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The Tesla Effect is about consumers choosing sustainable options for everything, from automobiles to home automation. That means more folks are picking green technology for their gardens.
Sales of electric and solar-powered garden and landscape devices are growing, with a number of smart inventions turning on tech-savvy gardeners. Across the United States, rechargeable mowers and other electric equipment account for 17 per cent of sales in this sector. That’s due in part to a ban on gas-powered mowers and leaf blowers in several U.S. states, such as California and Arizona. Canadian municipalities, like suburban Montreal, have followed suit, with major cities like Vancouver and Toronto entertaining bans of their own.
The noise of gas-fired equipment is a pervasive issue in Calgary, but so far there’s been no outright ban. Yet sales of battery powered equipment are cutting into the gas-powered segment by five to 10 per cent every year, says Justin Kellock, owner/manager of Alberta Forest and Lawn in Calgary.
“Especially the walk-behind 18- to 21-inch class push mowers. More than 50 per cent of customers are now into the battery side over the gas side, especially for residential use. Not so much on commercial yet, but it’s starting,” he says.
There’s been a shift the past five or six years to robotic or autonomous mowers manufactured by Swedish company Husqvarna, Kellock notes. Similar to a Roomba vacuum for your house, these robotic mowers cut the grass and return to the charging station when they’re finished or low on power. A wire along the perimeter of the yard keeps the self-propelled device from escaping. Robot mowers can cut up to 2.5 acres of grass, depending on the model.
“There’s up to five-acre coverage on some of the commercial ones which we’ve been selling to golf courses and the City of Calgary,” he says.
Autonomous mowers work with an app and even the length of the grass to be cut can be set remotely.
Ego Power Equipment, the largest player in the battery-powered hand-held market, sells solar powered generators and inverters that will power small devices. Solar panels are easily available at retail outlets such as Canadian Tire. With near daily advancements being made in solar technology, Kellock says there will soon be larger amperage available so that more power-heavy devices can be charged by solar energy.
Green technology makes us environmentally responsible, but is it making us lazy? Far from it, says Helen Greiner, an executive with Tertill Corp., maker of the Tertill robot weeder.
“Weeding and lawn mowing should be automated so you can spend valuable time taking care of the garden,” she says.
The 100 per cent solar-powered Tertill was invented by Joe Jones who swept to fame as the father of iRobot’s Roomba. Tertill, silent stalker of unsuspecting weeds, is only available to Canadians on Amazon.ca and is priced at $428.54 plus accessories.
Tertill works best in a 200- to 300-square-foot vegetable garden where the plants are spaced far apart and the plot is flat and devoid of clumps. When it bumps into anything taller than four inches, like plants or edging, it redirects. Plants smaller than four inches, like baby weeds searching for the sun, get whacked; so seedlings must be protected with wire cages or sticks.
Reviewers online rate Tertill as either adorable or unimpressive. Greiner, a co-founder of the Massachusetts-based company, loves hers.
“It’s solar powered, but the environmental aspects are even deeper. It helps empower people to grow their own vegetables. That reduces trucks bringing in vegetables or the use of plastic bags. It reduces the chore of weeding, too, so people are more likely to jump into gardening and that’s a huge chain of environmental goodness,” she says.