Facility leaders share their thoughts on what to expect this year and beyond
Join Dave Thompson on Feb. 27 in our Ask the Expert session on motivating and recognizing technicians and janitors
Few operations in institutional and commercial facilities have been affected more by the rise of sustainability than grounds care activities and priorities. Plant selection, irrigation considerations, and the use of chemicals have seen dramatic changes in the last few decades as managers and other interested parties have rethought the impact of these activities on the environment.
Environmental issues also have led to an increase in environmentally friendly features and functions in a new generation of mowers. A closer look at a few of these features and functions can provide managers with a solid foundation when specifying mowers with sustainability in mind.
Specifying a mower that uses environmentally friendly fuel can significantly decrease the amount of carbon monoxide emissions it produces. The range of options available to managers seeking greater sustainability has expanded in recent years.
Propane. Propane, in particular, continues to gather momentum in the marketplace. Many manufacturers are working to minimize the impact of mowers on the environment by developing their own propane-powered mowers. Propane's carbon footprint is lower than other fuels and emits fewer greenhouse gases than gasoline-fueled mowers.
In terms of efficiency, there is no appreciable difference between the amounts of fuel burned using propane versus that of gasoline. As long as managers remember to keep their equipment properly adjusted, the gallon per gallon conversion is the same. A few instances exist where a fleet manager would notice a small difference in consumption, such as if the mower is used in tall grass or on rough terrain. Temperature and humidity variations also can play a role in consumption. Regular adjustments for seasonality will reduce this variance.
While propane can be an appealing option environmentally, it is also is an attractive option from a financial standpoint. Since propane burns cleaner than gasoline, the life of mower's oil is extended, cutting by 50 percent the number of required oil changes. And in an effort to decrease the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by petroleum, several have set up alternative fuel incentive programs to urge the exploration of cleaner fuel sources. Maryland, for example, offers a specific incentive program targeting propane-powered mowers, making them a more cost-effective choice.
Before buying a mower powered by propane, managers should negotiate a good deal with a propane supplier. Fleet managers need to either have a billing station on site or have their tanks filled. This will mitigate the risk of residual fuel loss.
Electricity. Battery-powered mowers also have become popular options in many grounds departments. Out of all the fuel options, battery-powered equipment is the safest to use and easiest on the environment. Because these mowers run on electricity, they do not release carbon monoxide into the atmosphere, making them environmentally friendly alternatives.
Efficiency is another strong attribute of battery-powered mowers. Gasoline- and propane- powered mowers require technicians to replace oil filters, which can cause real mechanical problems. In some cases, technicians add too much or too little oil, which can damage the engine.
Operating a battery-powered mower is more straightforward. All managers need to do is show operators and mechanics the location of the on-off switch, as well as the process for replacing the battery pack. These two steps mitigate confusion and reduce the risk of experiencing any mechanical setbacks.
When specifying new-generation mowers, price will always be a factor. Battery-powered mowers are safe and efficient, but they also can be the most expensive options among mowers.
In addition to cost, most equipment manufacturers are not making larger sized mowers yet, which is a must-have for many departments. But to meet growing demand, some manufacturers are producing smaller battery-powered pieces of equipment including trimmers, blowers, and 21-inch mowers.
Managers whose fleets include electric mowers often worry about operators running out of power in the middle of a job. To ensure mowers keep their charge throughout the day, manufacturers can provide fleets with an extra three or four spare auxiliary batteries at all times.
Green Fleet: Sustainability Issues for Mowers