Rechargeable Lawn Mowers?

I want to buy an electric rechargeable lawn mower. (I have a bad record with hedge clippers and cords, so don’t bother trying to talk me into that. LOL!)

I’ve never bought a lawn mower before or even mowed a lawn, so start small and tell me everything!

What do I need to know?

19" vs 20" vs 24" How much difference will it make?

24v vs 36v vs 48v I’m guessing this will have much more of an effect?

I have no interest in bagging and hauling clippings, so I suppose I want a mulching one?

I see mention of sharpening blades. How is it done? How often?

I have fairly strong arms but weak hands if it matters. Back yard is fairly hilly, so weight may be a factor.

The current lawn is about 1/4 acre, and I don’t foresee having more than 1/3 acre in the future.

Why all the emphasis on back wheel height?

What questions should I be asking?

Thanks for any info/guidance you can provide!

I have a cordless hedge trimmer that I love. The sickle bar mechanism seems to work well under battery load.

I was also interested in a cordless mower but after reading consumer reviews of various mowers I was underwhelmed by their performance in general. My opinion, based on using a variety of battery powered tools is that it would be very taxing on a battery to swing a heavy blade against a lawn full of grass. When you consider that a 6.5 hp gas engine can get bogged down in heavy mowing it’s brutal on batteries. There’s no letting the grass grow another day or two because you’re busy. You have to mow it when it needs it without delay.

If they make one with a quick change battery that would be the direction I’d head. And they’re not light and don’t come self propelled so there’s that.

I’ve never had any experience with mowers but make sure you have enough power to mow your whole lawn. I’ll echo some of Magiver’s sentiments in that I think your main concern would be being able to finish the job on one charge. My backyard is roughly the same size as yours. I purchased the best weed wacker I could find, 18v, supposedly long lasting battery. Try as I might I could never finish the job on one charge. With little kids about I have a small window of opportunity to get the job done, so I found this very frustrating. I Ended up taking it back and getting a gas powered one.

I’ve never owned an electric, but I know a bit about them, so I’ll try to help.

The wider the path you can cut, the fewer passes you’ll have to make, which means you’ll be back inside quicker. I can’t say I’ve seen electric mowers above 18 or 19 inches, which is a drawback; compared to a 22 inch deck, a 19 inch mower will need about 6 more passes on a lawn 65 feet wide. Doesn’t sound like much, but when it’s 90+ degrees outside, every minute counts.

Voltage is going to affect two things: how long you can mow, and how heavy the mower is. More power means more mowing time per charge, but also makes for a heavier mower. Make sure you’re okay pushing a high-powered beast around before you take it home.

Mulching is definitely the way to go. I haven’t bagged clippings in 6 years. As long as you mow diligently, you won’t get big clumps of clippings on the lawn; clippings are mostly water, and they disappear quickly. Besides, why throw away all that fertilizer you fed to the grass? Leave the clippings there, and all that nitrogen you fed the lawn will go right back into it.

Sharpening a mower blade is pretty easy, and I rarely do it more frequently than once a year, at the start of the season. You can take your blade to a shop for sharpening, or you can do it yourself. There are lots of ways to do it at home; you could just use a file, but it’s easier to get a kit. There are sharpening kits that fit your Dremel tool (if you have one) for about $10, which includes a grinding stone and a guide that ensures the blade meets the stone at the proper angle. You can also get a kit that fits a standard power drill. If you do it at home, also look for a blade balancer, which is a little plastic doohickey you put the blade on to make sure it’s weighted the same on both sides after you take metal off. Unbalanced blades lead to vibration, which leads to mower breakage and/or accidents.

A hilly lawn is going to be a problem. For hills, I’d recommend a self-propelled mower. Self-propelled electrics are out now, but I haven’t used them or seen them in action. My gas-powered self-propelled mower rocks; at full throttle, I’d have to jog to keep up with it.

I can’t tell you much about wheel height, because I don’t get it myself. I’ve heard that the high-wheel models are easier to push and turn, but all my mowers have had standard wheels, so I can’t say that I know that’s true.

I’m not sure why you feel electric is the way to go; I can tell you that my mower goes through maybe a gallon and a half of gas a year, so it’s not particularly expensive or wasteful. New oil, air filter, and spark plugs each year adds maybe $9 to the maintenance budget. Having 6.75 horsepower really helps if you’ve let the lawn slide a bit or if the grass is wet. With an electric, there’s no “I’ll just mow it next week”; you have to be diligent, because your mower won’t be able to handle grass that’s too tall or thick weeds. If you do go electric, look into one that allows you to change batteries easily and keep a second one charged and ready, in case you can’t finish on one charge. That’s another advantage of gas mowers; I can just add more if I run out, while a battery takes hours to charge.

