This article is part of our new series, CurrentsCheck to see how rapid advances in technology are transforming our lives.
Even before last winter’s snow melted, the roaring of the leaf blowers had begun to disrupt the tranquility of many towns, sparking noisy battles that only intensified as more people did. more at home.
The leaf blower isn’t just noisy. Small, federally regulated, gas-powered machines are less restrictive than cars and trucks, releasing large amounts of pollutants into the air.
But Jamie Banks, president of Quiet Communities, a non-profit organization based in Lincoln, Mass., Said this is not a matter of a machine. “If you just focus on the blower, it trivializes the whole problem. She says it’s actually the widespread use of all fossil fuel-powered equipment, which causes pollution. “And, of course, it’s also very noisy.”
Ms. Banks, whose organization promotes the use of cleaner equipment to maintain green spaces, is the lead author of a 2015 report to the Environmental Protection Agency on the dangers of powered equipment. gas energy.
To put matters in perspective, according to the California Air Resources Board, operating a commercial lawn mower for just a chatter as polluting as driving a Toyota Camry for about 300 miles. For a commercial leaf fan, one hour of operation generates the same pollution as driving a Camry for about 1,100 miles.
Change can occur in the air. Advances in technology, including a longer-lasting lithium-battery-only device, are reducing emissions and noise levels from leaf blowers, lawn mowers and even chain saws. New and traditional manufacturers are supplying electrical equipment as well as robots to the home and commercial market.
And even after calculating the emissions arising from charging the device, the battery-operated device is still greener, especially when electricity is generated from renewable resources, Ms. Banks said.
According to the Outdoor Electrical Equipment Institute, a commercial organization based in Alexandria, Va, the market for all lawn care equipment shipped annually in the United States is about $ 16 billion. For example, while gas-powered lawn mowers still dominate sales, “the speed at which battery-powered alternatives are in a remarkable position,” said Grant Farnsworth, owner. of market research firm Farnsworth Group, said. Over the past four years, sales of battery-powered lawnmowers have grown between 4 and 8 percent, he said.
The noise from the gas-powered lawn growing equipment is what stands out to humans. But how noisy are those machines? While sound levels are typically measured in decibels, experts also rely on what is known as a weighted decibel or dBA, taking into account not only the intensity of the sound, but also how the ears react.
“Any sound above 45 dBA is likely to begin to have a negative effect,” said John Medina, associate professor of associate professor at the University of Washington’s Department of Biotechnology. The blowers “potentially quite dangerous”, he said in an email, “were” measured at 95 dBA “near their ears. A person standing 50 feet away will be exposed to levels of 65-80 dBAs, he added.
“Lawn mowers are the biggest driver of money,” said Dan Mabe, founder and chairman of the American Green Zone Alliance, or AGZA, a consulting firm based in California. Areas converted to lawn care are non-emitting. Like LEED certification for buildings, the AGZA designation will mean that the community or commercial area has achieved zero emissions in its green spaces.
Robot lawns are more common in Europe, where yards tend to be smaller. In the United States, a number of companies have already started offering robot services, according to Frank Rossi, associate professor at Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Science.
“Labor challenges” in the landscape market are helping to bring about change, said Kris Kiser, president and chief executive officer of the Outdoor Electrical Equipment Institute.
For example, the labor shortage prompted the Langton Group, a landscape company in Woodstock, Ill., To make a transition to quieter and exhaust-air equipment about five years ago.
Joe Langton, the company’s president, said: “I can’t find enough people to hire and I see robots as a way to solve my labor problem. “I began to realize that we are not only saving labor, but also helping the environment.”
Last year, working with Mr. Mabe of AGZA, they designated a 29-acre greenery site in Woodstock, which Mr. Mabe said was the first in the state. The area includes a large corporate campus as well as an 11-acre group of townhouses.
Langton currently has a team of 200 lawn mowers, each about 2 x 2.5 feet tall and just over a foot tall, operating in the area. They charge locally, some normally via an electrical outlet and others by solar energy. Like robot vacuums, they can return to charge when they’re done with their job (and can turn off if the weather is bad).
Each robot has an area of 1.25 acres, bound by an underground signaling wire, similar to the wire used in invisible dog fences. This family-run company relies heavily on equipment made by Husqvarna. a Swedish company at the forefront of green grass technology.
And Mr. Langton said that using robots did not eliminate jobs but instead changed the type of workers he hired. Now, he needs people who can monitor the technology and also trim fences and weed – all using battery-powered equipment.
Robotic lawn mowers are expensive, which can discourage homeowners. Costs can range from around $ 1,000 to $ 2,500, depending on the model. But according to a 2017 analysis at the University of Arkansas, throughout the life of the device, battery-powered models end up saving money. Some communities are offering discounts when old cutters or blowers are traded, Mabe said.
Among the equipment suppliers, Husqvarna is well known and newer companies, such as EGO and Ambrogio, as well as Mean Green Products, were acquired by a division of Generac Holdings in September. Major market players like Toro and DeWalt also now offer battery-powered lawn care.
Joe Turoff, the marketing director of Chervon, EGO’s parent company in North America, says the device is about the size of a traditional lawn mower. The runtime, depending on the size of the battery, is about 60 to 90 minutes, he said.
Those interested in their yard are turning to battery-powered blowers, guillotines and guillotines when buying new equipment, Farnsworth said, adding that about half of all blowers and guillotines are new. Purchase is battery operated.
The biggest hurdle could be the professional market, as electrical equipment needs recharging to handle, such as 10 hours of continuous use. Until there is a solution, he says, the scene-makers could “lag behind homeowners.”