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Ask Me About My Super-Quiet Electric Yard Tools

Photo: Steven John

This is going to come across as a bit braggy, but so be it — it’s all true. I’ve rototilled multiple lawns down to raw dirt, then grown them back fully with seed. I’ve also gone scorched-earth on rough grass and laid sod, with my two hands, on two front yards and one backyard. I’ve thatched dozens of times. I’ve dutifully spread lime more springtimes than I care to admit, bringing back the balance to overly acidic grass. I’ve weeded, overseeded, aerated, fertilized, mulched, watered — and I’ll do it all again and again.

Long story short: I care about a great-looking yard. But I also care enough about the planet to be as green as possible in my yard care.

Gasoline-powered lawn tools are an environmental catastrophe. According to EPA data, one hour spent running a new gas-powered mower creates the same amount of air pollution as driving a new gas-powered car for 45 miles.

Taken as a whole, gasoline-powered lawn-care equipment is responsible for 5 percent of the entire air pollution in America. Think about that: Trains, planes, factories, shipping, freeways packed with cars, towns and cities, farmland, and the myriad other sources of pollution, yet still those mowers, blowers, and trimmers are causing a not insignificant amount of American air pollution.

The fact that gas lawn tools are so bad for the planet is the main reason I stopped using them. I’ve used several electric lawn tools for well over a decade, such as a hedge trimmer and battery-powered saw. I switched to a battery-powered blower about four years ago. Three years ago, I briefly turned to a lawn-care company to do our mowing and blowing, but after a year, I took it back over. And I did so with an electric mower, having gladly sold our gas mower several seasons earlier. So it was that I finally arrived at my all-battery suite of tools and truly went green with yard work. (I also use all-natural lawn-care products from Sunday instead of chemical-laden fertilizers and weed-control products, I’m careful with watering, and I do my best to compost. It all adds up!)

Candidly, though, the environmental angle is only one reason I went 100 percent battery-powered when it comes to lawn-care and gardening hardware. The second factor is price: Once a battery-powered tool is acquired, you pay very little for the rest of its operational life. Electricity is a lot cheaper than gas, and in my experience, electric tools are more reliable and less prone to breaking down. And the up-front costs are similar — for example, the price of a new battery-powered mower is entirely comparable to a gas-powered lawn mower.

There’s also the convenience factor. I never have to go to a gas station on account of my battery-powered tools nor do I need to buy and blend in oil.

And finally, to quote Dr. Seuss, I hated “the noise! Oh, the Noise! Noise! Noise! Noise!” To be sure, my mower, blower, trimmer, saws, and other battery-powered hardware aren’t silent, but they’re dramatically quieter than those pollution-spewing gas tools I’ve sworn off for good; I can carry on a conversation with a passing neighbor while my mower or blower is running.

Here, a rundown of the battery-powered equipment I use when caring for my lawn.

I’ve owned three different gas-powered lawn mowers, and before I started using my eForce lawn mower, I assumed a battery-powered mower would be lacking in power compared to any of them. I was wrong — my eForce mower is every bit as capable as any gas unit I’ve ever used. The blades precisely cut through even thick, tall grass, also easily chewing up weeds, brambles, twigs, and anything else that has grown up from or fallen down onto the lawn. The 21-inch diameter of the cutting area allows for a broad swath of lawn cut at each pass, and a strip of LED headlights illuminates the path ahead in case one wants to mow in the dark. (I never have, but it’s nice to know I could.) When the motor is engaged in self-propel mode, all I have to do is walk along behind my mower, gently holding on to its handle as it does all the work. The mower can collect trimmed grass in a grass bag, let the cut grass discharge out a side chute for later raking, or it can allow finely cut grass to simply fall right back down onto the yard as mulch. This battery-powered mower offers all the capabilities of a gas mower, has extras like lighting, and there’s no pollution or fumes to worry about. And as long as I charge the battery after each use, I never have to worry about it dying on me as I mow.

If you’re going to swap only one gas tool for a battery-powered option, make it the blower. Gas-powered blowers are far and away the worst polluters in the entire lawn-care arena: 30 minutes spent using one emits more hydrocarbons than a cross-country drive, per 11Alive — which is sickening, especially considering the fact that my battery blower from Stihl works perfectly well, easily moving leaves around on the lawn and patio, blasting muck out of the gutters, and helping to dry the cars after a wash. (Pro tip for ya, that.) The blower does burn through its battery pretty fast, requiring a swap halfway through a bigger lawn cleanup, so getting a second battery is smart, but I’ve never used up both batteries in one yard-work session.