I don’t know much about the rechargeable ones except that I want one. As for wheel height, I thought that was adjustable, so that you can cut your grass longer or shorter.

My lawn is about 5,000 sq. ft which is a bit over 1/10 acre. I used a Black & Decker rechargeable mower for a year. It could just barely finish the lawn if the grass was not too tall. With tall grass or leaves, the charge would run out before I could finish.

The mower is much lighter than a gas-powered one, but is not self-propelled. Mowing the lawn was a pretty good work out.

Also, the mower simply did not have the torque of a gas mower and would slow down significantly if the grass was wet. It also had very little suction and would not bag leaves.

Wheel SIZE matters with the back wheel. It’s easier to maneuver.

It also smooths out the lumps and bumps that you wheel the mower over.

I recently replaced my old lawnmower. The old one had large back wheels. The new one doesn’t (because I didn’t think there was any reason to get them). Big mistake on my part - what used to seem like a nice, flat lawn now seems to be filled with ruts and speed bumps.

I don’t want gas for several reasons:

  • Don’t like storing gas in/near the house (more concerned about breathing fumes than ignition)
  • Most are difficult to start (see hand strength above)
  • I don’t want to deal with maintenance, spark plugs, mixing gas/oil, etc.
  • About the only time I’ll get to do this is when Celtling naps on weekends, or in the very early morning (we’re talking 4:30ish). My neighbors gas mower wakes her up, so I’m sure this would too if I got one; and I’d rather not wake the neighbors either.
  • Environmental benefits. (If you want to debate this please start your own thread.)

I basically need something I can whip out, and get at least the front lawn (fairly small) done quickly when I get the chance, without waking Celtling. And I don’t have time to mess around with it in between. My life is always either at work or with Celtling; so I don’t foresee ever having more than about 45 minutes free for this chore. I’m guessing it’ll take two passes regardless.

So far the experience with the electric snow-blower has been fine. It’s gotten a serious workout the last two winters, and has far exceeded it’s design level. The cord is an accident waiting to happen though.

Magiver: I got myself a cordless hedge trimmer for Christmas this year. My friends and family are still chuckling. :wink:

Is letting the lawn get longer harder on the machine even if you aren’t bagging? I always thought the extra load came from weight of the clippings?

1/4 acre is not all that large, so the width won’t make much difference, but basically the wider the mower, the less distance you have to go to mow the lawn. I assume with the same battery, the wider mower uses more power, but runs for a shorter time, so it probably averages out. You don’t really need a mulching mower if you mow often enough. 1/4 acre doesn’t take very long to rake if you skip a couple of weeks. You just start to circle around the perimeter to start with, with the mower ejecting the clippings towards the center, stop every once in a while to rake them up as the pile builds up. The higher voltage probably means a longer battery life, and you want to make sure you can mow the whole lawn with one charge. By rear wheel height I assume you mean rear wheel diameter. This helps you get over ruts and bumps in the yard making it an easier job. I don’t have experience with electric mowers, so I can’t tell you much more.

From you #9 post, there is no mixing gas/oil any more. You may can get one that runs on propane I assume those camping/welding cylinders (no gasoline storage issues) & which reduce emissions & cuts down on maintenance, and may be able to get electric start (no hand strain).

So the only one is left is the noise.

Letting the grass get too tall definitely makes a difference in how well your mower works, regardless of type. I have mowed away too many midwest summers to earn money not to know this. If the grass gets too tall, it will stop a gas engine mower dead, bagging or not. I’ve mowed yards that were so high that I had to set the mower on its highest setting, mow the yard, let it dry out a couple days, and then remow to the desired setting. It was fun, however, to see field mice porpoising through the grass as I mowed.

In short, having a mower too powerful for the job isn’t nearly as bad as having one merely strong enough, if things happen to be neglected. Bigger is generally better.

