Any interest in propane lawnmower conversion plans?

propane_derekMay 28, 2010

I've worked up a set of plans for converting lawnmowers to propane, and could use some help with ideas of where to promote them, or even just gauging interest among the lawn-mowing community as to whether or not that's something you personally would be interested in.

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You can find all the info you need on Google. It's been done MANY times.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2010 at 11:24AM
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Not sure that it would really fly. For they are already propane powered mowers on the market and they are not what you could say, flying off of the shelves.

Dixie Chopper has been building them then Siouxland Propane builds mowers for John Deere and a lot of other people.

Plus you can find sites all over the web that gives directions on how to convert a mower to propane.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2010 at 11:26AM
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Well, I appreciate the follow-up.

I would add that having done it, most of the sites I used on the internet were only marginally helpful. In fact, the directions that came with the parts I needed were pretty useless as well -- that's what prompted me to put the plans together.

The value-add in this case is having step by step instructions with a detailed material list, as well as the fact that this would be a proper conversion, not like many of the ones I've seen on Youtube, etc., where they stick a 1/4" copper tube in the intake and roll. :)

    Bookmark   May 28, 2010 at 11:52AM
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The problem is, gasoline is readily available, doesn't have to be compressed into a liquid in a heavy steel bottle and is still cheap. It would still be cheap almost at any price up to $10/gal for non-commercial OPE uses since many people can cut grass for months on a two-gallon can. I think the commercial application is the way to market a high-quality heavy-duty conversion kit. BTW, nobody will buy plans and make it themselves - they want somebody to blame or send it back to. Maybe you should get with a commercial yard service and talk them into being a test case for the conversion. They could advertise a 'greener' service than the next guy. Suckers are lining up to be 'green' regardless of expense - you may as well get some mileage out of that. One key factor with commercials is how long a mower can be used without refueling, and nobody wants a big, heavy propane bottle hanging off the mower. How long can you run a mower that's actually doing work, not just sitting there running, on the smaller bottle?

    Bookmark   May 28, 2010 at 2:01PM
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You can get about 2 hours of run-time out of one of the smaller bottles. That's actual cutting time, not idle time. They can also be refilled using a larger bottle, which makes them very economical.

Sounds like you are right about the commercial end of things being the way to go. I know in certain areas, government contracts require alternative-fuel engines in lawn equipment.

The price of the new propane mowers is prohibitive in the commercial end of things, from what I can see, so there might be some benefit to changing existing customers over.

It's perfect for me in that I have a small yard (townhouse) and no outside storage for my mower, so rather than drag a gas mower into the basement and have the evaporative emissions and gas floating around with the pilot light for the furnace and water heater there, I can just disconnect the propane bottle and be done.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2010 at 2:17PM
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You could have bought an electric mower off the shelf and had the same thing. Just unplug it and be done.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2010 at 2:49PM
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True, but the propane conversion was cheaper than an electric mower, and can be used without a cord, which is a hassle.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2010 at 4:46PM
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No electric mower offers the power and ease of use of an internal combustion engine.
I think the vapor-free indoor storage angle is also good - all you would have to do is turn the valve off when you're finished with it.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2010 at 9:01PM
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Acually corded electric mowers do have similar power to gas mowers and the battery powered mowers are catching up slowly.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2010 at 9:19PM
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I thought of another angle that involves adaptation of a new kind of mower - you mentioned the small yard, etc., and 'metal' mentioned an electric....
How about a 19" LP-powered push mower with a smaller engine like the old reliable B&S 3.5 HP? This thing could fill the gap between the cordless electric and the high-powered gas mowers, and you could push the 'green' angle. B&S had a larger, quieter muffler set-up for this engine years ago - I had one on a 1989 Homelite/Jacobsen 20". A mower like this would have to be very quiet to fit in with the whole deal, because if you have a small lawn you most likely have very close neighbors. A 3.5 HP mower will cut and bag as well as any today - the horsepower race didn't start in earnest until mulching came into vogue. I still remember how that H/J I had 'manicured' the lawn. Hey, don't mind my 'pipe dreams' I just had a big cup of Starbuck's Colombian 'VIA' instant coffee, and my CPU is percolating!
Okay, just one more - the same concept, but a small self-propelled reel mower with a bag. Sometimes small yards are kept the old way at 1" or less, almost like putting greens.
25 years ago Sears developed a cordless reel called the 'Reel One' (like the 'Eager One' gas mowers of the time). They got as far as TV commercials, etc., but killed it at the last minute, never to be heard of again.

Here's a pic of that Homelite/Jacobsen showing the 'quiet' muffler.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2010 at 9:38PM
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'Acually corded electric mowers do have similar power to gas mowers and the battery powered mowers are catching up slowly.'

'and ease of use'
Don't forget that. Seriously, drag a cord around behind a mower? And when the cordless runs out of juice, you have to wait how many hours while it charges?

