Five Percent: Conserve Energy

Climate Change Is Important: Energy Conservation is the First Step

May 6, 2006

Rechargeable Lawnmower: It’s Great!

Rechargeable Lawn Mower

Rechargeable Lawn Mower

In a previous post I wrote about noise and especially bad energy efficiency of lawnmowers and other garden equipment, and suggested electric lawnmowers. I ordered one through Amazon and it was delivered (free!) in a few days. The grass is finally getting high enough here to mow, so I tried it out. It’s great!

But I am now faced with a moral dilemma. I have a perfectly good gas mower that I bought a few years ago before I saw the light. I could sell it on craigslist, or even give it away via Freecycle. But if I do that, I will be perpetuating its smoke belching, carbon and soot producing habits. Or, I could disassemble it send it for recycling. But that seems kind of wasteful, too.

Anyone have any ideas?

Anyway, here are some details on what I bought and also electric mowers in general.

I bought the Black and Decker CMM1000, which is rechargeable. It has plenty of power and is wonderfully quiet. My yard is small, and the amount of grass is even less, but there is a charge indicator and it didn’t even move after 15 minutes of mowing. It comes with a grass bag, but I have decided to try not picking up grass clippings this year since it’s really a colossal waste of organic material. The earthy-crunchies say that grass clippings help keep grass moist, keep down the weeds and earthworms will aerate, and next year will need less fertilizer. They also recommend mowing the grass at 4 inches, which is quite tall — the mower maxes out at 3-1/2 inches, so I tried about 3 inches to start. The mower has a lever you can use to adjust the height of all four wheels at once, which is nice.

Before my wicked gas mowing days, I was just cheap (not energy conscious) and bought an inexpensive electric mower (with a cord) for the condo we lived in, which also had very little grass. Everyone says that handling the cords is a pain … and it can be. However, two things make mowing with a cord just fine: 1) get several outlets in convenient locations (or run some semi-permanent extension cords), and 2) get a good, long, flexible cord — better one cord than multiples plugged together, since they either unplug when you tug on them, or snag as you pull them around trees and bushes. A final tip: mow from the cord out so that you are not constantly moving the cord around. I also had an electric snow-blower, and setting up the cord was the key to making it no problem (and getting a cord that stays flexible in the cold is also important).

The bottom line on mowing is that it’s really more of a statement. Avoiding an airline flight, or turning down the lights, or commuting to work are all far bigger contributors to a reduction in energy use. But, like our Toyota Prius the effect may be hard to quantify, but I feel like an ambassador of positive change when using it. People know where I stand, and know I am willing to put my money where my mouth is. I can’t say how many conversations it has started, and if these conversations lead to awareness and action by others, my five percent will be multiplied.


  1. Black & Decker and Sears Craftsman cordless electric lawnmowers

    Problem: Could overheat and catch fire.

    Products: 140,000 Black & Decker mowers sold 2/96 to 8/02 at home centers, hardware, and discount stores nationwide, and Craftsman mowers sold 1/98 to 12/00 at Sears stores. The mowers sold for $360 to $400. Recalled Black & Decker mowers bear model number CMM1000 or CMM1000R and date codes from 9534 through 200230, both of which are located on silver and black label affixed to rear door of mower. Mowers have either an orange or green deck cover with black motor cover. Craftsman mowers bear model number 900.370520 and include same date codes noted above. Model number is on the silver and black label affixed to rear door. Mowers have dark green deck cover with black motor cover.

    Comment by Matt — May 7, 2006 @ 5:03 pm

  2. What to do: Stop using mower. Consumers with a Black & Decker model should call company at 866-229-5570 or go to to learn how to get free repair. Craftsman mower owners should go to the nearest Sears store or product repair center for free repair.

