All posts by Steve Flynn

The Ultimate Robot Lawn Mower Review

I’ve been planning on buying a robotic lawn mower this spring and I’ve been researching various mowers furiously.  Besides the coolness factor of these things, who wouldn’t want to buy something that mows the lawn while you do something else?

Because I’ve put so much time into this, I thought I’d make the ultimate robotic lawn mower review so that anybody else looking at these things wouldn’t have to repeat all the research I did.

So, here we go…

How Do Robot Lawn Mowers Work?

Robot lawn mowers don’t mow the lawn in the same way that you or I would.  If you didn’t know any better you would almost think they were mowing randomly.

However, there is a method to their madness.

When you first get a robotic lawn mower, you need to set up the perimeter of your lawn.  This means pegging a perimeter wire around the outside of your lawn and around any major obstacles in your lawn mower’s way.  Many robotic lawn mowers also allow you to set up different “zones” in your yard, which basically breaks your yard up in to different chunks.

Once the perimeter is set up, the mower takes care of everything itself.  It goes out by itself and mows until it needs to recharge.  It uses the wire around the perimeter to determine its location.

What Features Should I Look for?

There are a number of different features that different robot lawn mowers have.  In order to pick the best mower for you, it’s important to know what these features are.

  • Power – All robot lawn mowers are powered by batteries.  Some are charged up at a charging station that is connected to your home’s power outlet.  Others can be solar powered.  The type of battery can vary depending on the motor
  • Lawn Size – every mower is made for a maximum lawn size.  Popular lawn sizes are half acre, 3/4 acres and 1 acre.
  • Type of cut – most robotic lawnmowers are mulching, which means the grass is cut so that the clippings are very short and can be left on the lawn.  The main difference here will be the type of blade used.
  • Direction of travel – some mowers move around the lawn clockwise, others move around counter-clockwise
  • Pattern – some mowers mow randomly while others mow in a pattern
  • Zones – mowers have different number of zones that can be programmed into the robot.
  • Safety – most robot lawn mowers have sensors to tell it if it bumps into things.  Most of them also have tilt sensors that turn the mower off if it flips over.  I recommend not buying a mower if it doesn’t have safety features like this

Who Makes Robotic Lawn Mowers?

There are a number of companies that make robotic lawn mowers.  Some of the major brands are Lawnbott, Robomow, LV Robot, and Wolf Garten.

Lawnbott LB1500 SpyderEVO Review

lawnbott-LB1500The Lawnbott LB1500 SpyderEVO is a great mower to use for smaller yards.  It uses wire and pegs around the perimeter of your lawn.  It comes with 300 ft of wire and 200 pegs.  This is generally sufficient for yards that are 10,000 sq. ft or less.  It weighs about 25 lbs.The LB1500 is very easy to use.  Once the perimeter wire is installed, all you have to do is press start and it will start mowing automatically.

There is no display on the LB1500.  Instead, the mower uses beeps to communicate what mode it is in.   Safety features on the mower include touch sensors on the handles that automatically stoop the blade or the wheels.

The LB1500 is very quiet, especially compared to traditional internal combustion engine lawn mowers.  The manufacturer claims the mower can run at night without disturbing neighbors.

The LB1500 uses a lithium ion battery, which makes it very light compared to a lead acid battery.

One downside to the Lawnbott LB1500 is that it only has one mowing zone.  This means that if you have more than one section of lawn you will probably have to manually move the mower from section to section.  More advanced mowers can do this automatically.

Lawnbott-LB1500-button

 

Lawnbott LB3510 Review

lawnbott lb3510The Lawnbott LB3510 is the perfect mower if you’ve got a larger yard.  This mower is made for yards with a maximum size of 1.5 acres.  It comes with 660 ft of wire and 200 pegs to allow you to stack out the entire outside of your yard.  Like the other robotic mowers in this post, the LB3510 is meant to keep the grass looking like it was just mowed.

