Gas-Powered vs Battery Powered Lawn Equipment
There is not a lot of good information out there to help consumers make the decision to go with battery-powered or gas-powered lawn equipment. As a dealer for both high quality gas and battery products, we figured we'd help a little by asking a few key questions. As ususal, one of our associates would be happy to help you decide what is best for your situation.
In general, our current assessment of the battery-powered lawn equipment market is that it's finally reached a point where many light duty residential users could use battery-powered products for some of their lawn and garden equipment. However, for some very important and common types of equipment, including lawn mowers, the technology hasn't quite "gotten there". One thing for certain is that the technology keeps getting better every year, so what is not viable now, may be common in 5 years.
What are you using it for or what are your performance needs?
Many people trying a battery powered unit are surprised at the lack of performance. Sometimes that may be ok, but sometimes it's not. Here is our take on what a high quality battery-powered equipment will do and what it will not do.
Lawn Mower - Battery-powered lawn mowers have just recently become viable in the last 3 or 4 years due to the higher power needs. Self-propelled models have only arrived in the last year or so. A high quality battery mower can cut smaller yards (<5,000 sqft) and can produce an acceptable quality of mulch. Users with thick lawns or those accustomed to using a premium mulching mower (Toro Super Recycler or Honda HRX) will not be happy with the look. An exception to this would be the robotic lawn mower category, which we highly recommend.
String Trimmer - A high quality battery string trimmer will have 2 strands of .080 diameter line, which is the same as the entry level gas models. It will do a find job trimming grass and light weeds, but will not perform as well at edging or getting through dense weeds. Users accustomed to straight shaft models that use thicker line will likely be disappointed with performance. Brush-cutting is a no.
Edger - An edger creates a very clean and distinct edge along a driveway, sidewalk, or something else. It does its job by slicing into the dirt to create a clean edge. No battery powered equipment will do this.
Blower - Most quality battery-powered blowers do a good job at general clean up like blowing grass clippings off the driveway and walkways, or blowing leaves off the deck or patio before guests come over. Have lots of trees and need to blow your leaves in the fall. . . forget it. We do carry a powerful battery-powered backpack unit that does great, but it's pricey.
Chainsaw - Of all types of equipment, chainsaws are best suited to be battery-powered. Most customers use a chainsaw to cut up fallen branches, remove small limbs, and other similar uses. Additionally, chainsaws tend to get less frequent use, which makes proper maintenance essential on gas-powered units. Battery chainsaws are not for cutting up whole trees for firewood, felling large trees, and generally only have a 12-16" max bar size.
Power Washer - Power = time. Battery units are generally not available at this time because they don't provide enough power. Most any power washer will do any routine washing job around the house. A 1800 psi electric power washer will remove grime off a pool deck, but you'll have to hold the tip so close the ground that it'll take all day. A 3100 psi gas-powered model will get it done in an hour.
How much are you willing to spend?
As an example, a STIHL FS-40C curved shaft trimmer with STIHL's excellent easy start technology will set you back $159. The most comparable battery powered product is the STIHL FSA 65, which costs $449 with the battery and charger. While your battery is transferable between other STIHL battery units, the additional cost is significant. The lower performance FSA 56 may meet your needs, but is still more 20% more expensive at $199.
This example is pretty indicative of the cost difference in other types of equipment:
Why do you want to switch to battery-powered equipment? Make sure you're switching for the right reasons.
Prior Fuel Issues - We find many customers start thinking about battery products because they have recently had issues with starting a gas-powered piece of equipment. The most common failure in gas equipment is in the fuel systems, which caused by poor fuel management. And, as much as we wished manufacturers covered these failures under warranty, they do not. However, being knowledgeable of good fuel management practices combined with greater availability and lower priced non-ethanol options can make this a non-issue going forward.
Complexity of Starting - We also see that people often forget the starting procedures, which leads to flooding and other issues. The combination of easy start models being commonly available and quick access to online instructions and videos has also helped remedy this issue. If you like the power of gas, consider spending a little more on easy-to-start features rather than switching to battery.