Just as our phones have been unplugged from walls, and our computers have been untethered from their desktops, power tools and lawn equipment have cut the cord and are now making their way into homeowners’ garages.
Demand continues to rise for lawn and home equipment that is as versatile and portable as our office technology. The good news is power tool makers have finally hit their stride. Today’s lawn equipment is lighter, more powerful, blessedly fume-free, and longer lasting than ever thanks to battery technology that is flooding the marketplace (in other words, everywhere from your mom-and-pop hardware store to Amazon).
The biggest buzzword in power tools? Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, which have replaced the older-model, rechargeable nickel cadmium (NiCd) battery. An 18V Li-ion battery has the exact same same potential to deliver power as an 18V NiCd battery because they are the same voltage, however, lithium ion batteries have an ergonomic advantage. Manufacturers have leveraged that edge to make higher-voltage tools that don’t increase weight.
In other words, more power with less poundage.
Even more so than with battery-operated power tools (think drill, sanders, saws), the longevity and power of lawn equipment batteries is key. Because let’s face it: If yard work is on the to-do list this summer, it shouldn’t take any longer than it has to.
All the big names now have Li-ion battery-operated options: Bosch, STIHL, Ryobi, DEWALT, and Ridgid, among others. Their powerful new battery technology has translated into cordless and gasless yard equipment that was once unimaginable—from uber-powerful leaf blowers to long-lasting push and even riding lawn mowers. (Think: 5,000-plus square feet of lawn on a single charge for a push mower and more than two acres for a riding).
Batteries can be rotated from appliance to appliance—so the same battery that works for a hedge-trimmer, works for the weed-eater—and are easily swapped in the middle of larger jobs. And unlike some older technology, batteries run at full speed and strength until the very last second.
Price points are generally dependent on charging speed and amp hours, which tells you how much energy can be stored in the battery and how long a tool can be run without stopping to charge. Look for 6-amp hours plus for the best return on your investment.
Best of all, batteries can reach full charge in 30-45 minutes; that’s less time than it takes to get to 100 percent on your cell phone. So pop some headphones into your iPhone and a slide battery into your lawn mower. It’s time to get to work.
A brief lowdown on battery-powered equipment
NiCd battery. An older model of rechargeable battery that uses nickel oxide hydroxide and metallic cadmium as electrodes. Is a heavier and less efficient battery than emerging battery technology.
Li-ion battery. The latest and greatest batteries for lawn care and power tool equipment, this is the current cutting-edge power source for most off-the-shelf tools. Batteries last longer, hold their charge longer and take less time than ever to charge with less weight. Efficiency improvements will continue, but the Li-ion technology will likely be in place for some time.
Platform. There are three primary voltage platforms: 12, 18 and 36+ volts. The most prolific and pervasive of these three in terms of lawn care is the 18-volt platform which is being used to power everything from string trimmers to chemical sprayers. 36+ volt Li-ion batteries are new on the scene and are being used to power tools once thought to be exclusively gasoline only including lawn mowers (riding and push) and some high-powered leaf blowers.
Amp-hours. Amp-hour ratings are comparable to gas tank size. This number tells you how much energy can be stored in the battery and relates to how long a tool can be run without stopping to charge. Maximum run time is key, so amp hours are creeping up from four and five to 6-amp hours plus.
Charge time. Nobody likes to wait any more, and this is one area where different brands can differ significantly. Bosch has a 36-volt lithium-ion battery and fast charger that full charges in 42 minutes. Most 18-volt batteries will charge in 30 minutes or less.
Maintenance. Although keeping a red can of mixed oil and gasoline should soon become a thing of the past, chain oil still must be applied to appliances such as chainsaws and hedge trimmers. New technology does, however, reduce chain oil usage by about 50 percent.