This mower is powerful enough to work on slopes that have an incline of up to 25 degrees.   The manufacturer recommends not mowing grass that is any longer than 4 inches long, but I’ve heard of people have had no issues mowing much longer grass.

It uses a back lit, 2-line LCD screen to display information and to allow you to easily program the mower.  The LB3510 can handle up to 4 zones or areas of the yard.  The mower will follow the perimeter wire until it reaches the zone it needs to mow and then mow that area.  If it finishes before the batteries are low, it will move on to the next zone.

One of the great things about robot lawn mowers like the LB3510 is that because your lawn is mowed from all different directions, the quality of the cut is very good.

The safety features of the LB3510 are similar to the safety features found on the LB1500.  There is a sensor on the handle that sense when it is touched and automatically shuts off the mower blade.  There is also a “tilt” sensor that will shut off the blade if the mower flips over.

Lawnbott-LB3510-button

 

I plan to keep adding mowers as I research them.  I have plans to review lawn mowers for LV-Robot,  Robomow and Wolf Garten.  If you are interested in any of these, click the links below and they will take you to the Amazon page for each of those companies.

wolf garten button LV robot button robowmow button

Garden Weasel – Cultivate and Till your Soil

garden weasel, soil, cultivateI remember when I was younger there would be Garden Weasel advertisements on TV. They were cheap “As Seen on TV” type of commercials that were on all the time and easy to make fun of. The only commercial that played more, it seemed, was the Ronco rotisserie (“Set it and forget it”).

It wasn’t until years later that I acquired a Garden Weasel and realized it was actually a pretty useful tool. I use the mine all summer long in both my garden and my flower beds.  It has pretty much replaced my need for a hoe.  It makes breaking up soil much easier that using either a spade or a hoe. I especially love it because 99% of the time I don’t have to bend over to pull weeds anymore. The Garden Weasel just digs the weeds up and brings them to the surface of the soil

I’ve had mine for over 5 years and I’ve never had an issue with rust or corrosion. So it seems to be made of high quality steel.  I’ve also never had any issues keeping it clean.  Dirt tends to fall right off the tines.  And if it doesn’t, the tines are removable, making them easy to clean.

garden weasel

Gorilla Cart Replacement Parts

I recently wrote about the Gorilla dump cart and how it made my life easier with some landscaping I needed done that summer.  Another great thing about it that I didn’t mention before is that no matter how much abuse you put your Gorilla cart through you can always be sure that there are replacement parts for your wagon.  From wheels to handles to tires to side rails, you should be able to find a replacement.  Below is a list of a few common parts that can be replaced on Gorilla dump carts.

Gorilla Cart Replacement Handle

gorilla cart handle This 2 in 1 handle works great as a replacement part or if you want to upgrade from a standard Gorilla handle.  This D-shaped handle can be configured so you can pull your Gorilla dump cart by hand.  But you can easily convert it into a trailer hitch so that you can attach it to your lawnmower or ATV.    This is the type of handle I have on my Gorilla cart  and it is very sturdy.

 Gorilla Cart Replacement Wheels and Tires

gorilla cart tiresFor those of you who work hard and push your tools to the max, you run this risk of popping a tire.  Whether you use your dump cart on a construction site where there are nails all around or whether you fill it to the brim with rocks, your tires are eventually going to get a hole in them or wear out. There are a number of different tires that are available.  In order to make sure you get the right one, you need to know 3 things: 1) the diameter of your wheel, 2) the bore size, and 3) the capacity.

Common diameters are 10 inch, 13 inch, and 16 inch.

The most common bore size is 5/16″.

The most common capacity is 300 lbs.

If you need to buy a replacement wheel or tire, I would click here to see all the options that Tricam Industries offers.

Wheels/tires and handles are probably the 2 parts that get replaced the most.  You can find other replacement parts on the Tricam Industries website, if you find yourself in need of things like a new axle or new hardware or new struts.

Can I Shovel Snow While Pregnant?

