5 Reasons to Choose Battery-Powered Lawn Tools
Battery mowers, string trimmers, and the like have a lower environmental impact, and they perform better than ever
We all want our yards to look nice and well-kept. But some of the tools we use to keep our property manicured are causing more harm to the environment than many people realize.
Gas-powered outdoor equipment, including leaf blowers and lawn mowers, emit an outsized share of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
There are 650 million gas-powered outdoor tools currently in use, according to The Freedonia Group, a division of marketresearch.com. And every single one of them contributes to climate change.
“When you look nationally at the pollution from gas-powered yard tools, the numbers are pretty staggering,” says Simon Mui, deputy director for the clean vehicles and fuels group, part of the climate and clean energy program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “These little lawn tools with two-stroke engines are, in some cases, putting out 20 to nearly 300 times the emissions of a car.”
Source: Simon Mui/Natural Resources Defense Council.
Two-stroke engines are commonly used in handheld lawn tools like chainsaws and string trimmers, while more efficient four-stroke engines are used in tools with wheels, like lawn mowers and snow blowers.
But any gas lawn tool pollutes more than a battery model, and switching to battery-powered lawn tools can help lessen that impact. They’re far better for the planet, and they’re pretty great for your yard, too.
“Every year we test more battery tools, and every year we find fewer reasons to recommend buying gas tools,” says Misha Kollontai, the CR engineer who oversees the testing of all outdoor power equipment.
1. The Motor Produces Zero Emissions
That stands in stark contrast to the two-stroke engines that power many gas tools. Not only do they pollute, they’re dirtier than car engines. That’s because they’re far less efficient and don’t have emissions-capturing technology that regulations have made standard in the auto industry.
Consider this: Running a commercial gas-powered leaf blower for just an hour produces about as much pollution as driving a 2017 Toyota Camry 1,100 miles, according to the California Air Resources Board.
Source: California Air Resources Board
2. Battery-Powered Tools Are More Efficient
Because electric motors are typically more efficient than gas engines, they require less energy input to do the same amount of work.
“Gasoline engines generate a significant amount of heat during the combustion phase, which is just wasted energy,” says James Dickerson, CR’s chief scientific officer.
Electric motors don’t typically have the same waste-heat problem as gasoline engines, so more of the energy they generate goes directly toward powering the tool.
3. You Can Recharge Them
Any form of energy comes at some cost to the environment. The lithium-ion batteries that power these lawn tools need to be recharged with electricity, so they contribute to greenhouse gas emissions indirectly by taking energy generated by power plants.
“But it’s a fraction of the harmful emissions produced by running gas tools,” Mui says.
And if your utility company relies in part on renewable energy, such as wind and solar power, the carbon footprint of using your electric tool gets even smaller.
You can see where your area stands by entering your ZIP code into the EPA’s Power Profiler to see how much of the energy you use is generated by oil, natural gas, and renewable sources.
One side note: If you purchase multiple tools from the same manufacturer platform, you can use one battery interchangeably in all of them. And for each tool you purchase without a battery, you save around 30 percent.
4. There’s No Risk of Spilled Gasoline
It’s almost inevitable that you’ll spill a few drops of gas when you refill the tank of a lawn mower or string trimmer, or when filling up a container at a gas station.
“When people fill up storage containers at a gas station, they often spill fuel because the shutoff mechanisms in gas pumps don't activate the way they do when you’re filling the tank on your car,” says Andrew Zimmerman, a professor of geological sciences at the University of Florida. “That spilled gasoline can contaminate ground water and aquatic systems, potentially exposing people to dangerous hydrocarbons like benzene and toluene.”
And while your small spill may seem like no big deal in the moment, consider that you’re one of millions of people making that mistake. “If you added up all the spilled fuel across the country each year," Mui says, "you’d probably end up with something that resembled a large-scale oil spill.”
Source: Simon Mui/Natural Resources Defense Council.
5. Battery-Powered Tools Are Reliable
So chances are they’re less likely to wind up in a landfill as quickly as most gas-powered tools. And those discarded tools add up.
For instance, based on CR member surveys, 5 percent of all leaf blowers purchased new between 2012 and 2019 were discarded due to problems with the tools working properly, and 9 percent of all string trimmers purchased new between 2013 and 2019 were discarded for the same reason.
That can translate into millions of tools winding up in the garbage.
For our reliability survey, we ask CR members to tell us about problems they experienced with their outdoor power equipment, and then use that data to estimate how reliable newly purchased tools will be through the fourth or fifth year of ownership.
In general, battery blowers and trimmers turn out to be more reliable than gas ones. For instance, all of the battery string trimmer brands we rate earn a rating of Very Good or Excellent for predicted reliability, while less than half of the gas brands we rate score the same. Five gas brands earn a low rating of Fair.
For leaf blowers, most handheld battery-powered brands earn a favorable reliability rating. No handheld gas brand earns more than a middling Good reliability rating. In fact, a number of brands earn a Fair or Poor rating.
Of course, it’s possible that with proper maintenance, a gas tool can last a long time, but our data shows that generally, battery-powered models are less problematic.
We see more variability with battery lawn mowers, but a majority of the battery mower brands for which we have adequate data earn a rating of Good or better—and a handful of brands earn ratings of Very Good or Excellent. That’s roughly what we see for gas mower brands, too.
One more plus on the side of battery tools: As they have become better, so have their warranties. Many brands have started offering lengthier warranties of two or three years as opposed to one year, which was pretty standard when battery tools first came out.
One stellar battery brand, Ego, offers a three-year warranty on its battery and a five-year warranty on the tool itself—a fairly common practice among battery tool makers.
So when a problem arises with a battery-powered lawn tool, it may be easier to have it fixed rather than throw it out. That’s good for the Earth and for your wallet, too.
5 Standout Battery-Powered Lawn Tools
You can count on the snow blower, lawn mower, string trimmer, leaf blower, and chainsaw below to provide stellar performance and produce zero emissions while you tackle your yardwork.