Despite the many advantages of zero-turn mowers, there are some downsides to consider. For starters, if your yard has areas that slope at angles greater than 10 to 15 degrees, a zero-turn riding mower isn't a safe bet in those spots because it could roll over. But if you only have limited areas that slope steeply, you can compromise by using a push mower or hand trimmer to take care of just those vicinities. Mowing on wet terrain can also increase the chances of sliding and losing control, or lead to lawn damage because of the weight of the mower, so only mow when the lawn is sufficiently dry. Whatever you do, if you are taking your zero-turn mower along a gentle slope or across a patch of damp grass, take it easy, stay alert for trouble spots, never rush and adhere closely to the manufacturer's safety guidelines.
It can take a couple of turns around the yard to feel comfortable at the helm of a zero-turn mower. Since a few different variations on the basic steering system configuration exist, it's a good idea to take any mowers under serious consideration for a test drive before you slap down the couple of thousand dollars one will typically set you back.
There's also the matter of pollution. Lawn mowers and other gas-powered garden equipment might not leap to mind when you consider sources of air pollution, but they're actually significant contributors for their size, especially older models that lack catalytic converters. Running a typical gas-powered lawn mower for an hour produces the same amount of smog-generating hydrocarbons as driving an average car for close to 200 miles (321 kilometers) [source: EPA]. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has instituted stricter regulations to go into effect across 2010 and 2011, which include measures such as required catalytic converters in small engines aimed to both decrease emissions and cut fuel waste.
In their defense, gas-powered zero-turn mowers do generally get the job done significantly faster and with more fuel efficiency than other types of riding lawn mowers. While this helps ease some of the pollution and fuel concerns, they're both still factors you might want to take into consideration.
When it comes to sparing the environment -- and neighborhood lungs -- from air pollution, some manufacturers are taking matters into their own hands. Although currently available only in more industrial models, some companies are starting to offer zero-turn mowers that run on compressed natural gas (CNG). CNG is still a fossil fuel that produces greenhouse gases, but it burns cleaner than gasoline, diesel or propane. In comparison to gasoline, CNG emits an average of 80 percent less ozone-forming emissions [source: Consumer Energy Center]. Electric zero-turn mowers are also beginning to hit the market, although they're still perhaps a bit cost-prohibitive for average consumers [source: Popular Mechanics].
For more information about mowing the lawn -- and saving money and the planet from the comfort of your own home -- cruise through the links below.
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More Great Links
- "10 Most Brilliant Products of 2009: Hustler Zeon Electric Mower." Popular Mechanics. November 2009. (2/22/2010) http://www.popularmechanics.com/home_journal/gardening/4332408.html
- "About Hustler Turf." Hustler Turf. (2/22/2010) http://www.hustlerturf.com/about/about.html
- Barrier, Scott. "Control Mechanism for Zero Turning Radius Mowers. Free Online Patents. Dec. 23, 3008. (2/22/2010) http://www.freepatentsonline.com/7467677.pdf
- Berendsohn, Roy. "Test: 6 Zero-Turn Riding Mowers." Popular Mechanic. June 2000. (2/22/2010)http://www.popularmechanics.com/home_journal/gardening/1273471.html
- "Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) As A Transportation Fuel. Consumer Energy Center. (2/22/2010) http://www.consumerenergycenter.org/transportation/afvs/cng.html
- "Consumer Reports' best lawn gear." Seattle Times. May 10, 2008. (2/22/2010) http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/homegarden/2004403620_mowersconsumerreports10.html
- Cub Cadet Zero Turn Riding Mowers. (2/22/2010) http://www.cubcadet.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet /category2_10051_14101_16200_600000_600000_-1_image
- Dixie Chopper Iron Eagle Series. (2/22/2010) http://dixiechopper.com/home/models_view/ie "Dixie Chopper Unveils World's First Natural Gas-Powered Mower." Dixie Chopper. April 17, 2009. (2/2/2010) http://dixiechopper.com/home/news/10001
- Eilperin, Juliet. "Emissions Standards Tightened." Washington Post. Sept. 5, 2008. (2/22/2010) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/09/04/AR2008090403373.html
- EPA "Lawn Equipment." (2/22/2010) http://www.epa.gov/air/community/details/yardequip.html
- Fasold, Danny. "Zero-Turn Mowers: Past, Present, Future." Irrigation and Green Industry. Jan. 12, 2009. (2/22/2010) http://www.igin.com/article-880-zero-turn-mowers-past-present-future.html Fetterman, Mindy. "Compared with today's mowers, yesterday's just don't cut it." USA Today. May 7, 2007. (2/22/2010) http://www.usatoday.com/money/2007-05-04-mym-lawn-mower-usat_N.htm
- Home Depot Garden Club Web site. (2/22/2010) http://www.homedepotgardenclub.com/Dimensions/Article.aspx?contentid=151
- "Innovations in Lawn Power Equipment." Home Depot Garden Club. Dec. 14, 2009. (2/22/2010) http://www.homedepotgardenclub.com/Dimensions/Article.aspx?contentid=2487#
- John Deere Zero-Turn Lawn Mowers. (2/22/2010) http://www.deere.com/en_US/ProductCatalog/HO/category/printableversion /HO_ZTRM_printableVersion.html?tm=ho&link=prod_equip_page
- Maxwell, Steve. "Zero-turn radius concept mows over grass, competition." The Star. Aug. 4, 2007. (2/22/2010) http://www.thestar.com/article/242252
- "Our History." Swisher. (2/22/2010) http://www.swisherinc.com/history.asp
- Snapper Zero Turn Mowers. (2/22/2010) http://www.snapper.com/products/zero-turn-lawn-mower/
- Swisher Zero-Turn Riding Mowers. (2/22/2010) http://www.swisherinc.com/swisherize_zt.asp
- The Lawn Institute Web site. (2/22/2010) http://www.thelawninstitute.org/
- "Toro TimeCutter Z4200." Consumer Search. May 2009. (2/22/2010) http://www.consumersearch.com/lawn-tractors/toro-timecutter-z4200
- Toro Zero Turn Mowers. (2/22/2010) http://www.toro.com/home/zeroturn/index.html
- Troy-Bilt Zero Turn Lawn Mowers. (2/22/2010) http://www.troybilt.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet /category2_10001_14102_54963_54962_54962_-1
- Van Mullekom, Kathy. "Zero-turn models make lawn moving fast, fun." The Freelance Star. Nov. 11, 2005. (2/22/2010) http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=mTMzAAAAIBAJ&sjid=2QgGAAAAIBAJ&pg=5803,3223969&dq=zero+turn+mower&hl=en
- Young, James. "How to Steer a Zero Turn Lawn Mower." Gardening Guides. (2/22/2010) http://www.gardenguides.com/88693-steer-zero-turn-lawn-mower.html
- "Zero-Turn Riding Mowers." Swisher. (2/22/2010) http://www.swisherinc.com/swisherize_zt.asp