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Mowing your lawn doesn’t have to be loud, smelly, and release pollutants into the environment. Reel mowers, which haven’t changed much since their introduction in 1868, remain the most environmentally friendly way to mow because you are the only source of power. But they are definitely not for everyone! Weighing around 20 to 50 pounds, reel mowers are not easy to maneuver over rough, hilly, or large terrain. You better have plenty of time and energy because it’s a strenuous workout on a sticky summer day!
Electric mowers, available with or without cord, are another eco-friendly option, and they have come a long way in recent years. If your home is powered by renewable energy, it can run without fossil fuels. The new design and technology have improved their performance to be more reliable and convenient. They are ideal if you have a typical lot of about a quarter of an acre or a little more. They also start with a push button instead of having to pull a rope like you do with a gas mower. This makes it easier to get started so you can finish tasks faster and have fun (like relaxing on the patio).
Coming up, our top picks for the best electric mowers of the year:
Our top pick is the Ryobi 20-inch 40-Volt Self-Propelled Push Mower, as it is complete but reasonably priced (see at Home Depot). But we also love the Black + Decker 12-inch 20-Volt 3-in-1 Cordless Compact Mower. if you have a small lot, a difficult hill to navigate with a typical push mower, or if you need to invest in multiple lawn tools at once (see at Walmart).
What to look for in an electric mower
Wired or wireless
Because they’re plugged in during use, corded mowers have unlimited runtime, so you’ll never run out of power until you’ve finished mowing. But you will need to keep the cord out of the way to avoid getting tangled or tripped over. In addition, it is generally only practical on jobsites under 0.25 acre.
Cordless, battery-powered electric mowers have varying run times (ranging from 40 to 70 minutes on most units) on a single charge. Battery charging times vary from a few hours to overnight.
Adjustable cutting heights
You may want to look for a mower deck that can be raised and lowered for different types of grass. For example, Bermuda grass should be cut to 1.5 to 2 inches, while tall fescue should be mowed to 2.5 to 4 inches. Grass is healthier when you cut it to the right height for its species. If you’re not sure what kind of weed you have, your local college cooperative extension service can help (find yours here).
Batteries that exchange between products
Chances are, you have or are considering purchasing other battery-powered tools, such as an edger or chainsaw. If so, it makes sense to stick with one brand name, as many manufacturers design interchangeable batteries that fit their other tools. If you need more than one power tool, you don’t have to buy three different brands that require three different batteries.
Bagging, mulching and side discharge options
Depending on how you want to handle the cuts, make sure your mower has the appropriate options. Be aware that most lawn experts recommend that you leave cuttings on the lawn as an organic fertilizer, but they are also a great addition to compost.
Self-propelled vs manual
No dispute: a self-propelled mower is easier to push than the manual version. Consider this feature if you have rough terrain or have difficulty maneuvering a mower, as many mowers weigh 50 pounds or more.
Many units come with handles that fold up. This is a great option if you are running out of storage space.
Are electric mowers quiet?
Electric mowers typically operate at around 65 decibels or more. To give perspective, a normal conversation is around 60 decibels. On the flip side, many gasoline mowers operate at 85 decibels or more. Regular exposure to this level can damage hearing and annoy your neighbors if you turn up the volume early on the weekends.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of electric mowers?
Electric mowers are quieter, require less maintenance (typically only unplug the battery in the off-season and sharpen the blades), and don’t send pollutants into the environment. There is no gas storage or oil change. But they have limited run times, and the manufacturer’s estimated times vary depending on factors like terrain, height, and grass texture. Some battery mowers can get slow on lush, thick lawns.
Also because all has a lifespan, rechargeable batteries still need to be recycled properly when they no longer hold a charge, which is usually two to three years.
Where can I find used electric mowers?
Social media resale sites, such as Facebook or OfferUp, list used mowers locally, but these likely won’t have a warranty. Amazon and local mower dealers sometimes sell refurbished models as well. Or you can check eBay.
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Treehugger wants to help readers find gardening tools that have less of an impact on the environment. Arricca SanSone specializes in writing about the home, shelter and gardening.