Battery Powered Lawn Mower and Other Cordless Yard Tools: What You Need to Know

Do they make the cut?

Cordless yard tools have always been far more convenient than corded or gas models. But early models didn’t always deliver on performance. Some weren’t powerful enough to cut heavy growth, and many times the batteries ran out of power before the job was done.

That’s changing. The latest generation of 40-, 58- and even 80-volt lithium batteries is more powerful and runs longer. The tools are more robust, too, so they can do the work of gas-powered tools. If you were disappointed by lower-voltage tools in the past, it may be time to consider today’s higher-voltage models.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

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Can they replace gas and corded electric models?

Can They Handle Your Yard?

Cordless yard tools with voltage ratings of 40 or more are definitely powerful enough for most jobs. But there’s no getting around the fact that battery run-time is still the limiting factor. When you’re deciding whether a cordless electric yard tool could replace your gas or corded electric tool, consider two things:

  1. How much run-time do you need? Time how long it takes you to do the job with your current machine. Then shop for a tool that has sufficient run-time. If you need more run-time, you can always buy a second battery ($140 to $210, depending on the voltage and brand). Or you can take a break and let the battery recharge (sometimes in as few as 30 minutes).
  2. Does your yard get out of control? Be honest about how often you let your yard get out of hand. If you try to cut very long grass or heavy growth, a cordless tool may not have the run-time or raw power to get the job done.
  3. With those caveats in mind, here’s our advice based on frank discussions with the tool manufacturers, coupled with editors’ actual experiences.

Can they replace gas and corded electric models?

Tips for maximum battery life and value

Buying tips

Start at the store

Visit a home center, garden center, hardware store or dealer and get recommendations based on your lot size and configuration. Pick up the machines and compare the weight and balance (with the battery in place). Then check out other brands at other stores and online.

Some manufacturers list two run-times based on high and low settings. Other manufacturers list a single run-time, and it’s often based on the low power setting. If you don’t know which power setting the manufacturer used, you might be disappointed. A battery with a one-hour run-time at low power, for example, can run out of juice in as few as 15 minutes at high power. If the manufacturer doesn’t list both in the specs, call its toll-free number and ask.

Don’t get hooked on battery specs

Remember that battery voltage and amp-hour ratings tell you about the battery only; they aren’t necessarily good indicators of the tool’s power or run-time. For example, here’s what we found when we compared two cordless electric leaf blowers: The higher-voltage model and the lower-voltage tool had nearly identical cfm and air velocity ratings. But the high-voltage tool was much heavier and had a shorter battery warranty and higher battery replacement cost. So it’s smart to compare models based on all the factors: initial cost; performance specs like run-time; battery and tool warranty; replacement battery costs; and weight and balance.

Compare return policies

Some retail stores offer a 90-day return policy, while online stores usually limit returns to just 30 days. You’ll also likely have to pay the return shipping costs and a restocking fee if the unit isn’t defective.

Read customer reviews

Don’t rely solely on manufacturers’ specs. Read customer reviews (the good and the bad) to get a feel for how well the tool actually performs. But keep in mind that many users have unrealistic expectations for run-time, leading them to downgrade a tool’s performance. If the battery is rated for 30 minutes and the reviewer expected it to last 45 minutes, that’s not a manufacturing defect.

Follow the manufacturer’s start-up charging procedures

Most new batteries require at least a 12-hour charge before use. Some even require three to five charge cycles before the battery reaches full operation. If you fudge on the manufacturer’s charging instructions, you’ll be disappointed in the run-time. However, if you’ve followed the instructions to the letter and you’re not happy with the tool’s performance, return it right away.

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