Embracing electric lawn care

By Allen Penticoff 
Columnist 

I had written on this topic several years ago, but new products on the market warrant an updated report.

I like electric lawn tools. Small gasoline engines always seem to be problematic. But, to be honest, some of the battery powered things I’ve bought have not done or lasted well. However, newer products are great improvements on things of the past – owing mostly to the readily available powerful lithium-ion battery packs.

Since I fell in love with my GreenWorks 16-inch 40-volt cordless electric chainsaw, my good old Stihl chainsaw has only been used infrequently since. Just recently, I purchased a GreenWorks 40-volt string trimmer that uses the same 40-volt battery as the chainsaw, so if one runs out I can just swap the battery over. Their line includes 24-volt, 40-volt, 60-volt and the “pro” 80-volt tools. These are not your grandfather’s wimpy cordless tools.

Actually, the chainsaw has a battery that has twice the amp hours (4 vs. 2) as the battery in the trimmer, but that is still a lot of power. With the electric saw, I’ve cut down and cut up a 16-inch diameter ash tree without recharging. It recharges quite quickly as well. The trimmer battery will now let me keep using the chainsaw while its battery is recharging.

My favorite advantage of the electric chainsaw is that you just turn it on. Zip-cut a branch. Turn it off. Little noise. No stinking exhaust. No dying just before you need to use it again. It is the same for the string trimmer. Add to that no need to mix gas and oil, no trip to the gas station. Just use and recharge. The chainsaw does need bar oil like any other chainsaw, but overall it is so much nicer to use. The Stihl gas saw is the better saw, but it is much less pleasant to use for most purposes. The electric saw with the battery installed weighs about the same as the gas Stihl.

If you like Stihl quality, they too make a line of battery-powered products that have all the same advantages – electric blowers, string trimmers, hedge trimmers, chainsaws, lawnmowers and more. Other makers are following suit (Nicholson Hardware is a good place to check some out.), but at present GreenWorks seems to be leading with the most comprehensive lineup that includes all the above plus battery-powered walk-behind lawnmowers, tillers, power washers, compressors, snow throwers and even a powered wheelbarrow among other things. All have these interchangeable batteries (within the maker’s line-up). Most of the cordless tools are now available without a battery if you wish to use one battery for all your various tools and save some money on the tool purchase.

Small engines are notorious polluters. Often when we use them we directly inhale the toxic exhaust. Most are quite noisy as well, and now that everyone seems to have forgotten how to operate a rake the noise of leaf blowers seems omnipresent. My little battery powered leaf blower is great for clearing decks and sidewalks making very little noise and is lightweight. It does a fine job of clearing out garages too. However, it does not have one of these powerful new batteries – so it is not quite up to blowing the whole lawn. I like to rake anyway – I think it is faster and easier than blowing leaves, burns some calories and makes a gentle pleasant sound while you do it.

Recently I passed by a woman mowing her lawn with what appeared to be one of the GreenWorks mowers. I could not hear it running… but her grass was getting shorter. Women much appreciate electric tools like this for the simple turn it on and go operation. No guessing about the choke and the throttle. No pulling cords. No spilling smelly fluids on your shoes. No changing oil. You can haul them in your car without worrying about spillage either.

There are electric riding mowers available too if that’s what you need to get the job done. Wouldn’t your neighborhood be a more pleasant place to live if everyone was using quiet power?

The price on battery powered products has come down to where they are quite competitive with their gas-powered counterparts. While battery life might be a long-term cost factor. To be fair, we seldom add up the cost of the gas we run through our power tools. In the end replacing the battery makes most electric tools like new again. Putting more gas in an old engine powered tool does not improve it. In the end, I chose the many advantages of electric power over gasoline power and don’t worry much about the cost now or down the road. R.

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