October 16, 2010

Cordless Electric String Trimmers: Are They Worth It?

While a lot of different tools have found their way in and out of my shed over the years, string trimmers are the bane of my existence. I can't count the total number of string trimmers I've owned, but up until this year, every one of them has been gas-powered.

When my (relatively) trusty conventional Stihl didn't want to start this spring, I decided that it was time to bite the bullet and try a cordless electric string trimmer ... knowing full well that I would likely end up servicing the Stihl in the long run.

Gas string trimmers are more versatile and robust than electric string trimmers, no question about it. But after all these years, I wanted to see what it was like to not have to deal with the noise, stench and hassle of another two-stroke trimmer.

The local choices were limited. There was no way that a corded electric string trimmer would do ... my yard is too large to deal with an extension cord. I ended up with a 24-volt Black and Decker unit, and to make a long story short, it was one of the most unfortunate power tool purchases I've ever made.

Battery life is absurdly low. I can count on 12 minutes of use before the battery runs out ... if I'm careful. While I did not purchase an extra battery, I'd have to have three or four batteries charged up to handle the complete job here at Rancho Indebto.

A small plastic piece broke inside the string trimmer's head within a few weeks after I purchased the unit. While the replacement part was less than a dollar on Black and Decker's website, it was out of stock. One upside of this summer's drought was that I didn't need to use the string trimmer for months. I ordered a handful of the plastic widgets once they were back in stock, along with a pair of spools.

The unit was temperamental with regard to spooling ... I had little luck winding my own spools. Now I've always wound my own spools with my conventional string trimmers ... I never expected to buy pre-wound spools for the electric trimmer ...

Although the electric string trimmer is relatively quiet, lightweight, and completely smoke-free, it's highly inconvenient. A short battery life and flimsy plastic construction aren't enduring features.

Cordless string trimmers may be the way to go, eventually ... once the cost of high-performance lithium ion battery packs drop dramatically and the capacity rises. Right now, however, they're best suited to smaller tasks.

It will be interesting to see how the heavy-duty commercial-oriented lawn tool companies eventually adopt the technology. Backpack-mounted power packs may be the way to go in the future, but right now they'd be hideously expensive.

In the meantime, I'll be servicing the Stihl over the winter ... and investing in some ear-protection ...

Posted by geekbooks at October 16, 2010 01:50 PM

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