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These mowers prove "reel" disappointments

Consumer Reports News: July 10, 2008 12:09 AM

"I can't take the way the mower's blades only cut some of the grass. Each row requires at least two passes. Whereas I initially loved the mower's simplicity, I'm now envious of the power of the self-propelled mowers. I'm jealous that my power-mowing neighbor doesn't need to carbo-load the night before a big mow. Grass with more than six days of growth requires a cool-down with a sports recovery drink. I can't help wondering when Al Gore last mowed a lawn."

That's how Jenny Sokol, a columnist with The Orange County Register, described her experience with a reel lawn mower in "It's Not Easy Being Green With a Push Reel Mower."

We share not only Sokol's desire to reduce her carbon footprint but, sadly, also her disappointment in reel mowers. As we found in our latest report on lawn mowers and tractors, reel mowers don't do a particularly good job cutting grass.

One 15-inch model proved difficult to push (not a good trait for a reel mower), and a 20-inch reel mower simply didn't cut some areas. Another 15-inch model did cut evenly, but its maximum height is too low for most grasses when the weather turns hot. Get the details of our testing in "Reel Mowers: A Disappointing Trio" (available to subscribers).

If you have a small yard, a far better green mower move would be to buy an electric model. This type of mower is easier to use and maintain than gas-powered models and creates no exhaust emissions at the machine. You'll find details on three corded and five cordless electric push mowers in our Ratings (available to subscribers).

Also, learn about lawn-mower-exchange programs—you swap your gas model for an electric mower—and check out the Black & Decker CMM1200, an Energy Star-qualified electric mower.—Steven H. Saltzman

Essential information: Use our Complete Lawn & Yard Guide to keep your property in tiptop shape this summer.

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