Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Picking Electric vs. Gas String Trimmers

Best Electric String Trimmers and Lawn Edgers Review Part 3: Picking electric vs. gas-powered string trimmers  

String trimmers, weed whackers, lawn trimmers, weed eaters are names that all refer to the same garden tool.

Gas trimmers are the most traditional tools - they have the most power (depending, of course, upon the horsepower choices you make at purchase time). They are more portable, since they can carry their source of power with them, and only need a little more fuel to keep on going. Their biggest drawbacks are pollution, noise, smell, weight, and the inconveniences of having to deal with a gas engine: maintenance, engine start, fuel mix if dealing with a 2-stroke engine, etc.

Electric trimmers come in two flavors: corded (i.e. using line power, needing an outlet), and battery-powered, or cordless. Corded electric trimmers are light (the lightest of all trimmers) and quite powerful, but are limited by the length of your extension cord, which is typically up to 100 feet. More is possible by combining two heavy duty extension cords - be sure to use heavy gauge only. While being tethered by a power cord is limiting, the advantages of electric power typically more than compensate, as reviews indicate:" The disadvantage of using an extension cord is quickly offset by the power and ease of use" "This [corded] weed-eater has power and is light to carry around", "it's so much lighter than a gas trimmer and the cord wasn't the hassle I thought it would be", "at first [my handyman] did not think this trimmer was going to do the job as he has always been used to the heavy gas models, but once he tried this electric one he fell in love with it","after I read about all the battery problems and weak power of the cordless models, I decided to get a corded one. I definitely made the right choice. I didn't have to wait to charge batteries, I was able to start whacking right away, I had a lot of power at a low low price, and I won't have to buy any $70 replacement batteries. I'm totally convinced this is much better than gas and cordless whackers." Battery-powered trimmers are not limited in range by their power cord, but they are limited by the autonomy of their battery, which is quite low for most, since a large battery would be prohibitively heavy. Battery-powered trimmers are heavier than corded trimmers, yet most battery-powered trimmers are lighter than most gas trimmers. There are exceptions in both directions.

When does it make sense to use one versus the other? The overhead of using and maintaining small engines is very high, and creates a significant burden upon the homeowner. The extra weight carried by gas trimmers is another painful penalty to carry. And, of course, for many of us, the pollution and noise of a gas engine are unacceptable if alternatives exist. In the general case, whenever circumstances make it possible to use an electric trimmer, we think you will find it a preferable alternative.

A corded electric trimmer is possible in a regular square-shaped yard of up to 30,000 ft2, assuming, of course, the existence of an outlet - the further away from a square, or the more irregular the shape, the smaller the acceptable size of the yard. In larger yards, small edging needs might be satisfied by a battery-operated trimmer. However, in the general case, battery-operated trimmers only have a few minutes (15-30 minutes, depending upon the brand) of autonomy: they can only satisfy very modest needs. The other con of battery-operated trimmers is that batteries have a limited lifetime, typically of a small number of years, after which they need to be changed, at significant cost. Corded trimmers, as a result, are typically more suitable in the general case for yards where reach from an outlet will satisfy your edging needs. The other alternative: buy a second (or a third) battery for a cordless battery-operated trimmer, and swap/ charge batteries as you go. Several cordless models actually come with two batteries.

Next we review and compare electric corded string trimmers... So come back soon!

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