Over the past month, I've trimmed my grass four times, sliced firewood with a chainsaw, torn up lawn to reseed and weed-whacked my overgrown two-acre property.
And I haven't used a single drop of gasoline.
It's shaping up to be the summer of the "alternative energy" outdoor power tools. From battery mowers and garden cultivators to a new propane-propelled string trimmer, manufacturers and retailers are rolling out consumer machines that run on gas substitutes and boast lower emissions and fewer maintenance headaches.
Right now, Ariens Co. of Brillion, Wis., is introducing its $3,299 "AMP Rider" electric-motor mower that works off rechargeable lead-acid batteries and never needs an oil-change. Valley City, Ohio-based MTD Products Inc.'s Troy-Bilt brand just launched a $169 seven-pound lithium-ion battery trimmer it says can run up to 45 minutes on a single charge. And Vergennes, Vt.-based Country Home Products Inc., known for its futuristic Neuton brand battery push mower, just added four new tools with interchangeable nickel-cadmium batteries to its lineup, including a $109 chainsaw.
Meantime, home-improvement retailers are allocating more shelf space for these eco-machines, lured by slowing sales of gas models and robust interest in alternative-fuel models. At Home Depot Inc., 2008 was a record year, with double-digit sales growth, for non-gas outdoor equipment.
Two factors are driving the trend, says Wesley Neece, Home Depot senior merchant for lawn and garden: the greening of America and lingering caution about rising gas prices. Home Depot sells a range of items from corded and battery-powered push mowers to a trimmer just out from Los Angeles-based Lehr Inc. that's fueled by a small 16.4-ounce propane canister. Home Depot is just beginning to sell the Ariens battery AMP Rider online.