Noisy, smelly and decidedly non-eco-friendly. Unfortunately, these words describe some of the power tools that make our chores a little easier but are also terrible noise and air polluters. There is hope, though. With so much attention on environmentally friendly products these days, it's no surprise that among the latest developments are green tools.
Some homeowners are opting for green tools to lower their electricity usage and stop stressing the power grid. Others vow to cut down on oil and gas in order to stop burning through energy resources. Still others just don't want to smell and breathe the nasty fumes that some tools produce.
In this article, we'll take a look at some popular green tools that rely on cleaner energy, making them easier on the ears, nose, environment and, occasionally, even the wallet.
There's nothing better than a chain saw for those big wood-cutting jobs. Unfortunately, the fuel, which is often an oil-and-gas mixture, can be quite the pollutant, with many chain saw emissions so powerful they even break some state pollution emission laws.
One greener alternative is the electric chain saw. Unlike a fuel-powered chain saw, you can use an electric saw indoors since it doesn't produce any fumes. An electric chain saw also tends to be lighter and less noisy, and you don't have to worry about running out of gas before the task is completed.
Another alternative is a rechargeable chain saw. You can now find chain saws with an 18-volt lithium-ion battery or interchangeable nickel-cadmium batteries. These offer a convenient cordless design, and they're lighter and less noisy than gas chain saws. A number of today's rechargeable chain saw designs offer sufficient cutting power for most jobs.
Using a power drill is certainly easier than trying to drill by hand (and who does that anymore?), but the power cord can be awkward if it's stretched across the garage or into the backyard. Instead, try a rechargeable drill. A rechargeable drill frees you from the annoying cord and packs a lot of power while using far less energy.
You can find kits complete with plenty of bits, and some even come with two interchangeable rechargeable batteries so you won't run out of juice mid-job. To get the longest use, look for higher battery amp-hours (Ah). Higher Ah allows you to get in more hours of use between charges.
Mowing the lawn can be a huge, time-consuming job. You can work up a sweat yanking on the pull cord to get the mower started before you even begin the job. Going green allows you to start the mower quickly and offers a lot of other advantages, as well.
Home improvement TV and radio personality Danny Lipford says that one hour of mowing emits emissions equivalent to a 250-mile (402-kilometer) automobile drive [source: Lipford]. Also, more than 17 million gallons (64 million liters) of gas are spilled each year when people refuel lawn and garden equipment (more than was spilled in the Exxon Valdez disaster), and gas mowers cause almost five percent of the pollution in the U.S. [source: Green Options]. A green lawn mower, therefore, can greatly reduce your own personal carbon footprint.
Electric mowers are good, green alternatives to gas mowers. Not only do they drastically lower the emissions and spillage dangers, but electric mowers are also quieter. These mowers are limited to about 100 feet (30.5 meters) from the power source, though, and mowing around a cord can be tedious, so if you want a green mower for a large lawn, you'll want to consider a cordless, rechargeable battery-powered lawn mower. You can even find battery-powered riding mowers.
Finally, some people swear by old-fashioned push mowers. In fact, many insist that push mowers using today's designs aren't much harder to push than heavier gas-powered mowers, and you'll get a workout while you do your chores.
Like chain saws, many lawn trimmers use an oil-and-gas mixture that sends pollutants into the air. While handy for keeping a lawn looking great, gas-powered trimmers offend the senses and the environment.
New, green lawn trimmers that are currently gaining in popularity run on propane fuel instead of gas. Propane-powered trimmers are far easier to use; you don't have to worry about clogged lines and carburetors. Also, gas-powered trimmers can be difficult to start in certain conditions, but propane trimmers feature instant start-up.
Propane is safer for the environment because it's neither toxic nor caustic. If you spill it, no harm will come to the soil or the water.
You can also go green with cordless designs, which have rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that are reported to run up to 45 minutes on a single charge.
For those hard-core devotees to energy-independent living, solar panels are the ultimate green tools. Solar panels use the sun as their sustainable, renewable energy source, and that energy is about as clean and green as it gets.
Solar panels are not just for whole-home applications anymore. They're also used to power lights and to heat the water in hot tubs and swimming pools. Some companies are developing ways of recharging your green tools with green solar panels, and as the technology evolves, solar power may allow you to charge your green tools in only a minute [source: Sandru] If you're handy with rewiring, you can even find ways to create your own solar-powered hand tools [source: Lucas].
Big, loud, energy-sucking electric vacuum cleaners are just not needed for everyday cleaning. Many people are finding that regular carpet and floor cleaning is just as easy to do with lighter, greener models.
