Hord Landscape in Campbellsville, KY has taken a bold step in how it provides lawn and landscape services.  Scott Hord, founder, made a significant investment in cutting edge technology well ahead of others.  He has removed gas powered tools from his high-end lawn maintenance crew and replaced them with lithium battery powered tools.

Scott’s crew typically carries 2 back pack blowers, 2 string trimmers, a hedge trimmer, a pole pruner, a 21” push mower and a chain saw on this 3-person lawn maintenance crew. These guys are well equipped and ready to take on almost any landscape maintenance job.

The three men assigned to this crew typically clock 1800 man-hours each (per year) or a total of 5400 man hours per year.  Up to 50% of total clock hours (or 2700 hours) are spent operating the portfolio of gas-powered tools.  Every minute those tools are burning fuel. How much?

Look Carefully at Your Cost of Gasoline Plus Oil…

Here’s how the gallons of fuel add up and precious dollars are drained from most lawn business owner’s checking account.  We recommend you monitor your own fuel consumption while operating two-cycle fuel (gas/oil mix) to see how you compare.

Example 1 – A gas-powered back pack blower used to clean debris in the landscape will burn approximately ¾ gallon of gasoline per hour of operation.  Just one back pack blower on a lawn service crew can easily operate 500 hours per year.  Here’s the math.  500 hours x .75 gal/hr = 375 gallons per year… and… 375 gallons of gas at $3/gallon is a wallet busting $1,125 per year in fuel cost.

Example 2 – The commercial string trimmer burns ¼ gallon of gas/oil mixture per hour of operation.  Operate the string trimmer 500 hours a year, you burn another 125 gallons of fuel, shrinking your wallet $375/year with gasoline at $3/gallon. (If you’re using non-ethanol fuel you’re likely spending more than $3/gallon on fuel with oil mix… as I write this article.)

Example 3 – The 21” push mower typically burns ½ gallon of gasoline per hour of operation.  Operate the mower 100 hours a year, you burn another 50 gallons of fuel shrinking your wallet $150/year with gasoline at $3/gallon.

Let’s add up the fuel use of these 3 tools. One back pack blower at 375 gallons/year + One string trimmer at 125 gallons/year + One 21” push mower at 50 gallons/year = 550 gallons of gasoline.

Most company data we’ve looked at show us fuel usage can be much higher.  But, consider this.  Reduce YOUR gasoline usage by just 550 gallons/year (while gas is at $3/gallon) and you take $1650 out of the oil company’s pocket and put it in your own pocket!  Sound like fun?

Unfortunately, making changes in long-standing habits is very hard.  So contractors ask questions…

What About the Cost to Charge Batteries?

The “cost to charge batteries” question always comes up.  I’m about to explain it to you in detail.  But first a little background.

Most of us use a lithium battery powered cell phone on a daily basis.  We all understand we must find a 120 Volt power outlet, plug in our phone charger and then connect our phone to recharge the battery.  It’s part of everyday life.

It’s funny to me.

I’ve NEVER asked the lady in the Verizon store how much electricity my cell phone will use. I just use the phone until the battery dies…then I plug it up and recharge it.  In most cases, I plug my phone up at night and the next day it’s fully charged and ready to work again.  Pretty simple.

A lithium ion battery used to power lawn equipment works the same way as your cell phone battery. Plug in the charger to a 120-volt outlet, insert the battery and give it 40 minutes to 75 minutes (depending on the size of the battery) and voila…the battery is fully charged and ready to go again.

Be Careful – Technical Terms & Breakthrough Information Follows

One word of caution.  I’ll be forced to use a few electrical terms that might not be part of your everyday vocabulary as I answer your question regarding costs to charge batteries.   Hang in there…this is NOT any more complicated than plugging in your cell phone.

Battery Charge Cost Example 1 – We tested the Greenworks Commercial 82 Volt string trimmer with a 2.5 amp-hour battery. The trimmer operated for 45 minutes at full speed until the battery went dead. We plugged the rapid charger into a 120-volt outlet (just like your cell phone charger). We installed this dead battery into the rapid charger.  About 45 minutes later, the battery was fully charged.  How much electricity did we buy?  The national average for electricity is .11 cents per kilowatt hour.  Here’s the math.

