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Reel Mowers and Electric Lawn Mowers

Consumers seeking an environmentally friendly option for a small yard can look to an electric lawn mower or even an old-fashioned reel mower. Both are quieter and lower-maintenance than a lawn mower with a gas engine.

Reel Mowers.

Manufacturers have turned back the clock recently with the reintroduction of nonmotorized reel mowers, marketing them as low-maintenance, noiseless, and emissions-free.
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These models, including the Scotts 2000-20 Classic Reel Mower (starting at $120), feature a manual, circular blade system that scoops and cuts grass. Cheap reel mowers are simple to assemble and operate: With no motor to start, just stand behind and push. The Scotts 2000-20 earns shout-outs in reviews on Amazon for its low-tech, environmentally friendly design. This person-powered mower revolutionized grass cutting for one homeowner, who says it transformed an annoying chore into a pleasant and relaxing task. Another user, however, reports that the Scotts 2000-20 demands extra muscle power in thick grass and requires additional passes to get an even cut on hills. Pushing any reel mower over a large lawn can be a bear. The Fiskars StaySharp Max Reel Mower (starting at $199), which is within our price range but expensive for its type, incorporates a unique cutting design and ergonomic features that make pushing a motor-free mower much easier.

With no engine and a svelte frame, a reel mower is particularly easy to store and maintain. A hobbyist posting at Reelmowers.info explains how to sharpen the blades yourself by taking the mower apart, brushing the blades with a special compound, and then cranking the blades backward. One owner hoses down the Scotts 2000-20 before putting it away and hits it with a shot of WD-40 to keep it pristine, according to a review on the Target website.

Electric Lawn Mowers.

Black & Decker, Earthwise, and Toro are well-known brands in this market segment, which includes corded and cordless lawn mowers. Corded electric mowers, including one of our top picks, the Black & Decker MM275 (starting at $166), require some planning, however. Because they draw electricity from an outlet via a long cord (some users report they feel as though they're vacuuming the lawn), the person mowing has to establish a pattern that keeps the cord out of the cutting path. Also note that you won't be able to range much farther than 100 feet from the power source; beyond that, the power begins to poop out. Corded electric mowers may be somewhat limiting but they are easy to push around -- they're about half the weight of battery-powered cordless lawn mowers.

Cordless lawn mowers don't limit your range of motion, but the charge limits how much you can cut at any one time. The batteries on low-cost electric lawn mowers can handle only about one-quarter to one-third of an acre on one charge; manufacturers generally recommend that you keep the mower (or the battery, if it can be removed) connected to the charger whenever it's not in use. Cordless lawn mowers are pricier and heavier than corded models; the 18-inch Black & Decker MM275 weighs 38 pounds, for example, compared to the 64-pound weight of the cordless Black & Decker CM1836 electric mower (starting at $330), which contains a 36-volt battery. Batteries usually last a couple of years before needing replacement, and most models contain a disclaimer stating that difficult cutting conditions will cause the charge to run down faster.

The corded electric Black & Decker MM275 draws compliments in reviews on the Target website from users who don't mind the cord and appreciate a simple, cheap mower that doesn't involve messing with gas and oil. Like other cheap electric mowers, the Black & Decker MM275 features an effortless hand-lever start. That said, one homeowner grouses on Buzzillions about needing a special adapter to connect the mower to an extension cord, and another recommends buying the 9-amp model instead of the cheaper 6.5-amp version if you'll be pushing through heavy grass.

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Like reel mowers, electric mowers tend to be relegated to small yards. Maintenance is also minimal with cheap electric mowers. If you have a corded lawn mower, make sure to unplug it before cleaning under the deck and around the blades. If you have a cordless lawn mower, recharge the battery before it runs dry and keep it connected to the charger when not in use. Don't leave a cheap electric lawn mower exposed to rain or snow. The Black & Decker MM275 incorporates a folding handlebar for easy storage.

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