June 18, 2014 

So you want to cut back on your carbon footprint but you’re not ready to purchase an electric car. How about trading in that gas-guzzling lawnmower for a model that is emissions-free?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that gasoline-powered lawn equipment produces about 5 percent of the smog-forming VOCs in non-attainment areas. A gasoline powered lawn mower emits 11 times the air pollution of a new car for each hour of operation. 

In addition, the EPA says that Americans spill more then the Exxon Valdez just refueling their mowers  – about 17 million gallons of gas per year.

Rick Hauser, owner of Clean Air Lawn Care in Carrollton, a company with 35 locations nationwide, believes that lawn care can be done without destroying the environment.  

“Gas lawn equipment is just simply dirty, which is the main reason to switch to a cleaner option.”

Above, the Black & Decker SPCM 1936 model. Below, a Troy Built electric leaf blower. 

Hauser, who uses only electric and biodiesel-powered equipment, points out that you also have to consider replacing the string trimmer, blower and hedge trimmer that typically make up the full set of lawn care equipment.

“All of these items have made great advances into more powerful, longer lasting and quicker-to-charge battery technology in the last few years,” he said.

Hauser adds that you will be improving the quality of your neighborhood by reducing the noise that an army of lawn equipment makes on the weekend.

“I've seen a study result that said one gas backpack blower pollutes one square mile of ‘peace and quiet’ when the engine starts,” he said. “Some parts of your house won't be able to even hear the battery mower, trimmer and blower that are being used on your lawn.” 

According to Pamela Burns at North Central Texas Council of Governments, their organization promotes the clean air message by encouraging folks to consider alt-fuel lawnmowers. 

Left, Mantis corded electric garden tiller.

“NCTCOG houses the Dallas-Fort Worth Clean Cities Coalition, which promotes the use of alternative fuels and advanced vehicle technologies, including lawn mowers/equipment,” Burns says. “We work very closely with the Propane Council of Texas, the Propane Education and Research Council and our propane suppliers to help educate the public and lawn companies about the equipment.” 

Burns says that for residential consumer use, there are electric (battery and corded) lawnmower options on the market costing from $150 to $500.

Commercial users can also find compressed natural gas, propane, electric and diesel. 

“Some engines may be able to use biodiesel blends, B2-B20, but this varies,” she adds. “And there is also hydrogen, but these are still very limited.” 

For the physically fit with small yards, there’s also been a comeback of the manual push reel mowers, which are lighter and more effective than the older models. Starting at around $99, they are the cheapest, simplest and cleanest options, requiring no oil, fuel, spark plugs or batteries.

Right, Scotts 16-inch reel mower.

Homeowners can purchase electric and manual mowers at home improvement stores, as well through green retail venues, such as Gecko Hardware and the Dallas-based online store Clean Air Gardening

As for incentives to giving up the gas, right now, the only incentives available are for commercial users for propane mowers, said Burns. 

“But incentives for consumers include the fact that using an alt-fuel lawnmower means it is quieter, lightweight with fewer or no fumes and fewer emissions as well as lower maintenance – almost no carbon build up,” she said. 

Recently too, DFW Clean Cities held a workshop showcasing alternative fuel commercial mowers, both propane and electric, and both the city of Dallas and Tarrant County have had mower exchange programs in the past that allowed consumers to trade in their gas mower for an electric too.  

However, Burns says there are still challenges convincing folks to make the change. 

“Cost is probably one of the biggest deterrents,” she says. “The second thing would be the question of performance. If you’ve never used an alt-fuel powered mower, you’re probably wondering if it can do the same, or better, job as your gasoline powered mower. Having used a commercial propane mower and owning an electric mower, I can say that performance is not a concern.”   

Hauser agrees.

“For battery equipment, it has been amazing to watch over the first five years in business how the battery equipment has advanced,” Hauser says. “There is no reason at this point for anyone to argue that battery equipment can't do the same job as gas on a regular to large-sized residential lawn. The move into lithium-ion battery technology has been the key differentiator for the smaller trimmers, blowers and hedge trimmers and some battery mowers have now moved to lithium-ion as well.”

Resources on the web:

Top Ten Reviews: Electric Lawmmowers

Blog: ReelMowers.org

Green Source DFW: Clean Air Gardening sells green lawn care 

Stay up to date on everything green in North Texas, including the latest news and events! Sign up for the weekly Green Source DFW Newsletter! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.