By KATHERINE ROTH
The Associated Press
For Jared Anderman of Croton-on-Hudson, New York, switching from gasoline-powered tools to power tools for lawn care was a no-brainer.
“I am concerned about climate change and wanted tools that are more environmentally friendly and also quieter. I love listening to music when I am gardening and so I can enjoy music or a podcast while I am gardening. that I am working, âhe said. “I could never do that with gasoline equipment.”
The biggest benefit of all, he says, is maintenance. âGasoline mowers are a pain. With power tools, they start right away and there is really no maintenance. It’s just a matter of keeping the batteries charged. “
First of all, he bought an electric lawn mower. Then an electric hedge trimmer, a hedge trimmer and a leaf blower. âI don’t have an electric snowblower yet. But when I replace the gasoline snowblower, it will be an electric one, âhe says.
There is a quiet transformation underway in yards across the country. Long-standing complaints about the roar and fumes of leaf blowers, mowers and other gas-powered equipment have grown even louder as more people work from home due to the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the quality of zero to low emission electric landscaping equipment has improved markedly, with battery packs that last longer.
âBatteries have changed a lot in the last year alone, and we’re there in terms of the technology. Now it’s about getting the word out to professionals and consumers, âsays Kurt Morrell, associate vice president for horticultural operations at the New York Botanical Garden.
âLast year we were 90 percent electric on the hedge trimmers and this year it’s 100 percent. My guys won’t even touch a gas hedge trimmer anymore, âsays Morrell, who oversees the trimming of the garden’s 4,850 linear feet of hedges.
There are even self-contained lawn mowers similar to the Roomba vacuum cleaner.
âThey’re really taking off, and in the next four or five years you’ll see more robotic mowers in the private sector,â Morrell said.
Morrell, who also teaches aspiring landscaping professionals, says that while edgers and electric mowers are now as good as or better than the gas-guzzling versions, cordless electric leaf blowers are still a challenge “because they require a lot of speed and power, and the weight of the battery at this point is much heavier than gas. “
But technology is changing rapidly, he says. “When I teach my landscaping management students, who are going to manage large landscapes, I know they will be using electrical equipment.”
Power tools and some cleaner gas options only re-think many lawn care practices and their effects on the environment.
For example, many gardeners and landscapers are moving away from âa hyper-managed leaf drying standardâ, in favor of âsimply letting the leaves be leaves, some of them remaining on the groundâ, explains Daniel Mabe, founder of the American Green Zone Alliance (AGZA), which provides homes, businesses and organizations across the country with certification for low-carbon landscaping.
According to experts, letting more leaves, plant stems and other garden debris cover garden beds during the winter helps soil, insects and other wildlife.
When power tools are needed, the switch from gas to electric is reminiscent of the trend towards electric cars.
According to the California Air Resources Board, a department of the California Environmental Protection Agency, running a gasoline leaf blower for an hour can create as much smog-forming pollution as driving an 1,100-mile Toyota Camry. .
The battery-powered lawn equipment industry is growing at a rate three times faster than gas, according to the Freedonia Group, a division of MarketResearch.com.
âIn terms of residential adoption of electric landscaping equipment, at least here in California, it’s already around 50 percent,â Mabe said.
He finds greater resistance to electrical equipment among professional landscaping companies than among residential consumers. But he estimates that there are at least 200 âall-electricâ landscaping companies today. Many of them use robotic technology, programming and maintaining the lawn equivalent of Roomba.
Andrew Bray, vice president of government relations for the National Association of Professional Landscapers, based in Fairfax, Va., Says, âThe transition to electricity is inevitable, and most landscapers try out this equipment all the time. But while the technology is already in place. there for homeowners – and I use electrical equipment at home myself – the technology is not there yet for most of the commercial sector. “
âWith leaf blowers, for example, they don’t yet have the battery power needed for commercial use,â he says.
And he said there are cost and infrastructure hurdles for professional landscapers looking to switch from gas to electricity.
âBecause battery packs are not interchangeable between tool brands, you will need to upgrade your entire store so that everything is the same brand. You will also likely need to upgrade your store’s electrical system wattage, as the crew would need around 36 batteries, âhe says.
Yet the electric momentum is growing. Stanley Black & Decker, a leading manufacturer of outdoor products, estimates that the volume of electric landscaping equipment shipped by North American manufacturers has grown from 9 million units in 2015 to over 16 million units. million last year, an increase of over 75% over the past five years. years.
âWe continue to innovate in wireless (electrical) products focused on providing high performance while having less noise and zero emissions in use,â said John Wyatt, senior vice president of Stanley Outdoor.