Neutons Rule

– Posted in: Miscellaneous

Neuton Mower Model EM 5.1

You know how irritating it can be to hear people preach about low-maintenance gardening – as if we want to spend less time in our gardens? Now, talk to me about low-maintenance lawns, and I’m listening. At this point, I have only one patch of proper lawn-like space, though there’s still plenty of grass to mow overall, simply because I haven’t yet had the time to replace it with gardens, groundcovers, or meadow. And as much as I’d like to, I’ll probably never be able to get rid of it completely.

I don’t worry about weed control, fertilizing, watering, dethatching, overseeding, or most other typical lawn-care chores. But the stuff grows regardless, and I have no choice but to mow it. So finding a way to make that task a bit easier has been a big relief. I’m not saying I enjoy mowing now – what a waste of time that could be better spent doing just about anything! – but using a Neuton cordless electric mower has eliminated a good bit of the hassle, at least.

I can hardly tell you how much of a relief it is to be spared the hassle and expense of acquiring and storing gasoline, as well as the bother of oil changes, tune-ups, spark plugs, and all the related mess and required tools. The Neuton needs no gas or oil, because it runs on a rechargable battery. It’s a simple matter to bring the battery indoors, plug it in, and leave it overnight to recharge. According to what I’ve read, it takes about 10 cents worth of electricity to fully charge the battery. So instead of maybe $8 worth of gas, I use about 50 cents worth of electricity. And the environmental benefit of not dealing with engine emissions, possible gas spills, and waste oil? Priceless.

Neuton mower battery

I have to admit that my first impression of the mower itself was that it was kind of dorky-looking. Made almost totally of plastic, it reminded me of a Fisher-Price Bubble Mower toy. But this thing is surprisingly sturdy, as well being simple to use. You flip the top open, drop in the battery, and then insert the “safety key.”

Neuton mower safety key

Forget about endlessly tugging on a pull cord to start the mower. On the Neuton, you simply start at the handlebar, in ready-to-mow position.

Neuton mower handlebar switch

Slide the orange start knob, then squeeze the handlebar, and the blade starts spinning.

Neuton mower handlebar

Once it’s running, you use the Neuton as you would a gas-powered mower. The 5.1 and 5.2 have a 14-inch blade, which effectively cuts a swath about 1 foot wide (figuring overlapping passes to avoid skips). That’s several inches narrower than most power mowers, so it does take more walking to cover the same amount of lawn.

With the Neuton, you have several options for dealing with the clippings. You can use the typical side-discharge chute (shown below).

Neuton mower side discharge chute

Or, you can lift the back flap, unhook the side-discharge chute, and replace it with the bagger frame.

Neuton mower bagger frame

Then, slip on the bag, and you’re ready to collect the clippings for composting or mulching.

Neuton mower with bag

If you spring for the accessories package, you also get a “mulching plug,” with replaces the side-discharge chute and makes the clippings drop straight down into the lawn. Another item included in the accessories package is a trimmer/edger attachment. It has two prongs that easily slip into holes in the front of the mower.

Neuton mower trimmer edger attachment

You can adjust the head to the horizontal setting for trimming along paths, walls, and other features.

Neuton mower trimmer setting

Or, you can set the head vertically or at an angle to cut an edge along a bed or path.

Neuton mower edging setting

Flip the handlebar switch from “mow” to “auxiliary,” squeeze the handlebar, and you’re ready to go!

Neuton mower switch

Now, to be fair, there are a few things that are less than impressive about the Neuton. First, I read a lot about how quiet they are, and my neighbor says that she thinks it’s quiet, but it sounds pretty loud to me. It’s not annoying enough to require the use of ear protection, but it’s not like you could hear music or a ringing phone over it. Still, it’s definitely not as noisy as a gas engine.

While I like having the option of the trimmer/edger, using it depletes the battery faster than mowing, and the trimmer line seems to run out quickly. (Fortunately, the accessories pack includes some extra spools.)

I think my biggest grumble is the amount of hand strength it takes to squeeze the handlebar to keep the blade running. It’s a great safety feature to have the blade stop quickly, but it’s a bit annoying to have it stop if you let up at all on your grip. It’s not much of a problem for short mowing stints, but it gets pretty tiring after an hour or so.

As with any mower, the Neuton works best in dry conditions. If the grass is at all wet with rain or dew, or if it’s very lush, the mower clogs quickly. It’s a simple matter to stop and clean the mower deck, but it’s still a bit of a bother. But that leads me to one of my very favorite features of the Neuton: how easy it is to change the mowing height. Here, it’s shown on the next-to-maximum cutting height, which is about 3 inches.

Neuton mower height adjustment lever

There are six settings, taking you down to about 1.2 inches at the lowest setting. To change the setting, simply lean down, pull lightly on the lever, and slide it up or down to adjust the height. If the grass is thick or succulent, raising the blade height just a notch or two can really help to avoid the clogging problem.

Neuton mower adjusting height

I’ll also mention that if you don’t order the entire accessory pack, it’s at least worth getting a spare battery. One fully charged battery lasts for about an hour of mowing (approximately a quarter acre), or less if you’re trimming or edging. If you need more time, having a spare lets you charge one while using the other to finish the job.

Mom and I went halves on the 5.1 last spring, and I can’t remember how much we paid for it, but I see they’re selling the very similar 5.2 now for $374, including shipping. There’s also a Model 6.2, currently listed at $474, with a 19-inch cutting blade. We bought our Neuton directly from Country Home Products at Neuton Power. A reader over at my Hayefield blog tells me that you can also find local retailers if you contact their Customer Service folks.

