Many consumers these days are concerned about their impact on the future of our planet and I have heard from a handful of customers that they have businesses in their area that will only hire those that use propane fuel. With gas being at the prices it has ranged over the past few years, cutting fuel costs is a huge push towards choosing propane over gas. This can add up to some big savings in the summer months when your business is in full swing.
With propane being a cleaner burning fuel, the maintenance needed on your equipment will become less frequent. Gasoline causes more carbon buildup and it can beat up on your engines. Propane can lower the times a piece of equipment needs to be taken in for an oil change or other repairs. While propane has some great features, it also has a few factors that could make it not the right move for your business at this time.
You will either need to buy all new equipment that can run on propane, or invest in a conversion kit.
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The conversion kit turns a regular gas-powered mower into a propane mower. A gain, if this is not done correctly, it can be a real headache, and the purchasing of an entirely new fleet of equipment may not be in your best interest at this point in time. Propane is also more difficult to have readily on hand. I have heard of many businesses installing a propane station at their business, but this can be costly to smaller businesses.
Propane is not as easy to fill up on as gas is at a station, so this is another factor to consider. It's perfect for me in that I have a small yard townhouse and no outside storage for my mower, so rather than drag a gas mower into the basement and have the evaporative emissions and gas floating around with the pilot light for the furnace and water heater there, I can just disconnect the propane bottle and be done. You could have bought an electric mower off the shelf and had the same thing. Just unplug it and be done.
True, but the propane conversion was cheaper than an electric mower, and can be used without a cord, which is a hassle. No electric mower offers the power and ease of use of an internal combustion engine. I think the vapor-free indoor storage angle is also good - all you would have to do is turn the valve off when you're finished with it. Acually corded electric mowers do have similar power to gas mowers and the battery powered mowers are catching up slowly.
I thought of another angle that involves adaptation of a new kind of mower - you mentioned the small yard, etc. This thing could fill the gap between the cordless electric and the high-powered gas mowers, and you could push the 'green' angle. A mower like this would have to be very quiet to fit in with the whole deal, because if you have a small lawn you most likely have very close neighbors.
Okay, just one more - the same concept, but a small self-propelled reel mower with a bag. Sometimes small yards are kept the old way at 1" or less, almost like putting greens. They got as far as TV commercials, etc. Seriously, drag a cord around behind a mower? And when the cordless runs out of juice, you have to wait how many hours while it charges? Or maybe from a maintenance standpoint is better for them.
The trade offs seem to be small though. Moderately aggressive, less power robbing methods to mulch or get the grass into the bag seems to be the norm. Propane does have its own merits and I think maybe the OP could set up a website and maybe make his plans available for a fee, donation or free would be a great thing. It would be interesting to see your version of a kit. Those old Jakes were sweet. Before trying to sell the plans, you should develop a concise list of the benefits and downsides to a propane conversion. The list should information about total dollar cost of ocnversion, whether propane costs more per hour to run, envirnmental costs and benefits, etc.
Tomplum; that mower is still alive. A relative has it but I think I will be getting it back. They haven't really used it much, and I took that pic and others a couple years ago when I brought it home to get running. They had saved 25 gallons of gasoline for 'Y2K'. So after it became obvious that the world wasn't going to end, they continued to store the gas without stabilizer instead of using it in the cars.
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They did, however, use it in the mower I replaced the plug original , changed the gas and oil and blade, washed it up. The blade is special, don't know how many more I can get. But the amazing thing is, the engine still runs like new, the wheels aren't worn out and the deck is fine. It has a bag kit and it's an incredible bagger. Absolutely the best 20" pusher on wheels, discounting mulching. The thing manicures a lawn.
I had an old Whirlwind that I liked as well, but it didn't evn handle like the old Jake. People seemed to like the old Superbagger? Was that old aluminum deck mulcher any good? I always loved those smaller engines, I still think they are better than the larger float-bowl Briggs engines.
Any interest in propane lawnmower conversion plans?
