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Push mowers become a popular gas-saver

| Saturday, June 21, 2008

When Eric King moved from his apartment in Pittsburgh to a single-family home with a lawn, he bought a manual lawn mower instead of the usual gas-powered kind. He figures he's putting money in his pocket and saving trips to the filling station.

He's got plenty of company. Sales of manual -- or push reel -- mowers with the cartwheeling blades are on the rise this year. Officials attribute the surge to increased environmental concerns because of emissions from gas-powered mowers, the faltering economy that makes the generally less expensive push reels more attractive and $4-a-gallon gasoline.

"With the way gas prices are going through the roof and are going to stay there or increase even further, that was the main reason I considered one," said King, 29. "I don't consider myself an environmentalist; I consider myself an economist."

American Lawn Mower Co., a Shelbyville, Ind., manufacturer of manual and electric lawnmowers, says sales are up 60 percent to 70 percent over last year.

"It's unbelievable," said Teri McClain, inside sales administrator. "I think gas prices are playing a part in this."

McClain estimates that about 300,000 push reel mowers are sold annually in the United States. That's about the same number of electric mowers that are sold. Though growing, sales of both are dwarfed by the roughly 6 million typical gas-powered, walk-behind mowers purchased every year.

Push reel mowers have evolved from those heavy iron beasts of the past into lighter, easier-to-push models, weighing in at 19 to 34 pounds with widths up to 20 inches and cutting heights that can be adjusted quickly. Accessories include grass catchers and sharpening kits.

Prices for push reel mowers usually range from nearly $100 to $250. A sampling of Web sites show electric mowers selling for about $145 to $430. Walk-behind gasoline-powered mowers usually cost $150 to $400. The non-riding, self-propelled variety can go from $200 to $900.

People Powered Machines, an Ipswich, Mass.-based Internet store, has seen a 25 percent rise in the sale of push reel and electric lawn mowers so far this year.

"The increasing price of gasoline is one of the bigger factors," said spokesman David Temple.

At Remington Power Tools, based in Bowling Green, Ky., which began selling electric lawn mowers this year, customers giving their reasons for buying an electric mower often end with the words: "And with gas prices, it only makes sense," spokesman Alex Wrinkles said.

Lawn mower and landscaping equipment company Toro declined to say how sales of its gas-powered mowers were faring. But spokesman John Wright said the faltering economy and the cool, wet spring that delayed lawn mowing is probably having a bigger effect than high gas prices.

Kris Kiser, spokesman for the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, does not believe high gasoline prices will cause a significant reduction in the sale of gas-powered mowers. According to the institute, the average homeowner uses only five to six gallons of gasoline a year to mow a quarter-acre lot.

Additional Information:

More information

American Lawn Mower Co.: http://www.reelin.com

Clean Air Gardening: www.cleanairgardening.com/

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