Bass on Bass

Saturday, April 29, 2017

My Old / Newer SLA battery Rotary Mower Love


    This is what my Neuton CE-5 14" 24 volt cordless electric mower looks like. Neuton says it's the quietest on the market and I have no evidence to the contrary after 15 years of using this and prior to it the same size and battery pack Neuton EM 4.1 mower. It sells as a 2 in 1 mower. As seen it is in bagging mode but it comes with a mulching plug that inserts in the back of the mower  with the bag removed. It can also do side discharge operation with the separately available chute that is mountable in place of the bag as well.
   One advantage of this and their CE-6 19" 36 v mower is that they use Sealed Lead Acid batteries. That's what your cars and trucks have but these are in use removable /replaceable battery packs that contain 2 (24v) or 3 (36v) 12 volt standard scooter batteries. A simple fact of rechargable batteries is that the devices they are used in ALWAYS outlive the batteries by 2-5 times. These SLA packs, unlike the more common today Lithium battery packs in cordless yard equipment, can be rebuilt with new 12v batteries. A replacement pack for my CE-5 costs in the $100 range but the replacement 12v batteries to rebuild one can be bought for as little as $18 ea. quite often from a wide array of on-line and local bricks and mortar vendors. I have accumulated 4 packs. 

An EM 4.1 like mine

Neuton CE-6 

      Another advantage of the Neuton mowers is that the new Neutons have a battery status meter on the top of the handle. It's a simple 3 zone analog meter with red, yellow, and green zones. All else being equal simpler is almost always better. 
    Speaking of simpler, That battery rebuild for the Neutons is BY far the simplest of all of the available SLA battery powered mowers on the market. The video below is about the CE-6 packs but the CE-5 packs are identical but for 2 vs 3 batteries enclosed. It takes me ~ 10 minutes start to finish when I have everything in front of me for the task. 

     The battery chargers are an issue these days however.  My EM 4.1 came with a "dumb" charger 14 years ago. As I said the CE-5 uses the same battery pack. A "dumb" charger is one that has NO auto-shutoff at full battery charge. For a few years after the CE series came out Neuton shipped "smart" chargers with the auto-shutoff feature but reverted back to "dumb" ones by the time I bought my CE-5. I bought one of the "smart" ones back when they were carried by Neuton. Why is that a big deal you may ask. Simply put overcharging ANY rechargeable battery wreaks havoc on available runtime and lifespan of the battery. "Smart" chargers don't let that happen and "dumb" ones do.
    This is a source for a smart charger usable with a 24v Neuton mower.  They sell 36v models too that are good for the 19" CE-6. Note: you need the ones with the "Axial" battery pack connector. 1  to 1.6 Amp models should suffice. See the "This is an automatic battery charger which stops charging and goes into float mode when the charging cycle is complete to prevent overcharging" In the product description that defines them as "smart".

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Easy Care Lawns My Way

    I'm the sort of person who'll spend a significant effort in the short run to avoid far more effort and expense in the long run. So it has become with the management of the 2500-2800 sq feet of lawn on my 120' x 60' home lot. It didn't take me many years to become disillusioned with the more heavily media advertised lawn care products and redirect my attention to more "organic" options. 
    I've always been something of a techie and interested in the science of what I'm trying to manage in my life at any time. I found that there was significant knowledge of that sort related to lawns readily available with a little searching. In fact there is a lot of capacity to avoid effort and cost in lawn care available with relatively little knowledge.
    The number 1 thing one needs to know about lawns as we Americans are lead to see them is that they are not something that can be found in nature with any regularity.
    The number 2 thing to know is that you must assume that generally the heavier a lawn care product is advertised, the better your buying it serves it's maker and vendors versus your actual needs!
    Fertilizers are an excellent example. By far the most heavily advertised lawn fertilizers are those with the highest Nitrogen content.  Something that evades most folks attention when they approach the business of lawn care is that 79% of the air they breath is nitrogen! Lawn fertilizer that's 20% or more soluble nitrogen is not only wasteful and productive of  leaching and runoff of contamination into ground and surface water but can often be toxic to the bacteria normally occurring in the soil that fixes atmospheric nitrogen. Too much of anything is toxic to something. 

    One other factor in managing a lawn that is not very often mentioned is soil PH, the acidity or alkalinity of the soil on a 1 to 14 scale. 7 is completely neutral PH. Most plants require a slightly acid PH (less than 7) Simply put most lawn grasses thrive at a higher PH than most broad-leaf weeds. Therefor you want to manage the PH to stable in the 6.5 to 6.8 range.

How? Granulated lawn lime is readily available at low cost. I mix about 1 to 2 pints of it per drop spreader load of fertilizer which is an ~ 50/50 mix of Lawn Restore and Milorganite. I usually include 1-2 cups of Ironite in the mix to add a little mineral content. In the fall I increase the lime content to compensate for the mildly acidifying influence of the autumn leaves. I mulching mode mow them down in tiny fragments to the soil surface where they fall. The leaf fragments are very good food for the indwelling beneficial soil building organisms..The Lawn Restore carries cultures of some beneficials.

    Another example is the predominance of bluegrass in most readily available lawn grass seed mixtures. In fact bluegrass is by far NOT the only class of turf grass varieties that can produce that deep green lawn color we all know and love in lawn care commercials. Most bluegrass varieties tend to be some of the more shallow rooting grasses available and as such, much more susceptible  to drought and heat damage.

