Outdoor battery power equipment way forward

When the landscaping arm of St John’s Garden Centre in Devon decided to introduce EGO’s outdoor battery power equipment to its arsenal in 2017, Contract Manager Mark Toon was sceptical about battery life and run time. Three years on, Mark is on a mission to convert fellow colleagues 

With the exception of a short break to study for his degree, Mark Toon has worked for St John’s Garden Centre in Devon for almost 30 years. Having worked there since the age of 14, he has experienced first-hand the use of petrol tools for the business’s landscaping installations and maintenance jobs. With the decreasing reputation of petrol power and developments in cordless battery power being well documented by his local dealer Hayes Garden Machinery, Mark could no longer ignore the shift towards battery power and began his own research on behalf of his team at St John’s.  

Perception shift

Like anyone making a commercial investment, Mark wanted to calculate the savings the business could make in comparison with new petrol tools. He calculated the predicted life of a battery in comparison to the amount of fuel that would typically be used over the same period — a figure which he found would equate to around £1000 for each £250 battery the business would use — representing a saving of around 75%.

After doing his homework on the best commercial machinery at SALTEX and testing out the kit at Hayes’ open day demonstrations, Mark opted for EGO as the tools to power the business forward in an ever environmentally conscious world. His shed now combines a mixture of 52cm self-propelled mowers, hedge trimmers, line trimmers and multi-tools. 

“When we invested in battery technology, we were going to use it as a backup for our petrol equipment but it’s now actually the other way round. The only time we now use petrol equipment is for larger machinery like stone rakes and box rakes,” explains Mark. 

“The team were sceptical of battery power in terms of being able to deliver the power and run time of petrol. Like many in the industry, many of them come from a background that believes that if it’s not screamingly loud then it has no power. They very quickly realised this is not the case.”

Among the reasons that quickly became apparent, the most prevalent were the reduced weight of the equipment, the lack of pull start and the fact there is no need to carry or continually replace fuel and oil levels. Apart from the obvious benefits to ease and improved safety of manual handling and having to refuel, Mark noted the surprise improvement in efficiency offered by battery-powered tools. 

“Previously, we would often have to send two people to a site to safely load and unload equipment or carry mowers up steps, for example. With EGO, we can fold the mower away and store it sideways on the van which not only saves space but also saves us from worrying about fuel spillages. With just one person required to do these jobs and without the hassle of having to collect fuel or repair broken pull cords, we’ve definitely noticed a reduction in our downtime and an improvement how much work we can get done.” 

Cleaner, quieter and safer

Mark admits that his decision to switch to battery was partly fuelled by press coverage that highlighted the dangers of petrol equipment. He comments on how battery-powered tools enable the business to easily meet criteria risk assessments. The health benefits of removing dangerous fumes from everyday tasks are difficult to quantify, but the St John’s team have noticed a clear difference.

“I can definitely report that the guys are saying how much better it is in comparison to using petrol. When they have to use petrol now, they comment on how they would rather be using battery instead. From my perspective, it’s nice not to come back from work with your clothes not stinking of fumes. We are often asked by passers-by, ‘Wow, what is that? What would you recommend?’ — the answer to which is battery every time.”

With battery power offering reduced noise and vibration for users, Mark says the business has less to worry about in terms of exposure. He doesn’t need to worry about hand-arm vibration (HAV) and no longer has to think about who is using what equipment or swapping it between users. 

“We do have to consider HAV and noise but we still operate with the same PPE as we would for petrol, but the equipment is lighter and less demanding on the arms, and noise levels are dramatically lower. We don’t have to plan jobs around the noise of our power tools any longer either. If we’re working at a school, for example, we may have previously been asked not to operate equipment in certain areas due to exams or teaching but now we don’t have to think about things like that.”

Matching the power of petrol

For the tools used by St John’s team, EGO batteries deliver the same amount of power as their petrol-powered counterparts and offer a wide variety of benefits outside of reduced noise, fumes and vibration.

“EGO tools are definitely worth the money and are on par with decent petrol tools.  The little things too, such as blade protectors being included with the hedge trimmer is great. With petrol tools like Stihl, we would have to pay for these add-ons. Outside of the obvious, I think reducing our downtime is the biggest difference for us. There is also very little maintenance involved.

“Anybody who works in the landscaping industry would be crazy not to look at battery power seriously. For me, it’s a no brainer and for some kit, there’s quite frankly no need to be using petrol at all now.”

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