Confessions of a Lawn Jockey – Electric vs. Gas Lawn Mowers
by Dawn Lesley Stewart
A lot of us mow our own lawns. I try being cost-conscious and at the same time environmentally responsible. It’s a tough line to walk at times.
Our family derived from generations of gas lawn mower users. My brother still prefers gas-powered mowers, though he upgraded from pushing an upright model to a riding lawn mower. I have been using electric mowers for years since they were first introduced to our area through the utility company.
Here are my experiences, which I hope will help during your decision making process.
Examine Your Yard
Simply walking your lawn could answer the question of whether to buy an electric or a gas mower without any other considerations. If your yard is large, a gas-powered riding lawn mower or lawn tractor might be your best mowing option. While there are electric riding mowers, the ones I’ve seen only offer about a three-hour battery charge, which could be limiting depending upon the size of your yard. If the terrain features a lot of hilly areas where a self-propelled mower is necessary, a gas mower may also be your best choice since there are more self-propelled gas mower models available than self-propelled electric mowers. An electric mower is good for smaller yards with minimal grade differences in the lawn.
Reel Mower vs. Electric Mower
Maybe you are thinking the true environmental option is an old-fashioned reel lawn mower. I own two of those and have used them off and on throughout the years. A reel mower (no motor or gas … just good old muscle power) has a few limitations. The blades only spin as fast as you move, and for me did not provide a good mulching cut. The grass-clipping bag on the reel mowers is small and requires frequent emptying. Plus, my yard is a half acre with a fringe of trees. Using a reel mower rather than an electric mulching mower takes more time. If your yard area is small, then a reel mower might be a good option for you.
I have never enjoyed filling a lawn mower with gas or oil. If you are not neat, there is spillage. There is also the task of spark plug and air filter replacement. Another consideration is that only new gas should be used in a mower. Electricity is cleaner and there are no storage or disposal considerations as with gasoline and oil. My area also will recycle the electric mower batteries. Another benefit to the type of electric mower I am currently using is that the batteries can be completely solar charged (a solar charging kit needs separate purchase to do this).
You may be wondering if an electric mower has the power to give a lawn sharp, clean cut. I have never had a problem with blade performance with the electric mowers I have used. My feeling is that the grass is cut, and to my eye has never looked “ragged”. One neighbor commented that he noticed a difference and wished I would use a gas-powered mower. If grass is high, then a gas mower will more readily mow it to size. I have had my electric mowers stall out when trying to cut too-long grass, but I rest the mower a minute and it starts right back up again.
You Mowed Over What?!
Inevitably, a lawn mower will run over an unforeseen obstacle. My current electric mower has mowed over hidden sticks and good size stones. The mower still works great, and the lawn mower body shows no damage.
A feature I love about electric lawn mowers is the low to moderate volume they produce. Gas mowers are loud. My electric mower is sound equivalent to a vacuum cleaner. Even the neighbors have commented on how they can hardly hear it.
I keep my electric mower in the garage over the winter. It has the option of folding to hang on the wall, too, should I wish to do so. I remove the batteries from the mower, and bring them indoors during the cold New England winter. Every other month, I check to see if the batteries need recharging while indoors, but they keep their charge a long time when not in use.
Our family has had pretty good luck with gas-powered mowers lasting for years and years. The electric mowers have been less reliable when it comes to longevity. For one thing, if a gas mower malfunctions, you may have the necessary skills to tinker with it (or perhaps have a friend who knows their way around lawn mower engines). There are also area shops that specialize in gas-powered lawn mower care. With an electric mower, if it breaks or malfunctions, I don’t have electrical skills to fix it. I don’t know anyone who is qualified to work on an electric mower either. Plus, the nearest manufacturer-sponsored repair centers are too far away from me. That means unless I can find an easy repair solution through internet searching, I am plum out of luck. With all the years of owning electric lawn mowers, I’m estimating that they last about five years before I’m forced to review new buying options.
So is owning an electric lawn mower worth it? For me the answer is a definite yes. I love using an electric mower. Let’s review costs.
Electric Lawn mower (upright model) – the mower will average $300-$500 depending upon the bells and whistles it has. There is the cost of electricity (leave the lawn mower plugged in overnight for a battery recharge). If a replacement battery is needed, figure an average cost of $80-$100 for one.
Gas Lawn mower (upright model) – the mower will average $200-$400 depending upon the brand and model. Add in the cost of gas, oil, spark plugs, air filter, and perhaps tune-up expenses.
Also factor in concern for your environment. An electric mower is cleaner and produces less noise pollution. However, depending upon the gas-powered mower, it will probably outlive an electric mower. There could be other factors you need to weigh as well when making your decision. I hope some of these thoughts help.
Happy Gardening !
Dawn Lesley Stewart has enjoyed organic gardening for over forty years, learning at a young age from her father. First love is vegetable gardening followed by her interest in butterfly and bee habitats. She considers her yard a sanctuary for birds and wildlife. Her writing has appeared online and in print and has won writing awards. Dawn is the author of Harriet’s Horrible Hair Day (picture book), Mist-Seer (paranormal novel), and her newest book 300-Plus Quilting Tips, Tricks & Techniques features over 35 years of quilting knowledge.
Copyright 2011 Dawn Lesley Stewart