    Bookmark   May 29, 2010 at 9:26AM
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"Acually corded electric mowers do have similar power to gas mowers and the battery powered mowers are catching up slowly" I think electrics are great idea for for those w/ small lots. A person who is envirnmentally conscious might also share the opinion that better things can be done w/ space rather than mow it- depending on their situation. Or maybe from a maintenance standpoint is better for them. I've personally not seen an electric w/ power to spare. The trade offs seem to be small though. Moderately aggressive, less power robbing methods to mulch or get the grass into the bag seems to be the norm. Propane does have its own merits and I think maybe the OP could set up a website and maybe make his plans available for a fee, donation or free would be a great thing. It would be interesting to see your version of a kit. Something that could also not turn into a danger /liability issue would be my biggest concern. A better mousetrap? Nice pic Saxman. Those old Jakes were sweet.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2010 at 11:47AM
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Before trying to sell the plans, you should develop a concise list of the benefits and downsides to a propane conversion. The list should information about total dollar cost of ocnversion, whether propane costs more per hour to run, envirnmental costs and benefits, etc.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2010 at 3:13PM
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Tomplum; that mower is still alive. A relative has it but I think I will be getting it back. They haven't really used it much, and I took that pic and others a couple years ago when I brought it home to get running. They had saved 25 gallons of gasoline for 'Y2K'. So after it became obvious that the world wasn't going to end, they continued to store the gas (without stabilizer) instead of using it in the cars. They did, however, use it in the mower......5 years later! I replaced the plug (original), changed the gas and oil and blade, washed it up. The blade is special, don't know how many more I can get. But the amazing thing is, the engine still runs like new, the wheels aren't worn out and the deck is fine. It has a bag kit and it's an incredible bagger. Absolutely the best 20" pusher on wheels, discounting mulching. The thing manicures a lawn.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 10:52AM
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"Absolutely the best 20" pusher on wheels" I'll second that. I had an old Whirlwind that I liked as well, but it didn't evn handle like the old Jake. People seemed to like the old Superbagger? as well. Was that old aluminum deck mulcher any good? I think that was the one w/ the cone shaped 4 bladed deal.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 11:36AM
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Nice mower! I always loved those smaller engines, I still think they are better than the larger float-bowl Briggs engines.

As far as the electric, my other issue with that was that I've seen (and quoted repairs) on a few of them when I did small engine work. Price to fix usually surpassed the cost of a new or lightly used one, especially if the motor was bad.

The value addition of my plans is that I've actually gone through and tested the darn thing. I've already found one piece of misinformation on the Internet which I had to work through with my own conversion -- and it's a rather huge piece of misinformation. :( The free plans on the net right now, well, let's just say most of them are half-baked.

To the poster who suggested a list of benefits, etc -- One step ahead -- I already have a list of the environmental and cost savings of propane included with the plans, as well as some other facts and info.

Maybe I should set up a website. I have the plans on Ebay right now, asking $10. To be honest, I am not trying to get rich -- would just like to recoup the cost of the conversion, which was about $130, not counting the extra stuff I had to get because my project mower was a POS which required other work to run correctly.

I thought about offering kits, but there are so many layouts, etc., and options that it's easier to show people exactly how to make it work, and let them mount the bottle, etc., as they see fit.

Happy Memorial Day, all!

    Bookmark   May 31, 2010 at 8:18PM
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For some reason the link to envirnmental and cost savings brings up a Sears link. Would you copy the information over into a posting?

    Bookmark   June 1, 2010 at 10:03AM
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Propane as a small engine fuel provides a variety of advantages over gasoline. The environmental advantages alone make a propane conversion worthwhile; however it
is important to note the other benefits of a
propane-powered lawnmower.

1. Storability -- Propane does not go bad and can be
stored indefinitely. Modern gasoline, on the other hand, has a shelf life of only a month or two without stability additives, and even then cannot often be stored longer than six months before degrading.

2. Cleanliness -- Propane is not spilled like gasoline
when refueling. It is estimated that Americans spill 17 million gallons of gasoline each year refueling small engines. This represents an environmental hazard as well as a safety hazard, since hot engine parts can cause spilled gasoline to catch fire.

3. Reduced Emissions -- Propane burns much more efficiently than gasoline and produces less carbon monoxide and other greenhouse gases. Propane does not evaporate like
gasoline, so the evaporative emissions are reduced as well.

4. Extended Engine Life -- Propane has less BTUs of energy per unit than gasoline. While this means that it takes more propane than gasoline to power an engine, the advantages are that less energy is wasted in combustion of propane. Engines run on propane run cooler, which means less stress on internal engine parts and extended engine life.

5. Extended Service Intervals -- Propane does not gum up over time like gasoline, so carburetor problems are not an issue. Propane combustion does not produce excess carbon and gunk like gasoline, and so propane engines typically have a longer interval between oil changes. Propane, being a gaseous fuel, does not "wash" the pistons, etc., and so oil stays cleaner for longer periods of time.

6. Reduced Noise Levels -- Propane powered engines are slightly quieter than gasoline-powered engines.

7. Portability -- Propane in the disposable cylinders is easier to transport than gasoline.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2010 at 11:19AM
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Thanks for the update. However, a couple of questions.
1. If propane powered mowers use one time propane bottles, isn't a disposable bottle in and of itself a form of pollution? Rechargeable bottles would seem like a much better idea.
2. What is the operating cost per hour for a propane vs gasoline engine.
3. Lawn mowers, particularly those that mulch have to maintain a high rpm to chop grass efficiently. Because propane puts out less btu's(power) what impact will that reduced power output have on how well a converted lawn mower will do its job.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2010 at 3:40PM
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Here you go, in answer to your questions.