A woman asked me the other day what my opinion was about whether she could shovel snow while pregnant.  Now, I’m not a doctor and I’m not a woman but my wife has been pregnant a couple times and I live in Minnesota, so I guess that makes me an expert.

The first thing to be careful about is making sure you don’t overwork.  If you are in good shape and are used to exercising during your pregnancy, shoveling snow shouldn’t be too strenuous for you as long as you take plenty of breaks.  And take even more breaks if the snow is wet and heavy.  After a couple pregnancies, I learned that my wife knew her body and she if she was pushing it too far.  Ultimately you will need to decide for yourself whether shoveling snow is too strenuous for you.

Another issue to be aware of is that if you do decide to shovel the snow while pregnant, you will probably be walking on ice and slippery snow.  Your risk of falling increases greatly while shoveling snow.  This would be my main concern.  Falling on the concrete or ice while you are pregnant wouldn’t be good.  This is probably the greatest risk you will face.

You should also take into account how far along you are.  A woman who is 10 weeks pregnant is going to perform more strenuous activities than a woman who is 36 weeks pregnant.  Also keep in mind that some snow shovels are more ergonomic than others, so try to choose a snow shovel that doesn’t put more strain and stress on your body than necessary.

Ultimately you need to listen to your body and try not to push yourself too hard.  If your pregnancy has had any complications or you want some extra piece of mind, contact your doctor.

Ice Dam Removal and Prevention – How to remove ice from your roof and gutters

If you don’t know icicles on the roof, ice damwhat an ice dam is, keep reading. I’m going to tell you what they are, give you some easy steps to help you with ice dam removal and also give you some tips on how to prevent them from coming back.

A lot of people love the look of icicles on their homes. And it is very common to see icicles on house after house as you drive down the street. But what many people don’t realize is that underneath those icicles could lie a problem that is destroying your roof.

What is an Ice Dam?

ice dam removal, roofAn ice dam is a formation of ice on your roof.  It usually forms near the edge the roof near the gutter.  Snow and water/ice can build up behind the ice wall on the roof.  See the picture on the left, where you can see what an ice dam is .

 

What Causes Ice Dams

Ice dams are formed due to differences in temperatures between the upper and lower portions of the roof.  It has to be warm enough at the higher part of the roof so that snow on the roof starts to melt.  But it has to be cool enough at the bottom of the roof so that none of the snow there melts.   This condition can occur when heat from the house escapes through the attic, causing the snow to melt.  As you can see from the picture above, many houses have an overhang with a gutter on it.  This overhang isn’t close enough to the the house to be warmed by the heat inside, so it remains frozen.  As the water from above melts, it trickles down and is stopped by the frozen ice and snow below, where it can freeze again.

This build-up of ice traps melted water and causes it to pool up on the shingles.  From there, water can seep between the cracks in the shingles and work its way down into the house.  There it can cause damage to ceilings, walls, and insulation.

Ice Dam Removal

One of the best ways to tell if you have an ice dam is to look for icicles hanging from your house.  Another clue that you might have an ice dam is if most of the snow on your roof has melted while other houses still have snow on their roofs.  This is a clue that you might be losing a lot of heat from your house.

The best way to deal with ice dams that have already formed is to make channels in in the ice dams so that water can flow through them.  The main thing you want to do is make sure water doesn’t sit on your roof.  This is only a temporary solution, however, because as water flows through the channels, it will tend to re-freeze and plug the channels up again.

Ice Dam Prevention

The first thing you can do to prevent ice dams is to put better insulation in your attic and seal up any leaks.  If you can prevent warm air from escaping from your house, the ice dams won’t form.  You should be able to find a contractor in your area that can help you out with this step if that is the way you choose to go.

The second thing you can do is remove the snow from your roof.  The key here is to get the snow off your roof before it has a chance to melt.  There is a tool out there called a roof rake that makes snow removal from your roof really easy.  My favorite version of the roof rake is the Avalanche Roof Rake. I use it every winter and it always does the job for me.

