1. Assess your current equipment and needs.
There are two ways to power your mowers with propane: by replacing old machines with propane-dedicated equipment or by converting existing equipment to the alternative fuel with a certified conversion kit. But first, contractors need to determine if alternative fuel is the right fuel for their operation. The Propane Education and Research Council’s (PERC) cost calculator is a good place to start determining how much a contractor could save with propane and if a conversion to propane mowers is the right choice.
It’s also important for contractors to assess their customer base. Sometimes an alternative fuel makes a lot of sense based on the customers’ needs or expectations. Because propane mowers are oftentimes allowed to operate during Ozone Action Days, it could be good for contractors to consider how many existing customers they have, or how many could be gained by differentiating the business from its competitors within the market by switching to propane. For example, contractors may have a leg up on winning bids with municipalities, parks departments, school districts or universities that are subject to emissions regulations or simply prefer the clean emissions profile of propane compared to traditional fuels.
2. Talk to your peers about their experiences.
There’s no better way to learn what it’s like to operate a propane mower fleet than to talk to other landscape companies that are already running propane. PERC offers a starting point for contractors to hear peer stories about propane fleets where there are video testimonials and written case studies from landscape companies of every size.
3. Find propane partners.
To have propane, contractors need to find local dealers who sell propane mowers and retailers to supply fuel.
When talking to a dealer, contractors should ask about a demo. It’s likely that a dealer will be able to let you test-drive a model before committing to the purchase.
A reputable, local propane retailer can be found using PERC’s retailer search tool. Contractors should schedule an on-site visit to discuss pricing and refueling options. The retailer will be able to walk through the refueling options that make sense for the contractor.
4. Research equipment and fuel incentives.
Although the up-front costs of purchasing propane-powered equipment might be more than for gasoline or diesel mowers, there are many incentives available to help defray those costs at purchase or during usage. PERC’s Propane Mower Incentive Program offers $1,000 toward the purchase of a new propane-powered mower or $500 toward the purchase of a qualified conversion kit. State incentives can range from alternative fuel tax refunds, rebates for purchases and conversions and low-cost loans for equipment. Specifics on incentives are available from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center.
5. Schedule propane safety and training for employees.
Propane is a very safe fuel, but like any flammable fuel, there is a need to employ proper handling procedures around equipment when refilling or exchanging the mower cylinder. There are resources at Propane.com, but it’s recommended that businesses go through training with employees on changing the tanks, refueling and general tips on staying safe.