QUESTION: I’m tired of the mess, expense, noise and hassle of starting my gas lawn mower. I’ve seen quiet cordless rechargeable mowers. Do they have enough power and will the recharging push up my electric bills?
ANSWER: For anyone with up to a half-acre lot (this includes 75% of all homes), a cordless rechargeable lawn mower is best. I have used one for three years at my own home. Plug it in to recharge overnight, push a button and it starts every time--no rope to pull.
With normal weekly mowing, cordless mowers use about $5 worth of electricity per year. Since they use no gasoline or oil and need no tune-ups or spark plugs, they are a bargain to operate.
The most powerful cordless mowers, with 24- or 36-volt motors, have the same cutting power (maximum torque) as a five-horsepower gasoline engine. This is necessary for even cutting, especially when mulching.
One great advantage of a cordless mower is its quiet operation. You can talk on a cordless telephone while mowing. Mow early in the morning or late at night when it is cooler without bothering the neighbors.
Storage of a cordless mower is another plus. Without gasoline or oil to leak, it can safely be stored indoors. Some models have collapsible handles so they can be stored on end. They take up only 1 1/2 square feet of floor space.
The size of the cutting swath ranges from 17 inches to 20 inches. Keep in mind that although a smaller 17-inch model may advertise longer run times, it takes more passes and time to cut the lawn with a smaller swath.
For hilly lots, consider a self-propelled cordless Mulchinator mower. It has a squeeze bar to start the front-wheel drive and a slide tab to control the speed from zero to 3.5 mph.
One-lever, all-wheel adjustment is a great convenience feature. Select a mower with many height adjustments and a large low to high range. Several models also have a gauge or light to indicate the remaining battery charge.
Cordless mowers produce much less pollution. A typical gasoline mower, running for 30 minutes, produces more pollution than driving a car 150 miles. Some utility companies give rebates if you purchase a cordless mower.
Other cordless lawn tools--blowers, string and hedge trimmers--are also effective and inexpensive to use. New powerful models, like the Vroom blower, produce a 105-mph air stream, yet weigh only 7 pounds. A 12-volt string trimmer will cut through any brush and is easy to handle.
Write for Update Bulletin No. 645, a buyer’s guide of cordless mowers, trimmers and blowers, power, cutting width/height range, run times, features, prices, grass selector and lawn cutting tips. Please include $2 and a business-size self-addressed stamped envelope and mail to James Dulley, Los Angeles Times, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244.
How to Check to See If Wall Has Insulation
Q: I just bought a house and I was told that there was insulation in the walls. When I pulled off an electrical outlet faceplate to do some painting, I didn’t see any insulation. How can I check?
A: The seller and the real estate agent may not have lied to you. Builders often pull the insulation away from the conduit box during construction. First, switch off the circuit breaker or take out the fuse to that outlet.
Bend a small hook on the end of a long stiff piece of wire and probe around inside the wall to see if you can pull out some insulation. If you still don’t find any, consider calling your real estate agent and lawyer.
Letters and questions to Dulley, a Cincinnati-based engineering consultant, may be sent to James Dulley, Los Angeles Times, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244; or instant download: www.dulley.com