What I don’t suggest you do is get on the roof yourself and try to shovel the snow off.  That is just too dangerous.

Gorilla Cart – Up to 1200 lb Hauling Capacity

I bought a Gorilla cart a few summers agolawn and garden gorilla dump cart and I don’t know how I managed without it for so many years.  The reason I bought the Gorilla cart was because I had a lot of landscaping to do that summer and I needed something to haul a lot of landscaping rocks.

I really didn’t want to use a wheelbarrow.  When you fill wheelbarrows with heaving things like rocks, it takes a lot of work to keep them level.  With how many times I knew I needed to haul rocks back and forth, I knew I wanted needed something better.

After looking around at various lawn & garden dump carts, I came across the Gorilla cart.  It is really sturdy and so much better than a wheelbarrow.  My favorite feature of the Gorilla cart that I bought is the handle can flip around and convert into a hitch.  I can then hook the cart up to my lawn tractor and use that to haul things.

You can get both powder-coated steel and plastic version of the cart.  They also come in different sizes and different rated loads (600 lbs or 1200 lbs).  Click here to see all the different Gorilla carts.

Calories burned shoveling snow for 30 minutes

After my last post on using snow shoveling as a form of exercise, I had somebody ask me how to calculate how many calories are burned shoveling snow for 30 minutes.  The easiest way to do this is to go to a calorie calculator and enter in all your information: weight, height, age and sex.  I recommend this calorie calculator from Fitday.  Once you enter all your information, it gives you the calories burned shoveling snow for 1 hour.  To get the calories burned shoveling snow for 30 minutes, just divide that by 2.  For me, the calculator says I burn 442 calories in an hour of shoveling snow, so I would burn 221 calories in 30 minutes.

Use a Heart Rate Monitor

I recommend using this heart rate monitor to determine how many calories you burn. I’ve found that it gives me similar results as the online calorie counters give. To check the current price for this heart rate monitor, click the button below.

heart-rate-monitor-button

Make sure you clear your sidewalks

There was a huge snow storm in the northeastern portion of the U.S. last week and it seems that Secretary of State John Kerry was fined $50 dollars because he didn’t clear his sidewalk.  He was at the funeral of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.  That apparently wasn’t a good enough excuse though, because it looks like he will still have to pay his fine.

A lot of people don’t realize that many cities have ordinances that require people to clear their sidewalks within a certain amount of time.  If you live in an apartment, the apartment owners should take care of that for you but if you own your own home, you are responsible.  Kerry, of course, doesn’t shovel his own sidewalks … he hires a company to do it for him.  But there was a miscommunication about this sidewalk, so the snow wasn’t removed from it.

Collapsible Snow Shovel for your Car

With the huge storms taking over the northeast United States and other areas of the country, I highly recommend packing a safety kit in the trunk of your car.  One essential item to include in that kit is a collapsible snow shovel for your car.

Emergency Car Kit

Every car you own should have an emergency car kit for winter driving in it.  If you ever get stuck in a snow storm or blizzard, your safety depends on it.  Triple A makes some very good kits, like this one.  A good winter car kit should include at the very least the following items:

  • Blanket
  • Candles
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Hat, gloves, and jacket
  • Hand warmer packets
  • A first aid kit
  • Ice Scraper and snow brush

The 66-Piece Severe Weather Road Kit that I mentioned above has all those items and more.  I bought 2 of these, one for the car I drive and one for the car that my wife drives.

Also, if the kit you buy for your car doesn’t include this next item, I highly recommend you buy one.

Snow Shovel for your Car

The number one thing that I recommend you include in your snow shovel for caremergency kit is a collapsible snow shovel that you can throw in your trunk.   This tool can save your butt in a way that none of the other things listed above can.  If you were to get stuck in your car somewhere, instead of just sitting around waiting for somebody to come rescue you, you can take your fate into your own hands and get yourself out of there.  The shovel shown here is a collapsible shovel from AAA that is made of red aluminum.  There are dozens of different options for emergency snow shovels for cars, though, so look around and find one that you like.