2.5 amp-hours x 82 volts = 205 watt hours / 1000 watts/kilowatt = .205 kilowatts x .11 cents/kilowatt hour = .0225 cents to recharge the battery.  Let’s round this up to .03 cents for 45 minutes of run time or .04 cents per hour to run the battery powered string trimmer.

If you operate the battery powered string trimmer 500 hours, the electricity bill will be:

500 hours x .04 cents/hour = $20 per year

Compare $20/year to $375/year for gasoline at $3.00/gallon.  That’s a savings of $355 per year compared to gasoline power.  Did I mention that electricity is WAY less money than gasoline?

Battery Charge Cost Example 2 –  We tested the Greenworks Commercial 82 Volt 21-inch push mower with a 5 amp-hour battery mowing in wet bahiagrass that was over 4 inches high.  We mowed it down to two ½ inches high in one pass.  In other words, we put this mower through a serious test.  The mower operated for 42 minutes.  The grass was so thick the mower was automatically kicking into Turbo mode.  This means we had it under a serious load.  Here’s the math.

5 amp hours x 82 volts = 410 watt hours / 1000 watts / kilowatt = .41 kilowatts x .11 cents/kilowatt hour = .0451 cents to recharge the battery.  Let’s round this up to .05 cents to recharge the battery for 45 minutes of run time or .07 cents per hour to run the push mower.

If you operate the push lawn mower 100 hours a year, the electricity bill will be:

100 hours x .07 cents/hour = $7.00/year.

Compare $7.00/year to $150 per year for gasoline at $3.00/gallon.  That’s a savings of $143/year compared to gasoline power.  Did I mention that electricity is WAY less money than gasoline?

I have to provide a couple of notes.  Look at your most recent electricity bill.  You may be paying a little more or a little less than .11 cents/kilowatt hour.  But just in case you don’t trust my math, do your own fact check.  You’ll be able to verify every number I’ve shared.

If you don’t follow my math regarding power usage, share this report with your favorite electrical engineer.  See if they are able to discredit or confirm my math.  That’s right…I am challenging YOU.  Do your own research and see if you come to the same conclusions I have.

Two Sources for Electrical Power – But Only One Conclusion…

Next, I can share data all day long.  But until you put battery powered equipment in your own hands and test it yourself, you’ll likely be a skeptic.  You’ll be caught in the trap of “we’ve always done it this way” club and cling to your gas habit with ignorance as your guide.  That’s not good!

Battery powered equipment will change the way you operate your lawn service business.  The economics of the matter can’t be ignored.  The contractors who choose to be early adopters of battery powered lawn equipment will stuff larger profits in their pockets OR…they will have the ability to lower their prices and GAIN market share.  Either way…early adopters have an advantage.

The data I’ve shared (above) regarding the cost to charge batteries assumes you will be charging all of your batteries using “grid power”.  Grid power is the electricity that you buy from your local electric utility.  However, a handful of lawn and landscape contractors are discovering that electricity can be FREE.

Solar power gives you the advantage to lower your fuel cost to ZERO.  That’s not a secret.  You already know this.  But as I write this case study, only a small number of contractors are cashing-in on this emerging technology.  Scott Hord of Hord Landscape is one of the brave early adopters.

If you would like to continue your research on the topics of battery powered lawn equipment and the transition to solar powered charging on the go, visit www.solarlawntruck.com .

Visit the www.solarlawntruck.com site and make sure you subscribe to our updates while on the site.  You’ll be the first to know when breakthrough ideas, new technology and contractor success stories are released. And…We’ll continue the case study with Scott Hord and provide updates over time.

We’ll also introduce you to leading lawn and landscape business owners who have the courage to become early adopters of this new and exciting technology.  You’ll get to see videos, watch interviews and discover how contractors break old habits and profit from new technology.

Final thought. We welcome your comments on this subject.  Just enter your comments or questions below.  And, if you know someone in the lawn business…share this article with them.

Tony Bass is the founder of Super Lawn Technologies. He is the co-author of The E-Myth Landscape Contractor: Why Most Landscape Companies Don’t Work and What To Do About It. You can contact Tony at Tony@tonybassconsulting.com or 478-822-9706.