(updated 7/30/07 - see below)
Recommend this product?
I have looked at rechargeable lawn mowers ever since I saw the first Black and Decker model at a Home Depot and the price has always turned me off. I am the kind of person who will go to a garage sale and buy and old mower for $5 and use it for 10 years. However, I have finally become tired of the annual carburetor dump / clean, gas tank flush, oil change and pull rope replacement along with the aggravation of trying to get the darn thing to start for the first time every Spring. I guess that is why I wanted to try something new.
Home Depot was selling this model for $299 and their six month same as cash offer sweetened the deal. It was also comforted by the fact that the lawnmower had a good warranty and a big name, Homelite, behind it. The mower also has a 20 cutting deck only one inch less than many gas powered push mowers. Most rechargeable mowers only have an 18 or 19 cut width.
Removing the mower from the box was easy, although, this model is heavier than some rechargeable mowers because it has a steel cutting deck like a regular gas mower. I simple opened the top of the box, folded the box tops down onto the side of the box and then turned the box upside down. I then pulled up on the box; letting the mower and box contents rest on the ground while sliding the light box up from around them. Dont worry about turning the mower upside down - Homelite says that the battery is sealed and will not leak. The Homelite mower is fully assembled but must be charged for at least 17 hours before its first use. The rear bag is also assembled and ready to use.
While unfolding the mower handle, I noticed that the handle is secured using very stiff, plastic, turn-wheel nuts about two inches across. You use these nuts to tighten the handle so it does not collapse while pushing the mower. The nuts are very hard to tighten/turn so any chance of easily folding the handle up and down is dashed. It would take an average person a few minutes to tighten/loosen each of the 4 turn-wheel nuts and fold the handle down. My other concern with the nuts (based on previous experience with similar products) is that the plastic turn wheel can strip off of the nut and force you to use wrenches to fold/unfold the handle. I usually replace this style of turn-nut with large wing-nuts after the plastic breaks. Homelite should take a cue from other manufacturers and engineer an easy folding handle. I am sure that the turn-nuts are designed this way in order to keep them from loosening on their own. I have always wondered why lawn mower folding handles arent designed like the support on a folding table with a simple sleeve of metal over the joint to hold it stiff while in use. Fortunately, I have plenty of room to store the mower without having to fold the handle.
Engineering of the height adjustment is the opposite of the folding handle it is very easy to use. One spring loaded lever controls the height of all wheels - very little effort is needed to change the mowers cutting height.
Charging is simple. Plug the charging block into a 110v outlet, slide off the recharging plug cover (yellow) on the back of the mower and then attached the lawn mower end of the charger. The charging block has two LED indicators one red LED to indicate 110v power is available and another to indicate charging status. While charging the lawn mower battery, the charging LED will be red. When the battery is fully charged, the charging LED will turn to green.
Once the initial charge is complete, the mower is ready for use. Operation of the mower is simple. There is a plastic key that slips into a slot on the handle and the key must be in its slot before the mower will run. The key is attached to the handle with a cord so you dont lose or drop it. There is also a small space to store the key during charging or blade sharpening. Once the key is inserted then the user simply pulls up on a yellow handle to engage the blade. The mower sounds like a large box fan when running; not silent, but not as loud as a gas mower. Once started, the mower has 5 LEDs that are (left to right) three green, one yellow and one red. As the charge runs down, the LEDs go dark from left to right. First the leftmost green will go out, then the next green, etc., until you reach the yellow and then only the red remains lit. The manual says that you should stop immediately when only the red LED is lit and recharge the mower or risk damaging the battery. I am told that these batteries are VERY expensive so some caution should be exercised here.
The Homelite offers three options for cutting grass rear bag, side discharge or mulch. It comes with a rear bag and a plug for mulching. Side discharge can only be used without a bag. I normally mulch my lawn and that is the first thing I tried. The lawn mower makes a very smooth, even cut and I was impressed by the quality of the mulch. I ran over grass and then tried some old winter leaves. My old mower would leave chunks of leaves lying on top of the grass even with a newly sharpened blade. The Homelite mulched the leaves so well that I couldnt tell they were there.
My yard is about 7000 sq feet and I found that I could cut my lawn twice before having to recharge the mower. However, as the weather warmed (and the fertilizer worked) the grass grew faster. Longer grass takes its toll on a rechargeable mower and I now have to charge the battery after each use (weekly). The charged mower can easily mow my entire yard without running out of juice. I finish with one or two green LEDs lit.
Pushing the mower is not effortless and it is slightly easier than pushing my old 6.5 HP gas mower. It is fairly easy to maneuver, however, the wheels are small (7" front, 8" rear) and the mower may be hard to push in soft soil. As is the norm these days, there is a rubber flap at the back of the mower deck to prevent sticks and rocks from being thrown back at you. The Homelite folks put a little too much rubber there and the mower chopped up a small portion of the flap. It still functions as it should.
The real test came one month after I purchased the mower. I came home one day to find the lawn already mowed! My wife had cut the grass. This is something that has only happened a few times in my 15 year marriage and only when I owned an electric start riding mower. My wife has never been able to pull start any of my push mowers. She has since volunteered to mow the lawn twice more!
As much as I like this mower, I would not recommend this mower for large lawns or deep grass. It would run out of battery charge before finishing. It could be used for trimming large lawns when a riding mower is used for the rest. Overall, I would recommend the mower to people with small to medium sized lawns who want to ditch their gas mower.
I have owned this lawn mower from April to August - less than one mowing season. In that time, the safety/activation handle used to start and stop the mower has broken. I have not been excessively hard on this mower nor have I babied it. I have only used it in my relatively small yard, cutting the grass once every week. The handle is yellow and made from a fairly flexible plastic. Apparently, the plastic breaks easily after 16 20 uses and the handle came off in my hand in mid-July. I called Homelite and they sent a replacement switch/handle assembly in less than one week and I repaired the mower. However, I do not consider this something that most casual owners could do. You have to open the battery/motor compartment and disconnect the negative battery leads so that you dont injure yourself or kill the batteries. After carefully disconnecting the batteries, I had to remove the old console, disconnect the battery wires, connect the new console and screw everything back together. The bottom line while Homelite was very accommodating, this should not have happened. I have adjusted the mower ratings accordingly. When I reassembled my switch, I added a steel reinforcing bar to the handle.
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Amount Paid (US$): 299