Exceptional Lawnmowers: Home Turf Advantage (cont.)

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Toro in October 2013 introduced a gasoline-powered walk-behind lawnmower that it says solves the problem. Toro says the Recycler with SmartStow can be stored on its end because of its improved seals and gaskets and a carburetor that’s designed to prevent leaks. As of press time, Toro hadn’t made available a price for the lawnmower, which was scheduled to arrive at dealerships in January 2014.

We were unable to test Toro’s lawnmower at press time. Castellanos, who also hadn’t tested the lawnmower, says the key is whether the fluids that are in the lawnmower’s engine stay secure not just between mowings but also during a storage period of several months, such as over winter.

Until that’s determined, he says, he reserves judgment on storing a gasoline-powered lawnmower in a position other than upright on four wheels. As of press time, Toro didn’t respond to our questions about its testing.

ROBOTIC RISE. When it comes to minimizing storage, no lawnmower occupies less space than a robotic lawnmower does. These models measure up to 21 inches in length and mow your lawn automatically before they return to a base charging station. They aren’t inexpensive—the lowest price that we found for one was $1,199.

Kiser says growth in the market is prompting OPEI to begin to develop standards for the robotic-lawnmower segment. As of press time, six manufacturers had robotic models available, but 14 manufacturers were helping to develop OPEI’s standards. Kiser says that number indicates that more models will become available in the next few years.

OPEI’s standards would touch upon safety and design elements for the devices. Gerry Coons of OPEI, who is helping to develop the standards, says they will cover electricity issues that are related to overheating and potential fire hazards. He also says the standards will determine what conditions should prompt the lawnmower to shut down. Kiser says the standards should be completed by 2016.

Regardless, Castellanos doubts that robotic models will become competition for walk-behind or riding models. Coons agrees, saying robotic lawnmowers wouldn’t be appropriate for “lawns with steep hills or other considerations.” He says that, in terms of scope, these would be appropriate for about one-third of an acre.

Unfortunately, despite the appeal of mowing your lawn from the comfort of your living room, we can’t recommend these models until fundamental safety standards are in place.

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