Could battery-powered devices be the future of the industry?
Austin Hall, president of Greenwise in Evanston, Ill., And Michael Reed, owner of Quiet Lawn in Longs, South Carolina, believe things are going in that direction.
The main benefits of the equipment appear to be triple – better for the environment, better for the crews, and less noise.
Hall, who admits that Greenwise is still using a mix of gas and battery-powered devices in the transition to all-electric appliances, says that the motivating factor was being conscientious about the environment.
“Our company is an organic lawn care company and a sustainable landscape maintenance and design company,” he says. “Everything we do is all about the idea of sustainability and our motto is ‘Lighten your footprint’. We use organic fertilizers, natural weed control products and have thought about how we can improve our footprint in terms of our emissions. “
Reed says he chose battery-powered devices to differentiate himself from the competition.
“It was so different from what others were doing,” he says. “That really drove me in that direction.”
Put in the right gear.
Reed says Quiet Lawn are taking advantage of a wide range of these as more electrical appliances hit the market.
“We use a standard off-the-shelf zero-turn mower and handheld electrical equipment,” he says. “Almost everything we use is electric – from our blowers, edgers, trimmers, and chainsaws. It is rare that we have to use a gas powered device. If we have to rent heavy equipment, that would be our only exception. “
Greenwise continues to add battery powered devices.
“We’ve been using battery-powered hand tools, mostly blowers, for four or five years,” he says. “We also have two battery operated mowers. They are 33 inch mowers and we find them very effective. Over time, we will switch our propane mowers to battery-powered ones. Ultimately, we expect to be 100% battery powered. “
While some doubt the strength of battery-powered devices, Reed has said, in his experience, that they are comparable to gas-powered ones, and speaks to him.
“When I used gas appliances, I got a headache smelling the fumes all day,” he says. “You can’t get that with the electro.”
No noise, no problem.
While Greenwise continues to switch to all-electric, they have started a new route.
“This year we started a fully electric maintenance team that uses battery-powered mowers, battery-powered line trimmers, hedge trimmers and edge trimmers,” says Hall. driven for this special crew. “
Robyn McMurray Hurtig, Director of Community Engagement at Greenwise, says the new service couldn’t have come at a better time.
“People are at home trying to have conference calls and work from home. You hear landscapers with these gas powered blowers and that drives people crazy, ”she says. “We had a lot of inquiries about electricity and wanted to honor them and lead the prosecution in our region.”
McMurray Hurtig adds that Greenwise started piloting the new route in the spring and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
“It was very well received,” she says. “I’ve talked to a few clients, and one in particular talked about how she really was afraid of the day her landscape service would come because it was so loud. When we came with our all-electric crew, they couldn’t even tell when we left. “
According to Reed, the lack of noise exposure also leads customers to come to his company.
“Our customers really appreciate that,” he says. “We are much less intrusive in their lives. We’re in a great area for retirees. Probably 95% of our customers are retired so we don’t want to wake them up at 8 a.m. We try not to disturb them. “
Change is not easy.
While Hall and Reed certainly enjoy singing the praises of battery-powered devices, they recognize that doing so can present some challenges.
“I think one thing that could prevent certain companies from using this technology is just the upfront investment it takes to mow equipment,” says Hall. “If you buy a typical 36-inch lawnmower, the cost might be twice as much.”
Reed says that while the upfront cost is higher, the equipment pays for itself in the long run with lower maintenance costs and no fuel to purchase.
In addition to price, Reed says companies could run into problems if they don’t keep up with the store.
“You cannot stop at a battery station when the battery is dead. That’s the only thing. You have to have a lot of batteries and a good charging system, ”he says.
Hall and Reed also say they had to work hard to get their crews on board with the electrical equipment.
“There’s a bit of a learning curve because it feels different than a gas appliance when it’s in your hand. There is another procedure as well as you have to make sure everything is charged overnight, ”says Reed.
Hall says it was difficult at first getting his crews to slow down and see the benefits of the equipment.
“Culturally, we had to work with our crews to figure out what it means to use battery-powered devices, as in some cases the work gets done a little slower,” he says. “It’s typical in the industry that crews want to use the highest performing equipment so they can work efficiently. So it was a change in mindset among our employees. “
Both Reed and Hall say location plays an important role in pricing and deciding whether to charge a premium for electric lawn maintenance.
“We are in a unique region, in some villages in and around Evanston we are not allowed to use gas-powered blowers for a certain period of the season,” he says. “So it’s been the standard for some time. In this case, we do not rate the service higher. “
However, according to Hall, there is a price premium for the new all-electric service.
“(It’s) not really because of the cost of the equipment … but because we’re finding it takes more time to complete the service,” he says.
Reed foregoes more on electric lawn maintenance and keeps its prices competitive.
“It depends on the area someone is in. It’s not really hot in my area to be environmentally friendly. If I were in an urban area where this is much more important, I would definitely market the environmental aspect and try to get a premium, ”he says. “For me, I’m right there with the other good companies here. We are not the lowest and we are not the highest. “
According to Reed and Hall, the technology behind electrical devices has come a long way, and they expect it to continue to improve.
Hall said his crews had some of the latest pieces of equipment demonstrated and they were happy with the results.
“For a while, we thought that battery-powered blowers just didn’t have the muscle to do spring and fall cleanings,” he says. “Our crews tell us they could be and it was very encouraging for us.”
Hall suggests that anyone considering using the device do a test run first.
“There are many companies willing to allow landscaping companies to demonstrate equipment,” he says. “It helps you understand the range of options.”
Reed says he goes to trade shows every year, and every year he sees battery-powered devices become more popular.
“It’s amazing how the industry is changing and how fast the industry is moving towards electricity,” he says. “Three years ago people almost laughed at you when they heard you had an electric lawn service. Now people will come up to you like you are a rock star and ask about your gear. “
He believes the industry will continue to stand behind technology and says that at some point it will become the norm.
“Within 10 years, the majority of the industry will be going in this direction,” he says. “People who watch can read the tea leaves and see where it’s going. It just makes sense when the price goes down and capacity goes up. “