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Quiet Lawn Mowers

by National Gardening Association Editors

Black and Decker CMM 1000

Home lawns are here to stay, especially in the rainier parts of the country. In the drier West, home lawns are smaller, but there are still plenty of them. So no matter where you live, it is likely you'll need some type of lawn mower now or in the future.

Most Americans use some variation of the walk-behind, rotary power mower. Despite many improvements, mower design hasn't changed in nearly 60 years: a gasoline engine spins a metal blade that cuts the grass.

Although manufacturers have made heroic efforts to clean up gasoline engines (the newest mowers don't pollute nearly as much as older ones), they remain among the dirtiest tools gardeners use. According to one study, one older lawn mower pollutes as much as three cars. Add to this some increasingly restrictive state and federal emissions regulations, and you have a demand for innovation.

Corded electric mowers always had their champions, but the limitation of cord length precluded broad consumer acceptance. Corded mowers also included the dangerous potential for cut cords.

Enter the new cordless electric mowers. These mowers are far quieter than the gasoline-powered ones. Also, battery-powered mowers start with a switch, not a pull-cord, and there's no balky engine to coax to life.

We were impressed by an extensive study that compared gasoline to cordless electric mowers. Funded by the EPA, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), and the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), researchers found that 90 percent of the home gardeners they enlisted to test cordless electric mowers would recommend them to a friend or relative.

Clean and Quiet

Perhaps the best feature of these mowers is their minimal environmental impact. Even after accounting for power-plant emissions, replacing gas mowers with electrics results in a 99 percent reduction in carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, and methane, and a 38 percent reduction in carbon dioxide.

Have you ever felt a twinge of guilt when your gasoline-powered mower first roars--those of us with nearby neighbors have. Or have you waited until you knew your neighbors were up and about before mowing the lawn? Gas mowers run at some 90 decibels (ear-protectors are recommended for operators), and normal conversation about 75 decibels. Electric mowers, operating in the 65- to 85-decibel range, make being a thoughtful neighbor a whole lot easier.

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