Mow and Mow Quiet, Please

It’s 8:30 a.m. on a sunny Sunday morning and the lawn needs mowing. The grass is already dry, but the neighbors are all still asleep. Is there any ruder awakening than a power mower starting up? With my lawn mower, however, I don’t need to worry. I roll it out of the shed, insert the ignition key and circuit breaker, squeeze the padded handle, push the starter button. And the 19-inch blade begins to whir.

Whir? It’s not a word commonly used to describe a power mower, but whir it does, spinning at 3,250 rpm and cutting the grass. A mulching model, it cuts the grass very fine, recutting each clipping many times. All this I could be telling you as I mow. You’d have no trouble hearing me, for this machine generates about as much noise as conversation. What makes this lawn mower’s engine so quiet? It’s battery powered.

It takes me on average 45 minutes to mow the lawn, which occupies about two-thirds of our 13,000-square-foot lot. When I’m done, I take out the ignition key and plug in an extension cord. After six to eight hours, a green light appears on the control panel, informing me that the battery is now fully charged and that I can put the mower away.

This is the fifth summer I’ve used this mower. After its initial recharge out of winter storage each year, it has started every time I pushed the button, and stopped every time I let go of the handle. Its electrical consumption is less than $10 per year. Fuel for a gasoline-powered machine would cost two or three times that much. The only servicing I’ve ever done is to sharpen the blade and periodically wipe down the underside of the deck. Compare this to oil changes, air filter cleanings, and the cost of periodic trips to the repair shop when the engine simply refuses to start, and you will understand why I tend to feel pretty smug on a Sunday morning.

Smugness, however, is never a virtue, especially on Sunday morning. And therefore I must confess that I have not found paradise quite yet.

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