Frugal Lawn Care: Using an Electric Lawn Mower

by Kevin on June 26, 2009

I wrote a guest post today for Frugal Dad about sharpening mower blades that goes hand-in-hand with this article, so check it out.

My wife and I moved into our first home in September 2007. It’s a decent sized garden home sitting on 1/4 of an acre. As you can imagine we don’t have much of a yard, but it is a yard nonetheless. I needed to find a mower or risk the rath of my homeowner’s association.

Selecting a Lawn Mower

Growing up I mowed my parents yard and spare lot for allowance money. We used your standard gasoline mower and it would take me an hour or so. But I remembered having to do things like change the oil, refill it with gas, swap out the air filter… you know, ordinary mower maintenance.

With a small yard I wanted to try and avoid as much of that as possible. I could get away with a small, ordinary mower. But if I could get rid of some of the maintenance I would be thrilled. The thought of a battery or plug-in electric mower crossed my mind.

Now I know what you’re thinking. How could something run off of electricity, especially a battery, cut your yard effectively? I was just as skeptical and tried visiting stores in our area to see if they had any. No one carried them in stock — not Home Depot, not Lowe’s, not Sears.

I turned to the internet for more information and discovered that Amazon sold several models. After a search and reading lots of reviews we ended up buying a Black & Decker 19-Inch Electric Mulching Mower (plug-in).

Honestly I was a bit nervous because I’d never used an electric and none of the stores in our area carried them (so I couldn’t try it out ahead of time). Thanks to Amazon’s great customer service I went ahead and ordered knowing that if I wasn’t satisfied I could send it back.

I made the order and a few days later a large box showed up on our doorstep with the mower inside.

Using an Electric Lawn Mower

Compared to your traditional gas powered mower using an electric is a little bit more of a hassle. With my plug-in mower this hassle is represented by having to have a lengthy extension cord strewn about the yard while I mow.

But for me the hassle is worth it. I simply work away from where the cord is plugged in — thus not having to worry about running over the cord.

Come to think of it the hassle is similar to a gas powered mower. With a gas mower you’ve got to refill it with gas — including occasionally driving to the gas station to fill up the gas container. With an electric I’ve got to get the cord out, not run over it, and then collect the cord at the end.

It really isn’t all that bad although my electric mower doesn’t occassionally sound like a vacuum cleaner. It still cuts the grass and keeps my yard looking neat. Plus there are no direct emissions coming from the unit — an environmental plus.

Lawn mowers: would you consider an electric or battery powered mower? Leave a comment and get the discussion rolling.

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June 30, 2009 at 6:05 am

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Philip June 26, 2009 at 7:31 am

Interesting, I have a small yard, and right now have people come over and mow it. I am not sure if I could go out in the land of Pick up Trucks and use an electric mower and keep my dignity. The minimal maintenance would be nice though if I were to go that route. Do you have anything you wish that it did have that it does not currently?

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dawn June 26, 2009 at 8:39 am

You made a mistake when you bought a mower with cord. I am now into my 4th season with a cordless, battery-rechargeable mower and i absolutely love it, PLUS i have 1.5 acres to mow! (I’m a woman, too.)

Forgive me, but i can’t off the top of my head remember the brand; it’s not the Neutron, tho i considered that one. And i had to drive a little out of my way to get it at a hardware store, again, i forget which one, but i know it wasn’t home depot, loews or sears. Maybe Ace Hardware? I shopped around online for the best price, then saved on shipping by having it delivered to the store.

I love this mower becus i no longer have to walk behind stinky fumes, it’s a breeze to start (turn a lever) and i don’t have to mess around with gasoline or oil. It runs for about 40 minutes on 1 charge, so yes, i use it on Saturday to do the front yard and the side and backyard on Sunday. But honesty, i couldn’t mow my whole lawn all at once even if i could, it’s just too big.

I think the makers of these battery mowers do a huge disservice to th mower by saying in their marketing that it’s suitable only for “small” lawns of 1/4 acre or les, becus as i said, it works just fine for me.

It’s also much quieter than a gas powered mower and it doesn’t spew fumes into the air. I would recommend it highly.

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dawn June 26, 2009 at 8:40 am

I do have a small snow blower with electric cord, and while i like it very much, it is a hassle to always have to worry about clearing the cord as you move along. Still, i consider it better than a gas-powered one

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Matt Jabs June 26, 2009 at 9:09 am

I’m currently looking into purchasing a old school Reel Lawn Mower so I don’t have use anything except my manliness to power the mower… 😉

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Kevin June 26, 2009 at 7:58 pm

@Philip: The only thing it is lacking, which isn’t a big deal, is the lack of power driven wheels. When I mowed my parents yard back home it was large and the mower was self-propelled. This one I push, but! it’s a good workout.

@dawn: The lack of distance on the charge is the thing that dissuaded me. I wish I didn’t have to fool with a cord, but I’m still not getting the fumes and all that.

@Matt: Hey just consider a plugin without self-propelled like mine — it is probably heavier than a standard reel!

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dawn June 27, 2009 at 5:43 am

But you only have a quarter of an acre. How long does it take you to mow it?

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Russell Fascenda June 28, 2009 at 6:08 am

Kevin, I’m surprised the big stores aren’t into electric mowers these days, I bought my first one over 20 years ago. At that time I think there was only one company Mastercut making them. I bought it used for $10 from a friend of the man who sold my house to me. That one didn’t last a year (I remember it blew up on July 4, shooting sparks, my own fireworks display).