    Not many years into home ownership I turned to tall fescue varieties and then to endophytic tall fescues. Both tend to be some of the deepest rooting turf grasses with the enhanced nature of the endophytics the deepest rooting. Endophytic refers to having a beneficial fungus (the endophyte) transferred via spore in the seed that grows within the plant enhancing water and nutrient distribution and producing a plant eater toxin that kills all attacking bugs and grubs. The variety mix I generally use grows roots up to 6 feet deep.  

     After years of over-seeding with these grasses, I only water my lawn when a neighbors' large dog emptying it's bladder kills a patch that needs re-seeding and extra water to get going.
    Just like virtually all things earthly there are a couple of disadvantages(?) with these grasses. The extremely valuable endophyte in spore form tends not to survive in the seeds for more than 1 -1 1/2 years after the seed is harvested. Seeds with dead endophyte will sprout as well as other types but lack the enhanced quality the endophyte would provide. Secondly, since the endophyte infuses the plant with plant-eater toxin, most concentrated at the base of the plant, ANY animal grazing on it will be rendered somewhat temporarily less healthy. Some friends of mine have well loved dogs that graze on their lawns almost like sheep. This grass is not a wise choice for them.

   See the following previous posts related to lawn care:


Friday, April 14, 2017

Cordless E-mowers for 2017: Cloned Brothers From Other Mothers and More

       This is primarily about mowers that appear to be new to the market for 2017. The image above is a montage of various new and old models of just the 40 volt lithium ion battery types on the market now. 
      Along that line, here are a couple of  40 volt "Cloned Brothers From Other Mothers" I've run across on line that appear to be new to the market this year. They may be re-designs of same class previous models from these "makers".

Craftsman 40v 3 in 1

Black and Decker 40v 3 in 1

    Is it just me or are these mowers IDENTICAL! They are the Craftsman and Black and Decker 40v LI battery cordless electric mowers currently advertised for sale. The only difference I can see is that the space behind what looks like a carry handle has a spare battery pack storage bin with the B&D model, and the color of plastic they are made from. 

   Here's a TRIO of 60 volt  "Cloned Brothers From Other Mothers"

Greenworks 60v 21" 3 in 1

Snapper 60v 21" 3 in 1

Kobalt 60v 21" 3 in 1

        Here we go again, almost. Another 3 identical cordless electric mowers from different "makers". It begs the speculation of a 3rd party making them all 3 for sale as Greenworks 60 volt 21" 3 in 1 mower, Snapper 60 volt 21" 3 in 1 mower and the Kobalt 60 volt 21" 3 in 1 mower. The only differences I see are the motor cap shape, color and labeling, and wheel "spoke" casting. That aside they look like VERY GOOD additions to the cordless electric mower market.

Black & Decker 20", 60 volt, 3 in 1 mower

     4/18/2017 update: This machine, from Black and Decker incorporates active battery pack chambers for 2 packs loaded concurrently. They're only 2.5 Amp Hours / pack which provides only 300 Watt Hours of stored energy with 2 full chambers but it also includes circuitry to automatically switch from one battery to the other when optimal discharge level is reached.

Greenworks 20" 40v G-Max Twin Force mower.
  4/18/2017 update: This Greenworks twin blade mower has been around for a few years and was my first pick for many folks new to mowing for some time even though it doesn't offer a side discharge option, only bag / mulch modes. It runs with 2 motors and 2 battery packs and has always had that automatic battery pack switchover feature for user convenience. The twin blade system is actually more efficient because it takes more energy to keep 1 20" blade spinning than it does to spin 2 10" blades. It's a basic centrifugal energy principle that load on / energy demand by a motor goes up exponentially as the distance from center of rotation to the center of mass of the rotating load  increases. Simply put, each additional inch of blade length costs more energy to spin than the last. It's something I learned decades ago when I was doing a lot of work repairing medical laboratory centrifuges.  

     Some of you lawnmower neophytes may be asking in your mind, "What the **** does "3 in 1" mean?" It's very simply a reference to the grass clippings handling options the mower's design accommodates. Directly it means they offer bagging, mulching and / or side discharging operation. Obviously only 1 of the 3 at any one time. This feature is what you want. It allows you to save time and money and to use the machine for multiple purposes.  
     I use my Neuton 14" CE-5 SLA battery powered mower in side discharge mode most of the time. The 14" blade / deck generates considerably less suction to pull all the "layover" grass blades vertical for cutting so I have to do double passes in this and mulching mode. 
     I use the mulching mode of mine (for the above 5 machines that would be with the bag off, a plug inserted into the to-the-bag rear port and the side discharge port cover closed) mostly for reducing autumn leaves where they fall and driving the fragments down between the grass blades to feed the ever important beneficial organisms that build and maintain the soil quality for me. 
     As I said it's side discharge mode for me most of the time. That's for the same purpose my mulching of fall leaves is about as well as saving me from the burden of handling the clippings and burdening the waste stream with them and my pocket the cost of that. 
     I use the bagging function for grass clippings only when I need some for covering the soil around my veggie garden plants to keep moisture in the soil and weeds from growing.        Another purpose for my "bag" mode is to reduce my neighbor's fall leaves before placing them in a bin for later use as "Brown" matter for my composting system. 
    Bagging also works for reducing dried hedge clippings and dead plant material from veggie and ornamental gardens to be used the same way as the leaf fragments from neighbors.
    My main point here is that a rotary 3 in 1 mower can serve more purposes in your yard than just cutting the grass every week or so!
    The highlighted brand names of the mowers in the text above are hyper-links you can click on to access further information and pricing on each per vendors of them.
    My plan is to edit this with updated information as it becomes available including other notable new entries into this cordless electric mower market so you may want to check back once in a while for that.