When you run a mulching mower over grass, the clippings get tossed around by the blade until they’re small enough to drop back to the lawn. Same thing happens to a lesser extent if you’re bagging or side-discharging. If those clippings are too long or thick, there’s no room for them to get tossed around, so the clippings mass together and form big solid clumps. Those clumps can stop the blade of a mower that can’t power through them, leading to a stalled engine (gas) or a stuck mower (electric). If you get stopped like that, you’ll have to clear out the clumped-up grass by hand before you can get back to work. Note for people with gas mowers: pull off the sparkplug wire and brake the blade before you put your hand under the mower, unless you like the name “Lefty.”

Usually, if I’m cutting tall thick grass, I can ease the problem by listening to my engine so I can detect if it’s working too hard. I can prevent a stall by stopping forward movement and either waiting a few seconds for the mower to clear itself or, more commonly, pushing down on the handle to tip the mower slightly onto its rear wheels. That gives more airspace for the blade to chop up and discharge the clippings, and all is well again. I’m not sure what to listen for in an electric mower, but surely there’s some sort of audible clue that things are not working properly.

I would expect most any electric to survive 1/5 acre so if you’re alternating between front and back you should be OK. Not sure about the hill situation. If you can go back and forth then it doesn’t matter but climbing would be a bitch.

I bought a 3 pack unit from B&D. It has a hedge trimmer, blower and string trimmer. Of the 3 units, the hedge trimmer seems to go the furthest on a charge. I prefer it over my electric one (I’ve cut 2 cords already with the electric). It’s hard to love the blower or the string trimmer because I’ve got electric and gas versions that put them to shame but if the grass isn’t too high I’ll use the cordless string trimmer. I also have a cordless pole chain saw that’s nice for the occasional limb.

Mulching can really suck when the grass is too tall or wet. Even a 6.5 hp motor can bog down. I’m more concerned with engine vibration at that point. All mulching decks are not created equal so read as many reviews as you can.

Every piece of cordless rechargable lawn equipment I’ve used has been severely under-powered when compared to both their gas-powered and corded siblings, and Ex_Chemist’s report doesn’t make me think that lawn mowers would be better. I think you should consider getting the sort of lawn mower that you plug in. We had one growing up, and it’s about as powerful as the gas-powered ones I’ve used since. You just have to keep an eye on the cord so you don’t mow over it, and if a couple of kids could do that, I figure an adult can handle that too.

If I had a lawn, I’d get me a robotic electric mower (pdf file). Some will even return to a base station for automatic charging, and mow your lawn on a programmable calendar.

The environmental benefits might be illusory. It has been suggested that the manufacturing and disposal of big rechargeable batteries might cause just as much pollution as a gas mower.

The bigger rechargeable mowers are heavy … something to consider if you have hills … but there are now self-propelled models.

I lean toward suggesting a plug-in. I had one before I got my big yard and it was just fine; I pretty quickly worked out a system for handling the cord – it only seemed awkward for a little while.

Several years ago the guys in the neighborhood were all laughing at my new electric snow blower. I have learned a lot about gas blowers, though. When I’m done with mine, I get to go over and hang out while they try to get theirs started. :wink:

I just bought a Black and Decker cordless mower…and I LOVE it!!! My motivation on getting one was simple: I’m apparently the only one in my family who gives a crap about having a nicely kept lawn; and being a petite woman, never had much luck in mustering up the physical strength to start my old gas mower. The cordless starts up with the touch of a button, and it’s sooo much quieter and lighter than a regular mower. The only down side I’ve found so far is that I can’t cut my entire yard on one charge. Not really a problem for me, as I can break it out into smaller mowing sessions (front yard first, then the “side yard” and finally, the back yard.) And somehow, breaking it up that way makes it seem like way less of a chore.

Oh, and did I mention how much I love my new mower? :slight_smile:

I use a corded electric lawn mower. It pulls 12 amps. A quick check of listings shows that most of the cordless models are listed at something like 6.5 amps, so I’m guessing mine is more powerful.

OTOH my next door neighbor uses a cordless Black and Decker, and he seems to get through his lawn okay. I’ve never seen him cut his front and back yards at the same time, however, which makes me think he can’t do it on a single charge.

My yard isn’t so big that the cord is a problem, and having learned to keep it behind the mower, I think I’m getting a better deal.

I have the blade sharpened at the beginning of the season and don’t think about it for the rest of the year.

I was doing a little internet shopping. A gas driven self propelled mower with electric start was 79 lbs (heavy). A 19" self propelled cordless electric mower was 92 lbs. But for $450 plus another $125 for a spare battery you can get away from the cord. The lack of hp is another issue. Possibly a zoysia type grass that grows slowly would be helpful.