I bought a new Mastercut to replace it and used it for 10 years. I had a small enough property that I could reach the whole place without having to unplug my 100-foot extension cord. The great benefits are what you pointed out, no maintenance, no trips to the gas station, and you could store the thing anywhere, no messy fluids. You could even hang the thing on the wall of the shed since there was nothing to leak out.

When i moved to a place with a little more property I decided to get a gas-powered small riding mower. I still have my Mastercut though, maybe it would do me some good to get out and exercise with it once in awhile.

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Victor June 29, 2009 at 3:36 am

I use an old-fashioned (but new) reel mower on my quarter-acre yard. No emissions (not even long-distance emissions like with your electric mower), no cords, no gas, no filters, no oil, no batteries, need I go on?

It also cost me less than any gas or electric mower I saw for sale.

Finally, the last advantage is that despite what many people think it’s suprisingly easy to push. As long as you mow the yard at least once every 2 weeks, it really is not harder to push than a gas or electric mower (without self-propel obviously).

I would HIGHLY recommend this if you are serious about finding ways to greenify your life and cut costs too.

http://greenifyyourlifebook.blogspot.com/

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CHA NC June 29, 2009 at 9:40 am

I believe the days of choosing a little convenience over environment are over. Sutability is surely important. If it works, we should choose tools which are less damaging to the environment. I was unable to mow my yard with a manual reel mower because of mix of differnt grasses and weeds. I have put zoysia and hoping to use it again, once it completly covers my yard. Have just bought a elctric mower from Sears. A little concerned about the cord but will let everybody know of the experience….

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Bret June 30, 2009 at 2:16 pm

Here in sunny So. Cal., they will trade your gas mower in for a brand new cordless electric mower. It only costs $100 for a Neuton CS, so it’s a great deal.

My Mom and one of my friends have already done it and they love the new electric mowers. They would never go back to gas.

Here is a link to the story:

http://www.re-nest.com/re-nest/tools-electrical-helpers/tradein-your-gas-guzzler-for-an-electric-mower-in-southern-california-088295

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Kevin June 30, 2009 at 7:31 pm

@dawn: 30-45 minutes to mow. I should explain — we aren’t planning on staying here forever. I hang on to appliances and tools for a while and in the future we will likely have a larger yard.

Again I was dissuaded by the price of battery-only as well as the lack of local options. What happens if it dies? Who works on them?

@Russell: Interesting. I didn’t come across — or don’t remember it — Mastercraft. $10 is a good deal!

@Victor: Interesting take. I thought about that but when I compared the cost to my plug-in they were pretty similar (if I remember correctly).

@CHA NC: That was my thought too. I figured we might as well try it — I didn’t know if electric would work well or not. But it sure is a lot easier than a traditional gas mower.

@Bret: Wow. Unfortunately down here in the south you don’t usually see the typical environmental rebates (like tax credits for solar panels, etc.) — wish we had something like that just to get them more popular in the area.

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Victor July 1, 2009 at 12:51 am

@Kevin – I bought my reel mower for $89.99 Canadian (on sale from $99.99). I did not see any gas or electric mowers below $100. So the cost is comparable. However, don’t forget how many variable costs you are saving (oil, filters, batteries, gas, electricity, etc.). Really you just need to sharpen the blades just like with any other mower.

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Brian October 20, 2009 at 9:00 am

I moved into a new home with a relatively small yard. I did not want the gasoline smell in my garage from a traditional mower so I purchased an electric one with some hesitation. I mowed my yard last weekend and the mower worked great, even in the long grass. It is quieter and less smelly than a traditional mower. The cord is easy to adjust to and I am delighted with the results. We will see how well I like it over an extended period.

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Kyra August 25, 2010 at 11:33 am

I have an electric mower, and I am very happy with it. I’m a first-time homeowner, did not want to deal with gas (flammable), spark plugs and oil changes (I’m not mechanically inclined), or the noise (my son has hearing loss, ADHD, and autism). My neighbors looked at me funny at first, but I like to think that it was mainly because I was huffing, puffing, and sweating lol. I have a Black and Decker Lawnhog I think ($199), with a side attachment to mulch and a detachable bag for clippings. The only thing I don’t like is that the lever has to be continually pulled for the mower to work and it causes pain on my thumb. I actually wish I had bought a reel mower, but the ones I saw were around the same price as the one I ended up buying.

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Tim July 26, 2013 at 1:00 pm

I recently purchased a Black and Decker 19 inch lawn mower with a 36 volt battery. With a second battery I don’t have to worry about running out of battery before I run out of lawn. I get about an hour use on one full battery charge. It costs just over 4 cents of electricity to charge the battery. (Thats right, 4 cents!). The battery charges overnight.

No cord to worry about. I cut about 20 minutes off my mowing time as compared to a similar sized corded mower.

The mower mulches, bags or discharges. I prefer to mulch.

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dawn July 26, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Having a second battery as backup is a good idea, although those things are expensive: over $100, as I recall. Tim, how do you calculate that it costs just .04 to recharge it?

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Tim July 26, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Dawn, I have a Kill a Watt power meter that measures the electricity used by items plugged into it. The cost was based on a recharge and trickle charge for a week. My electric rate runs from .18 to .22 depending on my total use for the month.

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