Propane mowers gaining momentum
By Jeremy Wishart
Reduced emissions and increased sustainability give landscape contractors an eco-friendlier fuel source for mowers
By Jeremy Wishart
In a crowded market, it can be tough for landscape contractors to set themselves apart from other businesses offering essentially the same services. However, with an ever-increasing concern for the environment, and awareness of our individual carbon footprints and harmful fuel emissions, incorporating services that promote sustainability and reduce emissions provides a way for contractors to stand out from the crowd.
Homeowners are becoming curious about ways to reduce the carbon footprint around their home – inside and out. Commercial business owners are also seeking to implement sustainable policies and attract more consumers with environmental awareness.
Contractors who offer services that can reduce emissions are able to meet the needs and gain business from these green-minded customers. In fact, just by taking a closer look at daily practices and equipment, contractors are already getting one step ahead on increasing sustainability, reducing emissions, and gaining new business through green marketing.
Alt fuels growing in popularity
Although gasoline used to be the standard for many contractors, developments in battery storage and propane EFI engines have made using alternative fuels in the field just as easy as other traditional fuels. Smaller maintenance equipment can now run for multiple hours on one battery charge, and manufacturers have started to focus on selling battery-powered equipment aimed to meet the needs of full-time landscaping operations. Landscaping trailers can even be wired with solar panels to recharge batteries on the go.
The use of propane-powered mowers is continually increasing as more and more contractors observe the fuel’s low total cost-of-ownership, ease of operation, and environmental benefits. In the United States alone, there are more than 20,000 propane mowers in operation – about five per cent of the total commercial mower market in the U.S. The number of mower models has skyrocketed from just a handful available from a few manufacturers to more than 150 propane mower models produced by 15 manufacturers in zero-turn, wide-area, walk-behind, and stand-on units.
It is also widely known that propane mowers produce fewer emissions than gasoline-equivalent units, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent, NOx emissions by 19 per cent, and SOx emissions by 16 per cent. Propane mowers use a closed-loop fuel system that virtually eliminates spills, too.
Fuel costs with propane mowers are also typically less than traditional fuels, offering contractors upwards of 30 to 50 per cent savings on fuel. Contractors using propane mowers report savings on maintenance as well, because mower engines see no damage from accidental refueling with ethanol blends. These cost savings can add up enough that contractors can even lower service costs to customers.
Using alternative fuel equipment in the field is better during operation for the surrounding neighbourhoods. Handheld battery powered equipment is much quieter and propane mowers don’t produce disruptive or unpleasant exhaust fumes like gasoline and diesel – a clear benefit to their use in residential areas and near schools, nursing homes, and medical facilities.
Get the word out on clean emissions
There are plenty of marketing tactics that can call attention to the environmental benefits of a contractor’s services. Colourful truck wraps or vehicle decals are a popular marketing tool with which contractors can leverage a green message. Photos of emissions-reducing equipment posted on social media, door-hang informational brochures, direct mailers, or even partnering with local news organizations to highlight ways homeowners can reduce their own carbon footprint can help contractors reach the right customers.
Contractors have multiple marketing options when it comes to leveraging a green message to reach new customers.
Join industry organizations that support environmental awareness
There are benefits to being the first landscape contractor to use emissions-reducing practices in your community, but it can also make sense to join up with other businesses to raise awareness of the opportunities for homeowners and companies to use green services. Contractors may become part of a local environmental organization through a municipality or county, which in turn could glean coverage by local media about individuals and companies involved in reducing emissions.
National organizations, such as the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects, can also provide resources on marketing and networking with other contractors
who use propane across the country. The CSLA created a climate change task force in 2014 to examine how landscaping can contribute to climate change discussions, such as promoting sustainable and resilient landscapes, and bringing attention to a landscape’s role in the environment. To bring new ideas and experience into daily business, look for operators and office management staff through Canada’s GoodWork employment site, which lists positions seeking green-minded employees.
Expand your commitment to alternative fuel (and save)
For contractors using or considering using propane mowers, there’s another way to add the cost-effective benefits of propane into daily operation. Propane autogas fuel systems can be up-fitted to many makes and models of light- and medium-duty work trucks and vans.
Like propane mowers, propane autogas vehicles reduce emissions. In fact, the alternative fuel offers the most emissions reduced for the lowest total cost-of-ownership. Light-duty propane autogas vehicles produce 36 per cent less NOx emissions than diesel, and six per cent less NOx emissions than gasoline, as well as 12 per cent fewer GHGs than gasoline. Medium-duty vehicles produce 75 per cent less NOx emissions and 12 per cent less GHGs than diesel. Contractors can also often work with a propane retailer or vehicle OEM to train technicians with the necessary skills to maintain, diagnose, and repair propane autogas vehicles.
For more information on propane mowers, visit propane.com/commerciallandscape.
Jeremy Wishart is director of off-road business development for the Propane Education & Research Council. He can be reached at email@example.com