Gas Lawn Tools: A Blast From The Past?

Gasoline leaf blowers have sparked loud debates in countless communities, but high emissions could mean they eventually bite the dust.

Major Canadian cities are considering banning gas-powered lawn and garden equipment to reduce planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions. Battery-powered alternatives offer the same tools at a similar cost, while reducing maintenance issues, fuel costs and pollution.

The use of gas-powered tools. refused between 2011 and 2021. At equipment suppliers, sales of gasoline- and battery-powered equipment are typically equal. Some jurisdictions have already switched fully or partially to battery-powered tools.

Homeowners are starting to realize that mowing the lawn for an hour with a gas lawnmower pollutes as much as a motorist driving five hours between Ottawa and Quebec City. And use a gas leaf blower for an hour equalize emissions of a 2016 Toyota Camry hybrid driving from Vancouver to Regina.

Vancouver is now contemplating a ban on gas-powered personal and residential lawn equipment and will discuss the possibility of a phase-out with staff this year, the city confirmed.

Vancouver does not have authority to regulate emissions from equipment, but can regulate equipment under its control. noise ordinance and only allows “low noise” leaf blowers. Gas-powered leaf blowers, in particular, cause so many noise complaints that Vancouver’s west end in 2004 became the first neighborhood in Canada to ban them. The city confirmed that this ban includes all leaf blowers.

The city recognizes the need for “new power equipment options” and is working with the Metropolitan Vancouver Regional District on a broader approach to reducing emissions from lawn equipment.

While the Vancouver Parks Board converted 35 per cent of its lawn equipment to battery power, this has revealed limitations in battery life, power levels and available charging stations.

“A citywide ban on all gas-powered lawn equipment, or a specific ban on gas-powered leaf blowers, would face the same challenges and would likely be unsuccessful,” wrote Doug Smith of the department of city ​​planning, in a memo to council.

Gasoline leaf blowers were banned in Vancouver’s west end, shown here along leafy Haro Street, in 2004. Photo by Adam Jones/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

In 2022, Oak Bay became one of the first communities in British Columbia to begin phasing out gas-powered garden tools for municipal staff. They will be banned in 2026.

Former Councilwoman Tara Ney, who expanded the phaseout to residential equipment, said she sought a “just transition” that would give homeowners several years to move away from gas-powered tools. She did not want to “unnecessarily burden” residents who were spending thousands of dollars on equipment.

“When people know it’s going to change, there’s a period of time where they don’t have to act, but they can have conversations,” said Ney, who uses a battery-powered leaf blower, adding that pro-battery sentiments They can be contagious.”

Outside of British Columbia, reliance on gas-powered equipment is also changing:

  • Ottawa: Last April, the National Capital Commission banned gas-powered leaf blowers, mowers and small chainsaws for “all major landscaping and maintenance contracts” in the jurisdiction, which accounts for one-tenth of the Capital Region. National.
  • Toronto: The city has proposed $305,000 in its 2024 budget to potentially enact a ban on gas-powered lawn equipment. He already encourages Leaf blower users can switch to battery power, rake the leaves, or cover them with a lawnmower.
  • Halifax: The city has invested in battery-powered lawn equipment and says it will abandon gas-powered tools “when operationally appropriate.” It allocated about $26,000 in 2023 to battery-powered units, including about $5,500 to replace gas-powered leaf blowers, the Halifax Regional Municipality said.

Battery-powered leaf blowers are “much quieter”

One appeal of battery-powered leaf blowers is their relative lack of noise compared to gas-powered machines.

The quieter option is what prompted Kathy Reichert of Vancouver’s Shaughnessy neighborhood to switch from her gas-powered leaf blower and leaf edger a couple of years ago.

“It’s a nicer area and most people have gardeners,” Reichert said. “When you have these gardeners they come [with gas-powered leaf blowers]“It’s incredibly loud.”

The first battery Reichert bought for his leaf blower didn’t last long, but being gas-powered tools, he wasn’t deterred by the costs of battery-powered equipment and made do between two newer batteries that were sold. They charge in two hours.

Gas-powered leaf blowers cost as little as $285, but battery-powered ones can cost as little as $200. Gas-powered edgers cost more than $400 and double the lowest prices of battery-powered edgers, which cost as little as $200 with the battery included.

Like some owners, “I was skeptical too, but then I tried [battery] and I had a lot more power than I thought,” Reichert said. “It’s much quieter. “It’s easy to start and easy to turn on and off.”

Customers change, but they need gas

At garden equipment stores, gasoline-powered units are still top sellers, but more and more customers are purchasing battery-powered tools.

For some jobs, they lack the same power and run time as gasoline-powered units, but hobbyists say the costs of battery-powered equipment equal gasoline prices in the long run.

“There are still a lot of people who are hesitant about batteries,” said Farid Faizi, manager of Yarmand Tech Ltd. in Ottawa, noting that sales have only increased in the last five to eight years.

However, battery-powered tools already take up some shelf space and suffer fewer maintenance issues.

“The battery is totally recommended so as not to have problems with the gasoline carburetor,” said Faizi.

Sales of gas-powered lawn tools, such as lawn mowers, have declined in recent years. Photo by Ivan Radic / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

At other stores, customers are split evenly between gas-powered and battery-powered tools.

“I think a lot of them are willing to make that transition,” said Corey Methven, manager of Arrow Equipment Ltd. in North Vancouver.

He said customers can pay $350 for a standard battery, but he recommends spending around $500.

“To get power from these units, you’ll need to drain the battery very quickly.”

While stores can persuade customers to buy battery-powered equipment, the manufacturers who design the equipment and set the prices ultimately influence whether customers switch, Methven said. He also doesn’t believe banning gas-powered tools is a “viable option.”

“There is definitely a use for both [gas and battery]”Methven said.

Dwight Pennell, who operates Integrity Sales and Distributors in Central Saanich, British Columbia, says heavier equipment, such as chainsaws, run better on gasoline.

“Yeah [the battery] “It doesn’t have one amp voltage, people get disappointed,” he said, adding that battery-powered tools can’t completely replace gas.

“You don’t want to undersell them or oversell them.”

Reduce battery costs.

The cost of switching to battery-powered tools, while cheaper than gas-powered options in the long run, can still deter owners. In larger cities, the distance to service centers and wait times for repairs can be long, says Tim Willison, executive director of the Toronto Tool Library.

Collecting and lending only battery-powered equipment since 2012, this non-profit library is working to make these tools more affordable and accessible to Torontonians. The group recently approached the city about offering more battery-powered options.

Willison said it offers the convenience of using battery-powered tools for short-term needs without having to supply, store and maintain them. And, at $55 for an annual membership, people don’t have to spend a lot of money.

“We try to make it more convenient to share these items,” Willison said, adding that his team works with service centers in Scarborough and Mississauga to save residents the hour-long drive and months-long wait times for repairs. equipment.

The library stocks everything from electric washing machines and lawn mowers to back-saving electric snow shovels. It has also invested in brushless battery motors that weigh less, generate more power, last longer and make even less noise.

Willison suggested that a pilot program with the city would allow Toronto to test brands and logistics of battery-powered equipment before making a big jump, although “in our experience, most people prefer electric right now.”

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