If you’re at all considering getting rid of your gas-powered mower, I really encourage you to check out the Neuton. No, I don’t have any affiliation with the company, other than being a long-time, satisfied customer of Country Home Products. (They’re my source for two of my other favorite tools: my DR Field and Brush Mower, which I wrote about in Meadow Mowing Time, and my manual sod cutter, which I wrote about in Sod Off [in an Eco-Friendly Way].) I won’t tell you that owning a Neuton makes mowing fun. It doesn’t. But it does make the whole process of dealing with the mechanics of mowing a whole lot easier!

Nancy J. Ondra
Nan gardens on 4 acres in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. In the firm belief that every garden ought to have a pretentious-sounding (or at least pretentious-looking) name, she refers to her home grounds as "Hayefield." There, she experiments with a wide variety of plants and planting styles, from cottage gardens and color-based borders to managed meadows, naturalistic plantings, and veggies--all under the watchful eyes of her two pet alpacas, Daniel and Duncan.
Nancy J. Ondra

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Benjamin June 12, 2008, 6:54 pm

I got a black and decker cordless electric as a wedding present from my folks last summer (yippee, huh?). But I was dead set on not having to deal with a gas mower. I looked at the Neuton and was very turned off by its cutting deck width. My b&d is 19″, and every minute I ain’t mowing is, as you say, better used in the garden. It takes me 45 minutes to mow my front and back, and if it’s wet, I have a few strips left cuz the mower gives out. That’s the big annoyance. Anyway, as with the Neuton, it’s pricey. I’m very happy with the b&d, and though it ain’t super quiet, it iss about like a vacuum cleaner–my wife can’t hear me mow from inside, and I can feel smug when the neighbor mows at 7am and wakes me. Hope it continues to work well for you.

Thanks for sharing your experience, Benjamin. We should have shopped around, I guess, but we really do like this company, and Mom felt that this mower would be a comfortable size for her to use too. If I’d known that I’d end up using it to do almost all of my mowing, and if they’d had the 19-inch model available at the time, I definitely would have chosen that one.

Lisa at Greenbow June 12, 2008, 8:20 pm

I have a couple of battery powered lawn implements and I do like them. I have extra batteries and with no more than I used a blower and a string trimmer I really like them. I can imagine how convenient a battery mower could be. I am such a weenie that I don’t do much of the mowing and most here is done on a rider. Now if they get a riding mower that workes like a golf cart that would be the ticket for us.

Brilliant, Lisa – a hybrid golf-cart/mower! That could revolutionize the golf course business. Now, how to get the golfers to drive evenly over the course…?

Kitt June 13, 2008, 2:36 am

I have a corded electric mower (Craftsman) that I like very much. I got it maybe 8 years ago, when rechargeable batteries were a more iffy proposition. I figured the hassle of the cord was better than the hassle of having to replace the battery. It has worked great for me. I’ve got a super-long cord and can get the whole yard done in short order.

Another advantage to electric mowers: They’re very light, so if you have to mow on a hill, go up or down stairs, or even put it in the car to lend to a friend, you can do that by yourself. The handle on mine folds down for compact storage.

Thanks for chiming in, Kitt. Great point about the weight. I think the Neuton is about 30 pounds without the battery (about 45 with it), and it too has a handle that can fold down. So winter storage, and transport, too, is very easy.

our friend Ben June 13, 2008, 7:58 am

Wow, Nan, this is great! And thanks for the close-up pictures; it really helps to see exactly what you’re talking about, especially for clueless Luddites like me. I agree with you, though, I’m shocked that they’d make you compress the handle to keep the mower running. Even when I’m pumping gas for the car, I’ve noticed that I have to really pay attention to keep the same amount of pressure on the handle or I’ll unconsciously start easing up. If you can maintain steady pressure for an hour, your hand strength must be phenomenal!

Yeah, you don’t have to squeeze hard, but the handle’s a bit wide, and I think that’s why it’s tiring after a while. As long as you have two hands on it, it seems fine. But if you’re using only one, it’s very easy to loosen up your grip.

Nancy Bond June 13, 2008, 11:53 am

Thanks for the review — it looks like a versatile machine! When I think that it costs my Dad $33 to fill a 5 gal gas can, the electric mower makes perfect sense for smaller lawns, especially.

You’re right, Nancy. At my old place, I had a tiny lawn, and I loved using a reel-type push mower to maintain it. Here, that’s simply not an option. But the cordless electric mower has been a great compromise.

jeff-naturehills June 13, 2008, 12:29 pm

Looks like a great machine. Next summer I’m going to be in the market for a new lawnmower and the Neuton will be considered. I agree it does look a little dorky.

I’ve noticed that they tried to streamline the appearance of the newer Neuton model, but I can’t help but think it still looks toy-like. The thing works, though, so I try not to dwell on its aesthetic appeal (or lack thereof).

Tickie Young June 19, 2008, 1:20 am

I have this same mower and it works for me. No nasty gas smells on me or in the garage. Just pop a fresh battery in, squeeze the handle and go. I have two batteries but seldom use the second. I am over 60 and do my lawn for the exercise once a week or whenever I see an area I’d like to trim a little better. I do wish the machine had more width, but like the convenience two in one when you attach the trimmer to the mower. It also has a safety key to insert before the mower will engage . As for the squeeze handle it has its pros and cons, but I feel it needs to be improved in the next generation of the model. I never get hand cramps and it is instant safety when you let go since it stops. After a year and a half it’s more than paid for itself and it’s eco-friendly.

Thanks for sharing your experience with the Neuton, Tickie. I wonder if they’ve improved the handle on the newest model. I’ll have to track down a local dealer some time and check it out.

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