I want to use cordless and electric tools, especially yard tools and a lawn mower, instead of gasoline ones. Will using them increase my electric bills much, and which rechargeable batteries are best?—Kelli F.
For homeowners who live on small lots, using electric or cordless tools can make more sense than using gasoline-powered ones. Obviously, the United States has to import huge amounts of oil to make gasoline. Anything a homeowner can do to use less gasoline is good.
If you have access to an electric outlet, plug-in tools offer lighter weight and more power than cordless ones.
Electric or cordless tools also cost much less to use than gasoline tools. For example, a cordless lawn mower can cut a 1/3-acre lot for about 10 cents’ worth of electricity to charge the battery—usually an overnight charge. Also, there are few maintenance costs associated with a cordless or electric tool.
Don’t necessarily look for the highest voltage tool with the most power. No matter what type of battery a tool uses, higher voltage usually means more battery weight. If you primarily do light shrub trimming or drill small holes in soft wood, lower voltage is your best choice.
Of your outdoor power tools, you’ll use a lawn mower most often. Most of the newer rechargeable cordless lawn mowers are designed to have enough charge to cut the typical 1/3-acre lot. This is assuming a medium-length grass—perhaps one-week growth maximum. With little maintenance, cordless mowers are easy and quick to use. The only drawback is they are usually heavier than gasoline-powered mowers.
For convenience, select a model with a removable battery so the mower can be stored in a shed while keeping the battery in the garage for charging and wintertime storage.
Black & Decker recently introduced a self-propelled, 36-volt cordless mower. It has a variable-speed motor to drive the wheels so you can set a comfortable walking speed.
A handy cordless tool is a 12-volt pruning saw with a lithium-ion battery to reduce weight, which is important because a pruning saw is often used overhead and can tire shoulder muscles quickly.
The four types of rechargeables
– Lead-acid batteries are used in cordless lawn mowers because they can store the most charge. They are heavy, a drawback for hand-held tools.
– Nickel-cadmium batteries maintain performance at cooler temperatures—important for outdoor tools—but are also relatively heavy.
– Nickel metal-hydride batteries can store more electricity for the weight, but lose run time in cold temperatures.
– Lithium-ion batteries are the newest and most expensive, but are the lightest for the power they can store. They operate well in cold temperatures.