
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on September 20, 2021:
Nice information. Useful.
Liz Westwood from UK on September 20, 2021:
As the owner of an electric lawn mower complete with long cord, I am very tempted by a rechargeable mower next time.