Electric sweepers, electric brooms and stick vacs are lightweight, so they're easier on the back and far less bulky to carry around the house and up and down stairs. These models also make it easier to vacuum under furniture. Regular vacuums require attachments for cleaning under buffets and sofas, but electric brooms often have a head that swivels, so you can lower the unit parallel to the floor while the head remains flat.
Rechargeable electric brooms are even more convenient since you won't need to vacuum around or carry the cord to keep it out of the way. They also free you from having to unplug and plug into different outlets as you move around the house.
Downsizing your vacuum will save electricity, thereby lowering your electric bill, and most agree that for regular pickup of crumbs and dust, lighter models do a fine job.
Aphids can be the gardener's nemesis. They show up seemingly out of nowhere, breed quickly and feed by sucking the juice out of plants while excreting a damaging substance. Many gardeners use pesticides to get rid of these tiny annoyances, but pesticides also kill the best defenses against aphids: their predators.
You may not think of them as tools, but insects can be excellent garden gadgets. While pretty in their red and black, ladybugs are powerful green tools for getting rid of aphids since they'll feed on them quite aggressively. A ladybug can eat more than 5,000 aphids and other pests during its one year of life [source: Nature's Control]. Ladybugs and certain beetles will also eat your pesky mealy bugs, and predator mites help control other, unwanted mites, such as spider mites. And be kind to earthworms; they cause you no harm and help cultivate your garden. Sometimes the most powerful tools are the ones provided by nature!
There was a time when clotheslines were commonplace in yards in just about any neighborhood. Linens were pinned to the lines and left to be dried by nature.
The clothes dryer understandably replaced the clothesline. Tossing clothes into the dryer is far easier than worrying about rainy days, grappling with clothespins and chasing clothes down the street when the wind blows them off the line.
However, the clothesline has many benefits over the dryer. Those who want to reduce use of electricity or gas are returning to clotheslines to save energy and reduce their monthly bills. A retractable clothesline can cost as little as $13, and a set of 40 pins, less than $2. You'll realize your savings after just a couple loads of laundry.
The clothesline is also friendlier to clothes. The sun kills more bacteria than the dryer, and clothes will last longer when dried by the sun. Finally, you won't need special chemical-scented sheets to make your clothes smell nice -- they'll have a fresh, sun-dried smell when you pull them off the line.
When you shop for tools, look on manufacturer and dealer Web sites for refurbished tools. Often referred to as reconditioned, these products are typically tools that have been returned and then repaired by the manufacturer. When you purchase these directly from the manufacturer or an authorized dealer, you're getting a tool that's nearly as good as new, since it was most likely rebuilt to the manufacturer's specifications. In addition, these reconditioned tools often come with the same warranties as new tools.
Buying used and refurbished tools is kinder to the environment because you are, in essence, recycling the materials used for making those tools. Refurbished tools are also kinder to the wallet -- you can save anywhere from 30 to 70 percent of the price that a new tool would cost.
Tough economic climates often result in people finding innovative ways to save money. Owning a full set of power tools is pricey, both in purchase prices and maintenance costs. Rather than buying tools that you'll use only occasionally, consider renting or swapping with friends.
Renting is a form of green tool usage, because if you borrow instead of buying new, there will be fewer tools circulating on the planet. The benefit of fewer tools circulating is that fewer tools will end up in the landfill. This is an excellent option for tools that you use only occasionally.
Another trend for green tool use is swapping. Circles of friends, and even neighborhoods, are creating swap programs in which they each own different sets of tools and swap with each other as needed. Since not all tools have easy-to-obtain green counterparts, you can go green by cutting back on consumption.
For more information on green tools and green building, check out the links on the next page.
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- ChainsawComparisons.com. "Electric Chainsaw Reviews." (Feb. 1, 2011) http://www.chainsaw-comparisons.com/electric-chainsaw.html
- Green Options. "Advantages Of Electric Lawn Mowers." (Feb. 3, 2011) http://www.greenoptions.com/wiki/advantages-of-electric-lawn-mowers
- Lipford, Danny. "Advantages of Rechargeable Cordless Lawn Mowers." Today's Homeowner. (Feb. 6, 2011) http://www.dannylipford.com/video/advantages-of-rechargeable-cordless-lawn-mowers/
- Lucas, Steve. "Solar Powered Hand Tools." The Farm. (Feb. 6, 2011)http://www.thefarm.org/charities/i4at/surv/spht.htm
- Nature's Control. "The Pest: Mealybugs." 2008. (Feb. 3, 2011) http://www.naturescontrol.com/mealybug.html
- Sandru, Mihai. "Power Tools Recharged In Less Than a Minute by New Lithium-Ion Ultracapacitor." The Green Optimistic. Jan. 12, 2011. (Feb. 3, 2011)http://www.greenoptimistic.com/2011/01/12/ioxus-lithium-ion-ultracapacitor/