Q: I'm considering a new cordless rechargeable lawn mower. I'm tired of the noise and hassle of starting my gas mower. Are cordless mowers powerful and how much will using one increase my electric bills?
A: I use a 24-volt cordless rechargeable mulching lawn mower on my own half-acre lot. Of all the products that I have tested over the past 10 years, this is the only one that exceeds all the advertising claims. It uses only about 8 cents of electricity per cutting to recharge the battery.
Cordless lawn mowers run for 60 to 90 minutes on a single charge. This is long enough to cut most lawns. Since the blade rotates as fast as typical gasoline lawn mowers, cordless mowers cut and mulch as effectively.
Cordless mowers require no maintenance and always start on the first try. There is a one-lever cutting height adjustment that sets all four wheels simultaneously. A no-rust plastic housing and special blade are designed to mulch grass and drive the tiny clippings down to feed your lawn naturally.
These mowers run so quietly, you can still hear a telephone ring or talk to someone in your yard. This is ideal for me because I like to cut my grass very early or late when it is cooler without bothering neighbors.
To start the mower, you push a button on the side and lift the safety handle. There is a special "key" that you must push into the top of the mower to start it. This prevents children from accidentally starting it.
There are two basic designs of cordless mowers -- 24-volt and 12-volt. The 24-volt models (with a built-in recharger) have a little more power and recharge in 16 hours. The 12-volt models have an external recharger and take about 24 hours for a complete recharge.
With the 24-volt model, when you are done cutting, you pull out the key and plug a standard electric cord into it. You can store it on end indoors since it has no gasoline or oil. Fold up the collapsible handles and it takes up only 1 1/2 square feet of floor space.
The 24-volt models have a power gauge to show how much battery charge is left. If it gets low and you are cutting a large lawn, stop and have a beer. Recharge it for an hour or two, and finish the lawn. Batteries last seven years.
Cordless, like corded electric and manual reel mowers, produce less pollution. A typical gasoline mower, running for 30 minutes, can produce more pollution than driving a car from Washington to Philadelphia.
Write for Utility Bills Update No. 738 showing a buyer's guide of cordless, corded and manual reel lawn mower manufacturers listing voltages, cutting width and height ranges, prices, weights, special features and warranties. Send $2 and a self-addressed envelope to James Dulley, The Baltimore Sun, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244.
Q: My furnace/air conditioner blower seems to run continuously, even when the thermostat is not calling for heat or cooling. What can cause this and is it wasting much electricity?
A: A blower that runs continuously pushes up your electric bills significantly. There are several possible causes. You may have the thermostat fan switch set to on. The fan relay at the blower may be stuck in the on position. The thermostat may be faulty or wired improperly. Some people want the blower to run all the time. If you have a central air cleaner, it removes more dirt and allergens. If you want continuous air circulation, install a new efficient two-speed blower motor.