The sound of (near) silence — Tim’s Lawn Care goes electric

By Bruce Burdett
Posted 7/23/21

WESTPORT — Ah, the sweet sounds of summer — birds chirping, children at play and the Friday evening din of the lawn care company’s stand-on mowers and 80-decibel backpack blowers …

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The sound of (near) silence — Tim’s Lawn Care goes electric

Posted

WESTPORT — Ah, the sweet sounds of summer — birds chirping, children at play and the Friday evening din of the lawn care company’s stand-on mowers and 80-decibel backpack blowers next door.

Finally, at least one local company is doing its utmost to muzzle the notoriously noisy machines that have long been used to cut, trim and clean up yards.

Tim Palmer, owner of Tim’s Lawn Care on Main Road (formerly on Adamsville Road) in Westport, made the switch from gas to electric starting about three years ago and the transition is now mostly complete.

Most of the mowers, blowers, string trimmers, edgers and chainsaws in his considerable fleet are now electric, and the difference is audible.

“The electric mowers create less than half the noise of our old gas powers,” he said. While the whirring of the cutting blades can still be heard, the engines are silent. The difference is even more dramatic on blowers that can be so loud that many communities have passed laws regulating their use.

“I had been looking at going this direction for a long time,” he said, and noise was only part of the reason.

“It was the realization that my gas-powered equipment was dirty,” he said — “I mean, really dirty.”

Just how dirty was described in an Environmental Protection Agency study that he came across. The researchers concluded that one 24 horsepower commercial gasoline mower puts out the same air-polluting emissions as 88 cars being driven at 55 mph.

“And my understanding is that the two-cycle engines we use in our gas blowers, trimmers and chainsaws are even worse.”

It wasn’t until the last few years, though, that he became convinced that the electric equipment has the power, price and battery life that matched the needs of a commercial lawn care company like his.

When he broke the news to his crew (the company has nine lawn-care employees), “it was a big change (but) they weren’t totally negative about it … Once they were able to use them, they really came around. Just not smelling like exhaust at the end of the day is a good thing,” and the diminished noise is less fatiguing over the course of a day’s work.

The company now uses eight electric commercial mowers — six stand-on models and two ride-ons — all of them Mean Green Mowers brand.

The rest of the equipment — blowers, trimmers etc — is all from DeWalt. There is a benefit in sticking with one company in that the batteries are interchangeable, he said.

There are still a few pieces of gasoline powered equipment for which no electric alternatives are available but “we are trying to minimize their usage.”

Any concerns he had that the electric mowers might not have the stamina (battery life) and power for a long day’s work have proven unfounded.

“The mowers have a battery life of seven hours,” he said, “enough for a day’s work on a single charge.”

At the end of the work day they load the gear onto their trucks and drive them back to the shop for recharging.

“We have a full bank of solar panels on our garage,” he said, enough to handle the recharging.

The rest of the equipment has also proven capable he said. The chain saws, he added, while up to the needs of the light tree work done by a lawn care company, would not be able to cope with the heavy duty big tree cutting done by a professional tree company.

There are the fringe benefits. “We don’t have to change oil,” a non-stop need for commercial equipment, no belts, no hoses … “I used to stock seven carburetors for string trimmers alone.” It was easier to replace carburetors than constantly clean them.

Asked if there were federal or state grants to help with the transition, Mr. Palmer replied, “I wish there were. We did get an incentive for one of our mowers that has a solar panel on the canopy.” That rooftop solar panel has not proven to be a huge help since the mower spends considerable time in the shade. “The canopy has a maximum "speed" of 20 mph, and would need to be removed when on the back of the truck going to/from properties. And we don't have any enclosed trailers.”

As for electric trucks suitable for towing around lawn care equipment of this sort, that hasn’t happened yet — “I’m not sure I’ll experience it in my lifetime but I would love to see it.”

He’s received an enthusiastic response from most of his customers about the switch to electric, Mr. Palmer said, despite a bit of a price hike prompted by the fact that the equipment is more expensive than what it replaces.

Westport customer Chuck Goldberg said Mr. Palmer “has been my lawn guy for 25 years.”

“I’m grateful that he is doing something that we all need desperately. It’s got me thinking about what I can do, what I should be doing.”

And the equipment is noticeably more quiet, a welcome bonus, he said.

“Everyone is happier when it is quieter in the neighborhood,” Mr. Palmer added.

Electric car too

Mr. Palmer’s electric enthusiasm has also carried over to the car he drives — an all electric Tesla.

Great decision, he said.

“Almost every day I like it more than the day before — an amazing car.” He said it’s quiet, comfortable, has great handling and acceleration and “an incredible sound system.”

 

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