Electric Lawn Equipment: Take Charge of Your Yard

Whether your lawn care project calls for a chipper, mower or chainsaw, electric lawn equipment is quieter, less expensive to run, easier to maintain and less polluting than its gas-powered counterparts.

| February/March 2015

As anyone who has ever used gas-powered equipment knows, gas engines sometimes refuse to start just when you need them most. Maybe your mower needs a new spark plug or fuel filter. Or, maybe the carburetor needs cleaning. Electric equipment promises easier maintenance — but that’s not the only reason to choose electric models over gas-powered options.

With electric equipment, not only do you get reliable starting, avoid hauling gasoline and oil around, and skip breathing exhaust fumes, but you also consume less energy and save money. Electric motors are more efficient than internal-combustion engines, in part because electric motors waste less energy in the form of heat than gas engines do.

All the battery-powered mowers listed here will cost you just a fraction of what gas-powered equivalents would cost to operate. Stihl, a U.S. power-equipment manufacturer, estimates that the cost to operate its line of tools powered by lithium-ion batteries is only about 8 percent of the cost to run equivalent non-electric options.

If you’re in the market for a new mower, chainsaw, snowblower, log splitter, chipper, or even a tractor, your greenest option is probably an electric machine. Recent improvements in battery life and weight are making electric power equipment even more appealing. Lighter lithium-ion batteries are now mainstream, and, with them, a new generation of far more powerful and practical cordless lawn and garden tools has emerged. Get your motor started with this roundup of features and options currently on the market.

Before You Buy

Noise. An electric tool is usually significantly quieter than its gasoline-engine counterpart. But don’t expect tools that have high-speed spinning parts, such as blowers and mowers, to be whisper-quiet. A chainsaw, though, will be remarkably stealthy — what we like to call “Sunday-morning quiet” in our neighborhood. An electric snowblower or utility vehicle can be run at any hour without fear of disturbing your neighbors.

Power ratings. Manufacturers rate their electric products either by volts and amps or by watts. For example, most corded tools run on household voltage — 120-volt alternating current (VAC) — and have a particular amp rating. When comparing similar products, remember that a higher amp rating indicates that more power can be delivered to the task. Also pay attention to the amount of pressure that products, such as log splitters, can deliver. For example, electric log splitters’ force ratings, which range from 4 to 20 tons, indicate how effective the splitters are. These force ratings will help you compare electric and gas-powered options.

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