About ten years back, I had an electric string trimmer that was just the worst. It was a pain in the neck having to trail an extension cord behind me as I worked — a cord that routinely disconnected from the wall or the tool at inopportune times — and, what’s more, the thing was criminally underpowered, incapable of whacking through all but the meekest of weeds. With this battery trimmer from eForce, if anything I have the opposite problem: It’s almost too robust in its whacking. If I’m not steady with the edging, it will chew right through even the lushest grass, and it will eat right down into the soil, inadvertently damaging grass or messing up my clean edge lines. And it will chew up just about any plants it meets, even including woodier ones like hydrangeas. (Yeah, that happened.)

A reciprocating saw chews through just about anything in its way, be that lumber, pipes, or wiring, with a powerful push-pull cutting action. These saws are usually used in building and demolition, but believe you me: They are superb for pruning branches, sawing up felled limbs, cutting through tough roots, and many other yard-care applications. Because my Kobalt saw uses a battery, I can easily clamber up a ladder or into a tree with it, cutting away as needed, no cords to worry about, and I have never had the battery run out on me when I start a day’s yard work with it fully charged.

The word pruner does this tool a disservice; it’s like calling a 20,000-square-foot house a bungalow. A more accurate description would be a handheld chain saw, because that’s really what it is! I’ve used this battery-powered (sigh) pruner to saw right through branches up to three inches thick. And because it’s so lightweight, single-handed operation is effortless. Now, you may ask what sets this tool apart from that reciprocating saw? Even as capable as the saw is, its blade does get stuck in thicker branches because it’s so thin; the wider blade on my Stihl pruner chews its way through those thicker pieces of wood with minimal snags or stalls.

Battery-powered hedge trimmers are nothing new, and, in fact, there’s a good chance that if you own a hedge trimmer, it’s a battery-powered tool — I remember using one well over 20 years ago when helping my parents work in the yard of my childhood home. If you don’t have one, I humbly posit the Black+Decker 20V Max trimmer as a great choice because it’s capable, reliable, and under a hundred bucks with a battery and charger included — that’s a very good deal. My trimmer makes short work of hedges, perennial flowers that get cut back at season’s end, and smaller twigs and brambles. Its blades do snag when I try to cut through thicker branches with this tool, but that’s my problem, not its fault, and I should really learn sometime that, no, this thing is not a saw.

“Now, wait a minute!” I hear you saying. “How do you use a drill for yard work?” Several ways, in fact. I have owned my Kobalt drill since 2015 — it still works like new — and I use it all the time outdoors. My favorite trick is connecting it to a drain snake and using that to clear my downspouts twice a year. Nothing gets leaves, pine needles, brambles, and that weird black roof gunk out of the gutter pipes like an auger hooked up to a drill. I also use my Kobalt drill with a half-inch bit to utterly eradicate stubborn broad-leaved weeds like dandelions, removing roots that don’t come along when the weed is pulled. And finally, for any holes that need drilling or screws that need driving out there — for hanging a bird feeder or fixing the patio furniture — well, this thing works pretty well for its intended applications.

As noted, battery-powered tools are a lot quieter than gas tools. But if I want to listen to Radiolab or “Weekend Edition” with Scott Simon while I mow the lawn, my regular earbuds still have a tough time putting out audio I can hear over the noise. These earmuffs — with built-in speakers — block out exterior sound remarkably well, allowing me to pipe in my favorite programs (and/or ’90s and early-aughts music). They’re Bluetooth-enabled, so connecting to your devices is easy, and the connection has always proved strong thus far, even when my phone is a couple dozen feet away. And as these earmuffs are rated to reduce the noise reaching your ears by a full 24 decibels, they can by all means keep you safe from any sounds your electric hardware produces. In fact, they can even protect you from the howl of a gas-powered mower or blower, which tends to crank out around 90 decibels, per, which is over the 85-decibel sound safety threshold for humans. Not to worry, though — per CNET, most electric mowers don’t produce more than 75 decibels of sound.

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Ask Me About My Super-Quiet Electric Yard Tools