No More Gas for the Grass

Black & Decker SPCM1936Americans love their lawns.  Though manicured grasses originated in England, we continue to adorn our homes with expansive lawns that require a lot of maintenance, including water and mowing.  At our suburban home, we’ve been slowly reducing the size of our own lawn each year, yet it still requires an hour of mowing and trimming every week or two during the summer.  In addition to the nonstop noise pollution of our gas-powered mower, each hour of mowing is equivalent to the emissions from four hours of driving a car.  So I started looking at electric alternatives several years ago.

Like most people, my first impression of an electric mower is the traditional corded variety, which requires a long extension cord and a lot of caution and patience.  As I admired a nearly antique Black & Decker in my 90 year-old neighbor’s shed, she offered it to me as a gift for helping her with some things around her home.  All it needed was a sharpened blade and it was ready for service, even after no maintenance for years.

Unfortunately this mower had two strikes against it right off the bat.  I had doubts that I’d have the patience to deal with a 75’ power cord that would be necessary for my lawn.  However, when I was unable to find an affordable mulching kit for the mower, I decided that it would never be anything more than a temporary solution.  Our nearly 17 year-old Craftsman mower was getting cranky, and the annual maintenance was about a quarter of the cost of a new mower.  After a number of repairs over the years, the pull-cord retractor broke a second time (after only three years!) and left me stranded just shy of finishing the lawn.  Thankfully the old corded Black & Decker saved the day.

I researched a variety of rechargeable mowers, reading countless customer reviews in addition to the industry evaluations.  My wife is willing to help out with the lawn, but cannot get our persnickety old Craftsman started without a fight.  A self-propelled mower would make the work bearable, as even the modest slopes on our lawn make it tough to push out from a turnaround.  So that limited our choices somewhat.

Our corner lot is a little over a quarter acre, though about 2/3 of that is covered by the house, driveway, deck, and mulched flowerbeds. I wanted to mow the entire lawn on a single charge, using a mower with a standard 19-20” mowing swath and enough power to cut through our thick zoysia lawn even after 2-3 weeks of growth.  A co-worker gave his Worx electric mower high marks, but the satisfaction ratings were relatively low, particularly with their customer service. GreenWorks mowers were well positioned in web search results, but they too had enough negative evaluations and comments in the customer reviews to make me weary.  While no mowers were without complaints, the Black & Decker seemed to have the best reviews, including a #1 rating in Top Ten Reviews.

I purchased the B&D from a local retailer/service center at a discount, plus they offered an additional 20% off to trade in my old Craftsman, all for a price comparable to that of a new gasoline-powered mower. With a high-impact polymer deck, this mower is light enough to pick up on your own when you remove the 36-volt battery.  You can charge it directly in the mower or take it out and charge it in the garage.  The mower starts effortlessly, and is much quieter.  It also requires much less maintenance.  Of course, the battery will have to be replaced at some point, and will probably cost about the same as the combined amount spent on maintenance of a gas-powered mower.

Given the fact that the economics are comparable or slightly in favor of electric mowers, it’s a smart investment.  However, the environmental benefits and conveniences make it a near-no-brainer – if your lawn is not the size of a palatial English Estate!

This was published in the Going Green section of the April 2015 issue of Spirit Seeker magazine. 

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