1. You CAN refill the one-time bottles, using an adapter available for about $15, from a full-sized cylinder. It is not illegal to do so and doesn't take much time. There has been a lot of debate about the legality, but basically, once refilled, the bottles cannot be transported for commerce purposes i.e. they don't want bulk refillers moving them across state lines.
You also have the option of using the green-key bottles which can be recycled in your regular recycling bin or taken to a junkyard.
2. I have not figured out exactly how much the cost per hour is, haven't had it operational long enough to correctly calculate that. I have trimmed my yard with my Lehr propane trimmer 3x and mowed 1x along with testing the conversion and making idle adjustments, and am still on my first bottle of propane.
3. I did not find a difference in the amount of work done by the lawnmower when I ran it on propane; the lack of BTUs from the propane is made up in that more propane is required to do the same amount of work. i.e., you don't see less work being performed, it's just taking more fuel to perform the same amount of work.

I sold the first set of plans today on Ebay, with the new addendums noted that I made over the weekend, so I hope the person who purchased them finds them useful! I just need to update the plans now to reflect the new information learned so I can stop sending out an addendum outside of the PDF.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2010 at 3:47PM
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Congratulations on the first sale!

    Bookmark   June 1, 2010 at 4:20PM
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My experience w/ refilling the small ones is that about half the time they leak when storing them. Not sure why. I like the idea as propane for a fuel though.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2010 at 11:34PM
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Thanks! I'm going to keep tweaking the plans and see if I can't make things better. There are a few green blogs/publications which have shown some interest.

I'd be thrilled if I could recoup the cost of the conversion, LOL.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2010 at 8:43AM
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This is something I am thinking about doing, especially if I can get the certification to do the conversions myself.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 6:27PM
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Is there much of a demand for propane powered mowers?

    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 7:16PM
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If there isn't, it's only because of a lack of marketing. There are so many advantages, but for me as a home owner, the biggest would be just the convenience and safety not having to keep gasoline in the garage. That's probably one major reason I bought a battery powered Neuton mower. What do you do if you don't even have a garage or shed?

As far as commercial mowers go, I would think a great number of people would use a "green" lawn service instead of anything else if they had the choice. Another big thing with the Lehr propane powered machines is they are quieter. That would be a big selling point for me if the lawn service used quieter machines, and mulching mowers that wouldn't require loud blowers to clean up after.

The other big thing is propane is cheaper now, plus most propane if produced domestically.

Propane powered mowers are expensive to buy, but I don't think it's nearly that expensive to convert them. One lawn service I contacted about it said the biggest expense was the DOT approved propane tanks. These have excess flow valves that cut off the gas flow if it detects a severed fuel line.

Here is a link that might be useful: Article about lawn companies that are changing to propane

    Bookmark   July 2, 2011 at 6:56PM
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I have been reading through all your inputs and agree to most of them.

roadbike's point was one of the things that can easily be forgotten. If you are not the type of person who research, you will not be able to understand the conversion and the process it may take. The cost of course is always a consideration. While it is agreeable that there are a lot of appliances or hybrids that are propane ready, some of us still would want to keep our tested and durable appliances or machines, one of which is a lawn mower.

I did my research because I was truly wanting to convert some of my gas engine operated generator, car and my mower. After reading through a very helpful website, I bought a conversion kit (gas engine to propane) for my mower for only $4.99. The price were way too cheap for the benefit it gave me. I called gomowpropane to ask more about me doing the same thing for my generator and car. He guided me well and was able to convert them all.

It is very important that you do research before committing, this also need a very knowledgeable person who does not mind being bugged of questions about your plan and the product they can give you.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2013 at 12:54AM
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It is interesting to observe that almost ALL the gasolene powered fork-lifts I have ever seen, have been converted to propane, including the 2 forklifts I own, which I bought used, with the propane conversions already on them.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2013 at 11:39AM
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"interesting to observe that almost ALL the gasolene powered fork-lifts I have ever seen, have been converted to propane" ------------- so they don't kill all the employee's breathing the exhaust from the gasoline versions all day long IMO. Why do you think so many old Industrial employee's die right after retirement if they make it.. They're work environment done them in probably??

Propane burns a lot cleaner than gasoline makes them useable inside building or enclosed area. You don't get all choked up with one running by or in the area you working. unlike gasoline and especially the utility vehicles or golf carts that make me want to puke due the stich they produce like 20 times more than new car.

gasoline Golf carts would excellent conversion and those choking utility ORVs.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2013 at 6:29PM
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"gasoline Golf carts would excellent conversion and those choking utility ORVs. "

... is actually a very good point. When ran inside a combustible engine there is NO carbon build up like you have from gasoline. With all the beautiful and healthy grass and trees that surround a golf course, converting it to propane will truly be a big step since 90% of the worldâÂÂs propane is produced right here in the United States.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2013 at 3:49AM
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