If you are looking for a more durable emergency car shovel, I would recommend the Voile Telepro Shovel.  It is a step above other car shovels that I’ve seen.  This is mainly due to its durable metal scoop.  Most other collapsible snow shovels for cars are made out of plastic and they just don’t seem as solid. Throw this one in your car and you won’t have to worry about it breaking when you need it most.

2016 Best Snow Shovel with Wheels

Updated Winter 2016

Shoveling snow doesn’t have to be synonymous with breaking your back.  One of the best inventions in the area of snow removal is the snow shovel with wheels.  There are a lot of snow shovels available these days that really help reduce the strain on your back and arms and make shoveling snow almost enjoyable.  Almost.  Wheeled snow shovels almost always fall into the category of “pusher shovels.”  These rolling snow pushers are great for moving large amounts of snow and in general put less strain and stress on your body.

Dakota SnoBlade

While I haven’t used it dakota snow blademyself, I’ve heard a lot of good things about the Dakota SnoBlade.  Like most snow shovels that have wheels, it is a pusher shovel, meaning you don’t scoop the snow and throw it.  Rather you push the snow off to the side.

The Dakota SnoBlade has a wide 36″ blade and is bi-directional.  This means that the shovel is slanted to push snow off to one side.  when you push snow one way, once you get to the end you lift up on the handle and the wheels and blade flip over and you are ready to start pushing snow in the other direction.   This way, all the snow gets pushed to one side. This is one of the coolest features of the SnoBlade.

Wheeled Shovel by Kotula

This shovel is a great little shovel that works very well.  snow shovel with wheels kotulaYou wouldn’t want to use this shovel for snow that is too heavy or too deep but it works perfectly for 3-4 inches of snow.  The wheeled shovel by Kotula will let you clear your driveway very quickly.

 

Flip It Snow Shovel with Wheels

You will have zero strain on your back after clearing your driveway with this shovel.  The handle extends to a very tall height so you won’t have to bend over at all while shoveling.  With the Flip It by Power Dynamics, you will be able to push a lot of snow in record times.

The Wovel

I’ve written about the Wovel before.  I don’t have much more to say about it other than what I wrote there, but I include it in this list snow wolf wovelbecause it’s a pretty popular shovel.  The Wovel is also sometimes called the Snow Wolf.  That’s right, the Sno Wolf.  So that’s a bonus, too.  It is one of the more expensive shovels in this list but it can also handle deeper, thicker snow.  It is regularly placed at the top of the list of best snow shovels made.  I still plan on getting one of these some day so I can write a proper review.  But until then, head over and check out the reviews on Amazon.

Also, if you regularly have to deal with ice on your driveway or sidewalk, I’d also look at the following accessories for the Wovel.  First, the Chipper Plate accessory.  This attaches to the bottom of the Snow Wolf and makes it easy to chip away ice and hard-packed snow.  The second accessory is the Snap On Wear Strip.  This one protects the blade on your shovel.

Snowcaster 30SNC

Finally, the Snowcaster 30SNC is one of my favorite snow shovel with wheels that snow-shovel-with-wheels-snowcasterI’ve used.  It has an extremely wide blade at 36 inches and that means it can push a lot of snow.  This one, like the Wheeled Shovel by Kotula can only handle a few inches of snow but you’ll be amazed at how quickly you clear your driveway.

 

 

Pusher Snow Shovels with Wheels

A final word about using shovels like these.  As I’ve mentioned above, these types of shovels are best for a few inches of snow or less.  I wouldn’t suggest using them in more than 4″ of snow.  So when it snows a foot or more, you’re going to want to use something else.  (Hint: a snow blower)  However, I’ve found that to stay on top of things, you can go out while it is still snowing and clear the driveway a few times during heavy snow fall.  It sounds like a lot of work and you might feel stupid shoveling your driveway while it is still snowing, but with how well these pusher shovels work, it actually isn’t that bad.