The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calculates that a single gas lawn mower emits the same amount of volatile organic compounds in an hour as a car driven 350 miles. Multiply that times 54 million--the estimated number of Americans who mow their lawns every weekend--and it's a staggering amount of toxic particles entering the atmosphere--some five percent of the nation's total air pollutants. And because lawn mowers are used predominantly in hot months when ground-level ozone is the highest, they bring added misery to asthma sufferers.
And that's just the toxins that get into the air. Each year, the EPA says that homeowners spill 17 million gallons of gasoline when refilling their lawn products, six million more gallons than the Exxon Valdez spilled into Prince William Sound in 1989.
The Electric Power Research Institute of Palo Alto, California, says that replacing one half of the nearly 1.3 million gas mowers in the U.S. with electric mowers would be the emissions equivalent of taking two million cars off the road.
Electric mowers are not only better for the environment (because they create no exhaust emissions and run cleaner), they also need less maintenance (no spark plugs and belts) and are easier to use (no pull cord--just turn the key). On top of all that, they're less expensive to run. The average electric mower uses the same electricity as an ordinary toaster, costing just $5 per year. The electrics also create considerably less noise pollution.
On the downside, electric mowers cost up to $150 more and are limited to use with smaller lawns; corded mowers are restricted by the 100-foot cord length and cordless mowers are limited to the runtime of their charge--30 to 60 minutes, depending on battery size. Corded mowers also carry the risk of running over the cord, although top models guide the cord to the side of the handle to prevent that. And cordless mowers can present an environmental hazard if their lead-acid batteries are not disposed of at a recycling facility.
According to consumer ratings, Black & Decker leads the pack. Consumer-search.com reports that B&D's corded model, MM 875 ($230), is "maintenance-free" and has a one-lever height adjustment that's easy to maneuver. Its cordless model, CMM 1200 ($400), does a better job than most corded electric mowers, plus mulches more effectively and cuts more evenly. Other corded models that fared well are the Craftsmen 37051 ($220)...