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Battery-Powered Tools Benefit Older Gardeners

From mowers to blowers, these lightweight new tools have extended battery life to make gardening easier


Craftsman Blower
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You can put away the clumsy push broom with this Craftsman Blower, which makes quick work of cleaning up hard surfaces like walkways, patios, decks and driveways. Although this Craftsman 19.2-volt model lacks the heavy leaf-blowing features of some blowers, it's a great tool for small jobs and putting the finishing touches on your yard clean up. It’s part of Craftsman’s C3 platform, which means you can use either the included Ni-Cd battery or upgrade to the new lithium-ion battery (sold separately). The battery charges in about an hour, runs for about 20 minutes and weighs just 5.2 pounds, about as much as a bag of sugar. $79.99, including Ni-Cd battery and charger, sears.com. 

Black & Decker Hedge Trimmers
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Don’t be restrained with a cord or a gas/oil mixture when trimming hedges and bushes in your yard. The Black & Decker 24-inch, 36-volt hedge clippers cuts branches up to 3/4-inch thick so even neglected shrubs can be trimmed to a neat profile. There's plenty of power to tackle any trimming job: The lithium-ion battery charges in about an hour and can cut about 6,000 square feet of shrubbery. $149.99 including battery and charger, blackanddecker.com. 

Black & Decker mower
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Homeowners with smaller yards will love the Black & Decker 36-volt battery powered self-propelled mower. It cuts up to a third of an acre of grass quietly so even early risers can use it without disturbing the neighbors. With all the assets of a gas-powered mower including a height adjustment, mulching and bagging feature, and a quick key-start, it charges in about 12 hours. $399.99 with one battery and charger, blackanddecker.com. 

Ryobi String Trimmer/Edger
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Because weeds pop up all over your yard, an all-in-one cordless weed trimmer, grass trimmer and edger just makes sense. This Ryobi 40-volt model packs tons of power in it’s lithium-ion battery. Since it charges in just 90 minutes you’ll be back at work again in no time. The head pivots to your personal preference, and it has a variable speed so it cuts at your own pace —  plus it only weighs 9 pounds. $169, homedepot.com. 

Stihl Chain Saw
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Clean up downed tree limbs after a storm or cut your own firewood for the winter with this professional grade, 36-volt-battery-operated Stihl chain saw. The 12-inch blade will easily cut through a 10-inch thick branch. The AP 160 lithium-ion battery allows this model to run up to about 35 minutes at full throttle on a single charge, which takes about 35 minutes. About $700 with battery and AL 300 Rapid Charger, stihldealers.com.

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Creating a yard that's the envy of the neighborhood takes a lot of time and physical effort. First there was good old manpower. Then along came gas-and-oil-powered tools, followed by electrically powered ones. Then to make gardening even easier and less time consuming came battery-powered yard tools. As summer approaches, and gardening seasons kicks into full swing, you'll want to check out the new, lightweight versions of these cordless tools. They've been substantially improved over earlier models, making them ideal for gardeners who may not have the physical strengths they once had.    

When the first generation of battery-operated tools debuted several years ago, the advantages were immediately apparent. Eighteen-volt batteries replaced the often confusing concoctions of gas and oil needed to run string trimmers, hedge cutters and chainsaws. The new machines were quieter, too, so you could get your bush whacking done before the neighbors finished reading the morning paper. Earlier electric garden tools were corded, but they didn't stay that way for long — the cord was frequently cut by fast-moving blades. Battery power eliminated that risk, and made the far reaches of the yard accessible as long as the battery was charged.
 
But that was the problem. The first battery-powered tools ran out of juice quickly and required hours of charging, sometimes overnight. If the tool wasn't used regularly, the battery died permanently and had to be replaced at a hefty cost.
 
Today's tools — a boon to older gardeners — have none of those drawbacks. Toolmakers have upgraded to lithium-ion batteries with longer run times and shorter charging times. The new batteries are also lighter than the earlier nickel cadmium batteries, so the latest hedge trimmers, for example, put less strain on the arms and shoulders than older models. Longer run times mean less starting and stopping, and with two batteries, one in use and one on the charger, you can continue almost indefinitely. And the new tools keep working until the battery is depleted rather than gradually fading out as it begins to loose power.

As in the past, you can use the same battery pack for various tools — say, a hedge trimmer, a blower and a string trimmer (aka weed whacker) — from a single brand. But the latest mowers are the first to have removable batteries, so you don’t have to dock the mower in the garage while waiting for the battery to charge. Lighter than their predecessors, these mowers also have many features associated with gas mowers, such as mulching and bagging.

The environment benefits as well. Battery-powered tools, which cost just pennies to charge, don’t spew fumes into the air while you use them. This lowers your carbon footprint — and like a great-looking yard, that's something you can feel good about.

 
Here are five of the latest battery-powered tools: a trimmer-edger, a mower, clippers, a blower and a chainsaw. I use and recommend all of them.

Peter Walsh is a New York-based home and garden writer.

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