Battery-powered lawn mowers are superior to gas models
Q: My gas lawn mower just died, so I might try a cordless battery-powered one this time. What factors should I consider and can one cut a normal-sized residential yard?
A: My home has a half-acre lot, and I have tested various cordless lawn mowers over several years. All of the newer cordless mowers can cut my entire yard on a single charge, and I would never consider going back to a heavy, noisy gasoline-powered mower.
The newest cordless mowers use lightweight lithium-ion batteries with special motor circuitry to provide more cutting area per battery charge. The motor does not run at full power until the cutting resistance spikes up. This may happen over a tall dense patch of grass or clump of tough weeds, and then the power drops back to normal to use less battery power.
A significant advantage of cordless mowers is that they require no maintenance other than sharpening the blade periodically, as you should do with a gasoline mower. A sharp blade does more than just reduce the power needed to cut through the grass. It also makes a cleaner cut on each blade of grass. This results in healthier and greener grass.
The operating cost for a cordless mower is very low. There is no gasoline or oil to buy, no air filter to replace or visits to the mower repair shop. It uses less than 10 cents of electricity to recharge the battery and produces much less air pollution overall than running a gasoline mower.
Cordless mowers are quiet enough to talk on the phone while cutting grass. Some have LED headlights so you can cut the grass at night. Another advantage is storage during winter. With no gasoline or oil to worry about leaking, it can be tilted up on end and placed close against a garage wall. The handle folds together so it takes up very little floor space.
When selecting a mower, first consider the size of your yard. Most cordless mowers range in cutting widths from about 14 inches to 20 inches. For a small yard or one with tight, narrow areas, a 14- or 16-inch size is adequate. For most homes, a 19- or 20-inch size is effective and convenient to handle. For lots larger than one-half acre, a 21-inch size will reduce mowing time.
Many newer cordless mowers use lithium-ion batteries because they are lightweight and can be recharged in just one to three hours. Models with older-type lead acid batteries can weigh up to 20 pounds more and take overnight to recharge. Lead-acid batteries also need to be recharged immediately or their life is reduced.
Cordless mowers with lithium batteries are lightweight, so a self-propelled feature often is not needed. The Black & Decker 20-inch model I use weighs only 48 pounds. For hilly yards, Ego offers variable-speed, self-propelled models. The amount of yard they cut per charge is slightly reduced due to running the self-propel motor.
The amount of energy the rechargeable battery pack can store, and thus how much grass it can cut, is a function of (A) the battery voltage and (B) the ampere-hours. To compare various mower power packs, multiply (A) times (B). If you have a large yard and will need to recharge the batteries to finish, also consider the recharging time or purchase an extra battery.
The 60-volt Black & Decker Power Swap model is a convenient design. Instead of using one big battery, it holds two removable half-size ones. When the grass is very thick during spring and one charge will not cut it all, I charge one battery while the other one runs the mower. This allows me to cut the entire yard nonstop.
A mower with "edge-design" feature makes it convenient to cut very close to trees and walls. Compare the cutting height adjustment range. During summer, set it to a high setting. Longer grass blades block the sun from weed seedlings so the seedlings often die out.
The following companies offer cordless lawn mowers: Black & Decker, (800) 544-6986, www.blackanddecker.com; Ego, (855) 346-565, www.egopowerplus.com); Greenworks, (888) 909-6757, www.greenworkstools.com; Ryobi, (800) 860-4050, www.ryobitools.com; Sun Joe, (866) 766-9563, www.snowjoe.com; and Worx, (855) 279-0505, www.worx.com.
Q: We have a free-standing, wood-burning fireplace in our living room and the wall behind it needs paint. What type of paint should we use or is there a better wall coating to use?
A: If the stove is the approved distance from the wall, most paints should withstand the heat. Ceramic-filled paint is particularly reflective to heat. Brushed or shiny aluminum sheet squares are also effective. Ordinary mirror tiles, while they look reflective, do not reflect heat.
You might also consider painting the back side of the fireplace with high-temperature silver paint. This will reduce the heat loss from the fireplace to the outdoor wall behind it.
• Write to James Dulley at 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit dulley.com.