As far as the electric, my other issue with that was that I've seen and quoted repairs on a few of them when I did small engine work. Price to fix usually surpassed the cost of a new or lightly used one, especially if the motor was bad. The value addition of my plans is that I've actually gone through and tested the darn thing. I've already found one piece of misinformation on the Internet which I had to work through with my own conversion -- and it's a rather huge piece of misinformation.
The free plans on the net right now, well, let's just say most of them are half-baked. To the poster who suggested a list of benefits, etc -- One step ahead -- I already have a list of the environmental and cost savings of propane included with the plans, as well as some other facts and info. Maybe I should set up a website. I thought about offering kits, but there are so many layouts, etc. For some reason the link to envirnmental and cost savings brings up a Sears link. Would you copy the information over into a posting? Propane as a small engine fuel provides a variety of advantages over gasoline.
The Propane Mower in the Off Season
The environmental advantages alone make a propane conversion worthwhile; however it is important to note the other benefits of a propane-powered lawnmower. Storability -- Propane does not go bad and can be stored indefinitely. Modern gasoline, on the other hand, has a shelf life of only a month or two without stability additives, and even then cannot often be stored longer than six months before degrading.
Cleanliness -- Propane is not spilled like gasoline when refueling. It is estimated that Americans spill 17 million gallons of gasoline each year refueling small engines. This represents an environmental hazard as well as a safety hazard, since hot engine parts can cause spilled gasoline to catch fire.
Reduced Emissions -- Propane burns much more efficiently than gasoline and produces less carbon monoxide and other greenhouse gases. Propane does not evaporate like gasoline, so the evaporative emissions are reduced as well. While this means that it takes more propane than gasoline to power an engine, the advantages are that less energy is wasted in combustion of propane.
Engines run on propane run cooler, which means less stress on internal engine parts and extended engine life. Extended Service Intervals -- Propane does not gum up over time like gasoline, so carburetor problems are not an issue. Propane combustion does not produce excess carbon and gunk like gasoline, and so propane engines typically have a longer interval between oil changes. Propane, being a gaseous fuel, does not "wash" the pistons, etc.
Reduced Noise Levels -- Propane powered engines are slightly quieter than gasoline-powered engines. Thanks for the update. However, a couple of questions. If propane powered mowers use one time propane bottles, isn't a disposable bottle in and of itself a form of pollution? Rechargeable bottles would seem like a much better idea.
What is the operating cost per hour for a propane vs gasoline engine. Lawn mowers, particularly those that mulch have to maintain a high rpm to chop grass efficiently. Because propane puts out less btu's power what impact will that reduced power output have on how well a converted lawn mower will do its job. It is not illegal to do so and doesn't take much time. There has been a lot of debate about the legality, but basically, once refilled, the bottles cannot be transported for commerce purposes i. You also have the option of using the green-key bottles which can be recycled in your regular recycling bin or taken to a junkyard.
I have not figured out exactly how much the cost per hour is, haven't had it operational long enough to correctly calculate that. I have trimmed my yard with my Lehr propane trimmer 3x and mowed 1x along with testing the conversion and making idle adjustments, and am still on my first bottle of propane. I did not find a difference in the amount of work done by the lawnmower when I ran it on propane; the lack of BTUs from the propane is made up in that more propane is required to do the same amount of work. I sold the first set of plans today on Ebay, with the new addendums noted that I made over the weekend, so I hope the person who purchased them finds them useful!
I just need to update the plans now to reflect the new information learned so I can stop sending out an addendum outside of the PDF. I like the idea as propane for a fuel though.
I'm going to keep tweaking the plans and see if I can't make things better. This is something I am thinking about doing, especially if I can get the certification to do the conversions myself. If there isn't, it's only because of a lack of marketing. There are so many advantages, but for me as a home owner, the biggest would be just the convenience and safety not having to keep gasoline in the garage.
That's probably one major reason I bought a battery powered Neuton mower. What do you do if you don't even have a garage or shed? As far as commercial mowers go, I would think a great number of people would use a "green" lawn service instead of anything else if they had the choice. Another big thing with the Lehr propane powered machines is they are quieter.