Goodbye gas, hello electric

By Tom Seymour | Nov 09, 2018
Photo by: Tom Seymour Tom's electric snowblower throws some serious snow.

My inventory of outdoor power tools includes two outboard motors, a DR Trimmer, a lawnmower and a chainsaw. They all use different fuel mixtures.

Keeping separate containers for my gasoline-powered tools presents a nightmarish storage problem. It’s easy to confuse one container with the other and if the mistake isn’t discovered immediately, pouring the wrong fuel into the gas tank can ruin an expensive motor.

Add to that the poor quality of modern, ethanol-laden fuel. Without the benefit of some kind of stabilizer, this fuel can go bad in a few weeks. Even then, storing gas for more than one season can lead to problems.

The market abounds in useful power tools. But the more of these we own, the more difficult the fuel problem becomes. There has to be a better way.

Hello, electric

Today, many of the same outdoor power tools in my storage shed have electric counterparts. At one time, many such tools were inadequate to the task for which they were intended. But today’s advanced electric motors, plus long-lasting batteries, offer a very reasonable substitute for gas-powered tools.

My first venture into the world of modern electric power tools was a battery-operated electric drill. This came with two batteries, so that when one ran out of juice, the other fully charged battery could take its place. The value of this device was at first beyond my comprehension. But after using it to screw laths onto the side of my house to hold plastic banking, I realized how much easier the task was than when using a device with a power cord.

Other applications for this handy, efficient tool quickly became apparent and now I wouldn’t think of using anything other than a battery-operated drill.

Also, ice augers are now available that use a battery-powered electric drill instead of gasoline. I had long since stopped using gas-powered augers for ice-fishing, because they were heavy to carry and because gas was always spilling on the carpet of my car. Besides that, as often as not, a gas auger requires a completely different fuel mixture than other tools, causing more headaches.

Having seen one of these lightweight, high-powered augers in action, I have decided to buy one this winter, as soon as ice forms on lakes and ponds. The auger breaks down into two pieces for easy carrying. At the top of the handle, a screwdriver-like blade allows for insertion into a drill chuck. For many outdoor folks, this is a dream come true.

Chainsaws, too

It seems that my gas-powered chainsaw is always in the shop. Ethanol-based gas eats the fuel lines and gums up the carburetor, causing an expensive repair. Money spent on repairs could more than suffice to buy a brand-new saw. But there was never anything we could do about it. Until now.

Enter the electric chainsaw. Sure, these aren’t suitable for commercial or especially heavy use, but for the homeowner who just needs to buck up some wood or drop the occasional tree, electric chainsaws present the ultimate solution.

Thanks to the Internet, we can view statistics and read user reviews of any and all electric tools. So since my chainsaw needs another trip to the shop, I have decided to sell it or give it away and buy a new, electric-powered chainsaw.

Many of the big-name chainsaw makers offer electric saws and these vary in power according to what battery they use. Electric saws also come in corded models, but unless the user doesn’t mind hauling a gas generator into the woods, this kind of saw seems somewhat impractical. For me, battery-powered saws are the only way to go.

For an example, I googled electric chainsaws and found the following: Makita XCU02Z 36 volt, LXT lithium-ion cordless chainsaw. Price $189.99. One reviewer commented that since buying this saw, he hasn’t once started his gas chainsaw. This same reviewer mentioned that while not as fast as a gas-powered unit, he has cut many oak (one of the hardest woods) trees without a hitch. For the price, this seems like an excellent tradeoff to replace a gas-powered saw.

Here’s something else to think of when considering cordless electric chainsaws. How many times have you thought about tackling a small job but were reluctant because of the hassle of dealing with a gas-powered saw? It happens to me all the time. Were a cordless electric saw in my toolshed, there would be no hesitation. It seems likely that others share this sentiment.

And rototillers

Each spring, like clockwork, I attempt to start my gas-powered tiller only to find that it won’t fire. Draining the gas tank in the fall hasn’t seemed to help, either. Somehow, the carburetor gets gummed up and needs a new kit. Discouraged, I gave the tiller to a friend who needed a tiller. This left me with no way to till my garden beds, so I did it by hand. But that gets old real soon and now my sights are set on an electric-powered rototiller.

A quick check on prices revealed that electric tillers run between $87 and $188, not bad for an efficient tool. One tiller, the Earthwise, 11-inch cordless electric model, got rave reviews. People write of this tiller effortlessly gobbling up clumps of grass and then digging down to cultivate the ground beneath. By comparison, my old gas-powered tiller would sometimes balk, given the same circumstances that reviewers mention.

Here’s another thought to consider. Most of us use our tillers twice each year, in spring and fall. This necessitates using the mixed gas up at tilling time, or barring that, pouring it into the car’s fuel tank to use it up. Besides, in my case, my tiller used an entirely different fuel mixture than my other tools, thus another gas tank to get in the way.

Over the years I’ve gone through a number of gas-powered tillers. Since the changeover to ethanol-laced gas, none of my tillers has lasted more than a few years before needing serious repairs. An electric tiller, not requiring gas, should give many years of trouble-free service. It sure beats going the gasoline route.

So now another item goes on my wish list. By next spring I hope to own a new, cordless electric rototiller.

Electric snowblowers

Shoveling snow was never my favorite pastime. And as an aging, aching back makes shoveling more difficult each year, thoughts of a snowblower came to mind.

But here again, the idea of yet another gas-powered tool has put me off. I just don’t need another gas can with another fuel mixture kicking around. Besides, like all the other small engines, it’s a cinch that this, too, would suffer a gummed-up carburetor and other gas-related problems. What to do? Well, all this got me to researching electric snowblowers.

Online research showed that electric snow-throwers run between $80 and $180 in cost, with a few high-end models costing considerably more. Dreading the inevitable snowstorm, I recently sent for a WEN 18-inch, 13.5-amp electric snowblower. This was after thoroughly checking a number of user reviews.

The WEN is rated for a bit less than 8 inches of snow. But one reader mentioned how he tackled a 2-foot snow by just doing a little at a time, backing off and then attacking it again. Others said that by using their machine multiple times during a storm, they were able to effortlessly clean their driveways and walks. In my estimation, either way beats shoveling.

My WEN is supposed to hurl snow 20 feet, which will make it easy to aim the chute toward the house and add some snow to the banking. Prior to this, that task was accomplished with a shovel.

So now my electric snow-thrower stands at the ready for when snow flies and for the first time in a long time, I’ll welcome the snow.

In summation, we stand at the beginning of a brave new world of electric outdoor power tools. So let companies add as much ethanol as they wish to gasoline, because it will no longer be used in our small engines. And instead of cranking and pulling on starter cords, we’ll simply push a button or switch and our tools will quietly spring into action.

Tom’s tips

Flat-topped hedges can collect snow to the point that the weight causes branches to break or fracture. So instead of trimming flat, aim for a conical shape so that snow doesn’t accumulate.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Kevin Riley | Nov 14, 2018 09:22

How about that.

Welcome to the 20th/21st centuries.



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