The new breed of reel lawn mower offers many advantages over the traditional gasoline powered grass cutters. But there’s always a risk when trying something new, and possibly the biggest risk in this case is social.
Making greener lifestyle choices is increasingly becoming mainstream. It’s widely acknowledged that sustainable options like LED’s and hybrid cars for example, not only have a lower environmental impact, but also provide financial advantages. The reel mower is no exception.
I purchased a reel lawn mower two years ago. I’ve had mixed results, but generally I can see more upside as a result of making the switch. Here are the benefits that I can identify.
Reel mowers are powered by your effort. The blades spin when you push the machine forward. There’s no engine, and no exhaust. I can hear the groans. I know, a mower uses very little fuel. I can mow for a year using less than 5 gallons on my suburban lot. That’s only a $20 annual saving, but I prefer that money to stay in my pocket.
Emissions are no joke. In 2006 the California Air Resources Board estimated that gas-powered mowers caused 2% of smog forming emissions. Gallon for gallon, a mower produces 96 times the emissions of a car. Astonishing.
So serious is this that the EPA introduced higher standards that are going into effect this year. They will mandate the addition of catalytic converters on all gas mowers. This move was strongly opposed by the industry, due to added costs of about $75 per machine.
However, the EPA claims that the benefits far outweigh the costs:
- 23,000 fewer lost hours at work due to smog related illness, per year
- 1,700 fewer hospitalizations, per year
- 300 fewer premature deaths, per year
- $4.0 billion less spent on health costs over 20 years
- 190 million gallons of gasoline saved each year, due to more efficient combustion
It’s a Workout
While the simple reel mower weighs much less that the gas model, it’s a little more difficult to push. This makes me sweat and elevates my heart rate for a solid cardio session, every time I cut the grass. If you want to combine exercise with yard-work, this is the mower for you.
There’s no doubt that the reel mower produces a different, more manicured result. The blades cut in a rotating pattern, leaving a bowling green finish.
Low Up-Front Cost
Starting at around $100 there is very little financial risk to purchasing a reel mower.
There are some shortcomings. It has not completely replaced my gas mower, but I use the reel as often as possible. It does struggle with weeds, and very long grass.
The biggest drawback is social. I can’t tell you the number of neighbors that have a double-take when they see me using the reel mower. Of course most people are too polite to tell you they think you are some kind of green freak. I don’t consider myself to be a freak at all. I just enjoy trying new things for myself. It’s ironic that the reel mower is actually very old technology.
My 87-year-old neighbor, suffering with Alzheimer’s, is refreshingly honest. Every time he sees me using the reel mower he shakes his head, and tells me get my gas mower fixed. If you can take the ribbing from your neighbors, it’s definitely worth a try.
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