Electric Lawn Care Options
Taking care of our properties and landscaping traditionally involves the use of a variety of gasoline powered equipment, including mowers, leaf blowers, trimmers and more. Some property owners have embraced changes to landscaping or reduced the frequency of mowing to reduce impacts, but most homeowners and property management companies continue relying on noisy, smelly and maintenance intensive gasoline-powered lawn care equipment.
Greener options include manual human-powered push mowers or corded eleric models that may be worth considering for smaller lawns. Beyond that, battery powered electric mowers and other battery operated lawn care equipment are gaining in popularity as options proliferate with technology improvements and cost reductions – much like what we’ve seen with plug-in electric vehicles over the past ten years.
Today there are many manufacturers offering electric lawn care equipment with varying capabilities and price points. These devices start at the touch of a button (no more cord jiu-jitsu required) and many offer swappable battery packs that can be used across a variety of tools from the same manufacturer. Charging is as easy as plugging into a wall outlet - no more hassles going to the gas station to fill up a portable canister and then keeping dangerous gasoline fuel stored in a garage. They are much quieter than comparable gasoline models so you and your neighbors won’t have nearly the same levels of noise pollution compared to fossil-fuel powered equipment.
The narrower mowing decks and shorter run-times of battery push mowers make them most practical for smaller yards. If you have a larger area to mow there are options for more powerful walk-behind and riding mowers.
Battery Powered Push Mowers
- Lower cost - great for smaller lawns.
- Higher voltage models (36+ volt batteries) recommended for larger lawns or longer grass.
- Easier storage compared to gasoline models.
- Self-propelled options are available – generally at higher cost.
- Battery packs can sometimes be swapped out for use in other tools.
- Expect to spend around $300 for basic models with decent ratings.
- Widely available at home centers and online.
- Common brands include: EGO, Greenworks, Kobalt, Ryobi, Snapper, Stihl, Toro.
Riding or Commercial Battery Mowers
- Variety of options available with different run times per charge.
- Models with 1-3 hours of runtime suitable for mowing 2-5 acres on a single charge cost $2,500 - $12,000, depending on the deck size, battery type, durability, etc.
- Commercial models with 7+ hours of runtime available at higher cost.
- Common brands: Cub Cadet, Greenworks, Mean Green Mowers, Ryobi.
Out of the companies offering commercial electric mowers, Mean Green Mowers is an industry leader in developing a variety of models intended for professional grounds crews and landscaping businesses. Their distributor for Vermont, Eco-Equipment Supply, has demonstration models available for businesses interested in learning more about the benefits of these and other electric lawncare options.
Other electric lawncare equipment options are also widely available, including chainsaws, leaf blowers, trimmers and more. Companies like Stihl have a variety of products available ranging from basic homeowner units to professional equipment with larger, interchangeable batteries suitable for all-day use.
Benefits of Going Electric
Electric equipment usually costs more up front compared to gasoline powered options, but offers significant cost savings on repair and maintenance expenses. For example, the engines and drive systems of conventional mowers have hundreds of moving parts that require regular servicing with inevitable repairs that typically cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars over the life of a conventional mower. On the other hand, electric mowers are relatively simple machines consisting of the electric motors for the wheels and the mower blades, the batteries, cooling fans (on some models), and the wiring/controls - all requiring minimal servicing with very few moving parts to wear out or malfunction. Newer lithium ion battery chemistries and drive motors should remain in service for 10 to 20 years, and are relatively easy to replace if they do fail prematurely.
Another significant benefit of electric lawn mowers is the associated reduction in air pollution emissions. Because conventional gas and diesel lawn mowers have minimal emission controls, they are widely recognized as a major source of air pollution. According to one EPA study, for every 1 hp rating, a typical lawn mower emits the equivalent air pollution of 3.7 automobiles driving at 55 mph. For every 24 hp mower replaced with a comparable electric, the equivalent emissions of 88 cars driving at 55 mph would be avoided per hour of mowing.
Finally, since electric equipment typically produces about one-third the sound of gas counterparts, they are being enthusiastically endorsed by advocacy groups such as Quiet Communities and the American Green Zone Alliance that both advocate for reducing human-caused noise levels and the transition to more environmentally responsible lawn care practices.
Vermont Incentives Available
While most electric lawncare equipment can effectively pay for itself through reduced fuel and maintenance costs (not to mention greater convenience), many Vermonters can get a boost in making a switch to electric lawncare options through incentives available from their electric utility.
As of June 2020 here are incentives available for electric mowers:
- Burlington Electric Department - $100, up to $3,500 for commercial equipment
- Green Mountain Power - $75, up to $2,500 for commercial equipment
- Washington Electric Co-op - $100, up to $1,000 for commercial equipment
- Vermont Electric Co-op - $50, up to $1,000 for commercial equipment
- Vermont Public Power Supply Authority - $100, up to $1,000 for commercial equipment
VSECU, a credit union for everyone in Vermont, also offers low-cost financing for a variety of energy saving projects, including residential electric mowers, through their VGreen Loan program. VSECU is also offering business loans for electric mowers at a 3.75% fixed rate for a 5 year term.