    Comment by Matt — May 7, 2006 @ 5:04 pm

  3. Just thought you might want to check and make sure you aren’t affected. ~Matt

    Comment by Matt — May 7, 2006 @ 5:06 pm

  4. Thanks Matt. Looks like my mower, purchased this year is fine.

    Comment by Tom Harrison — May 8, 2006 @ 7:35 pm

  5. Good to hear you aren’t affected I’m thinking of buying the same mower. Would you buy it again, what would you do different? Seen any better deals on it compared to where you got it? Thanks. ~Matt

    Comment by Matt — May 11, 2006 @ 8:50 am

  6. How about one-upping that and getting an old-fashioned push reel mowers (now that you already have 2 mowers). It requires no extra energy (one could argue that you spend more energy pushing a mower with an engine/motor than one without) and uses less energy (only human energy instead of gas or electric) I also saw a pair of strap on sandals with 2.25″ spikes to aerate your lawn while mowing. Seems like a good idea:

    push reel mowers

    aerator sandals

    Just a thought

    Comment by Reed Braman — May 12, 2006 @ 12:25 pm

  7. Reed —

    I called my Mom for mother’s day yesterday, and she beat you to the guilt-laden punch, suggesting a reel mower which not only costs less, uses almost no energy (some from the human pushing it, but we have to think that has other benefits, such as reduced waistline, etc.), and certainly costs less overall to manufacture, and probably will last for 100 years.

    I think you and my mom win :-)

    BTW — thanks for the link to the aerator sandals. In addition to being a great environmentally sound alternative to huge “plugger” machines, the chicks really dig them if you wear them to the beach. I don’t play golf, but I wonder if you could get a discount if you replaced your golf shoes…

    Comment by Tom Harrison — May 15, 2006 @ 7:28 pm

  8. I’ve had my cordless mower (Sears model, made by B&D) for 6 years now, and generally love it. Just one glitch I can’t figure out: If I accidentally try to start it while the safety key is out, it goes into a lock-up mode. Then when I DO put the safety key in, it still won’t start.

    I’ve done this again today, and cannot for the life of me remember how I ever got it unlocked before. Sears no longer has a phone no. for customer service, so I’ve turned to the Web. Anyone know how to fix this problem?

    Comment by Carole — October 24, 2006 @ 4:09 pm

  9. […] The electric (battery) lawn mower is awesome. It is quiet, effective, and has way more juice than I …. It doesn’t stink, and charges in a short time, after which it’s ready to go for the next time I need to mow. I highly recommend a battery electric mower for anyone inclined to get rid of their gasoline model. It’s a better change for the environment, too (gas mowers, like most small gas motors, are terribly inefficient and spew forth great amounts of greenhouse gasses. […]

    Pingback by Lawn Aerator Shoes, Electric Mower, Organic Fertilizer, Water, Bike | Five Percent: Conserve a Little Energy — April 19, 2008 @ 9:03 pm

  10. I am not interested in the environmental issue as my reason for purchase. Though the idea of a low emissions option is nice. I like the idea of having a charged battery and a lawn mower ready to go when I am. I hate having to take a gas can to down the street to fill up at the most inconvenient times. Then, spilling it on the floor of my car, because I don’t own a pickup only to deal with the stain and smell for months and years to come.

    Comment by Paul — September 4, 2008 @ 1:41 pm

  11. Paul —

    Gas stinks, no matter how you use it. I have abandoned my snow blower because I would come in smelling like oily gas.

    The lawnmower is great because it’s quiet (!!), always starts instantly, and also doesn’t stink.


    Comment by Tom Harrison — September 4, 2008 @ 3:27 pm

  12. I have an earthwise cordless mower for over two years now and am really happy with it. I used to do my lawn with one of those rotating plate manual mowers but always waited for the grass to get too long before I cut it.


    Comment by John — January 8, 2010 @ 4:14 pm

  13. John —

    While your comment falls into my general policy of “no blatant commercial promotion”, I think the site offers some really great and honest information for consumers.

    I have been using a cordless electric mower for three years or so now, and it’s awesome — it always starts, is quiet, never needs a tune up, and doesn’t stink. My lawn is small, but my mower would handle any lawn in my neighborhood with no problem.

    People used to gas mowers should stop and think a minute: your current gas mower is really a huge pain: it sometimes doesn’t start, needs tune ups, and you need to have gas and oil. Electric mowers just work. Your gas mower pollutes as much as a car. No, really. Unless you have a massive lawn, an electric mower is a huge step forward, and one not needing a cord is really nice.

    OK, how’s that for punishing those who do blatant commercial promotion?

    Just don’t let it happen again.


    Comment by Tom Harrison — January 8, 2010 @ 6:50 pm

  14. Update: I have been using the mower from the post for 4 years. It’s still great.

    Comment by Tom Harrison — January 8, 2010 @ 6:51 pm

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