Leaf-blower restrictions are still pretty big news in most of the country, but they’re old hat in California, where a number of cities have banned gasoline-powered blowers altogether while placing noise restrictions on battery-powered equipment.
That’s one reason why landscape professionals who have long scoffed at the idea of using battery powered equipment are starting to take a second look – at least on the West Coast.
Richard Ogawa is co-owner of Gardenland Power Equipment in Campbell, California. The store has long served a healthy share of the Bay Area’s professional landscapers and works hard to keep their business with special programs and services.
Ogawa said Gardenland began taking steps about 3 ½ years ago to expand its equipment offerings to include top-tier battery tools, as the number of cities restricting blowers, or banning them outright, kept expanding.
He’s glad he did. “We’re seeing 25 percent (sales) growth,” Ogawa said.
“If it were just a city or two,” he said of the uncertainty around using gas-powered tools, “we would have expected a blip (in sales) and then a drop-off. But the growth has been consistent.”
Gardenland is also seeing professional landscaping companies that would have laughed at the idea of using battery-powered equipment a few years ago “finally beginning to convert because of the requirements,” Ogawa said.
And it’s not just cities’ ordinances that are responsible but, increasingly, the demands of landscapers’ customers that they adopt more environmentally friendly methods.
“As a native of Palo Alto,” he said, “I see more Teslas than Toyotas. A lot of our (homeowner) customers are telling their landscapers, ‘I want a greener solution on my property.’”
At the same time, Gardenland regularly receives requests for more products in its battery-powered line, which is already pretty extensive.
For landscapers, he says, the biggest issues with respect to battery-powered equipment have always been runtime and performance.
“Up until this point,” Ogawa said, “there haven’t been commercial grade products that met those two criteria. Now they’re beginning to do that, so landscapers are seeing that, yes, this can be cost effective for us.”
For Tyler Delin, outdoor product manager for equipment maker DEWALT, it’s good to hear a major retailer with lots of landscaping customers say that.
“We (at DEWALT) have been in the battery world for decades now,” Delin said, noting the company has the No. 1 market share in cordless equipment.
DEWALT, like its major competitors, says the development and manufacturing of battery-powered equipment – and battery technology itself – has advanced a great deal in recent years. Given time, Delin said, more and more people – including the dealerships that sell equipment to landscapers – will begin to take notice of those advances.
“There’s a lot of resistance, a lot of doubt,” Delin acknowledged, but he said DEWALT knows of many landscape crews that roll out with its battery-powered tools every day – especially those working in noise sensitive areas.
And while city restrictions or outright bans on gas-powered blowers are bound to fuel sales of battery-powered equipment, Delin believes the ethanol content of gasoline – and the maintenance nightmares it produces – will also influence landscape professionals to look closely at their costs in using battery vs. gas.
“Some landscapers are seeing good reason to switch now, in light of improved runtime and performance,” in order to dramatically reduce maintenance costs, Delin said.
Ogawa agrees that lower maintenance costs will help ensure that more landscapers at least take a serious look at the latest battery-powered equipment.
“Before, the landscaper’s attitude was, ‘No way, I can’t do what I need to do’,” Ogawa said. “Now it’s, ‘Hey, this needs to be part of my tool box.’ He knows he needs to diversify to take care of his customer base.”