April 1 2007 12:00 AM


WHATEVER NUMBER OF HOURS you mow per week, Brian Smith probably has you beat. As the owner of Agri-Lawn Care, Brownsburg, Indiana, Smith and his crews cut grass all day long, from seven in the morning until four in the afternoon, five days a week. They truly do mow lawns for a living.

"We used to be involved in other landscaping areas, but we've found it most productive to concentrate on mowing," Smith says. He has one account that needs to be mowed on a weekly basis and totals 660 acres; he also keeps the lawns at O'Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis looking pristine for every race and event the park hosts.

Because Smith and his crews spend so many hours on the backs of their mowers, they go through gallons of fuel. As gas prices have risen over the past few years, the amount spent on fuel increasingly ate into the company's profits. Smith began searching for a way to cut these fuel costs.

What he ultimately discovered was the LP 3000-60/72, a mower manufactured by Dixie Chopper that runs not on gasoline, not on diesel, but on propane. Also called liquefied petroleum (LP) gas, propane is the same fuel that is used across the nation and around the world to heat our homes and grill our food.

Instead of buying more gas and diesel machines, Smith found that by using a few propane mowers in his fleet, he was able to save $3,400 on the cost of fuel over the course of a year. "The money we've saved on fuel has been incredible," he says. "In fact, I've already ordered four more propane mowers for my fleet this year."

While the ever-rising price of gas is a convincing reason to consider a propane mower for your next purchase, that isn't the only advantage of the LP-3000. Because it burns cleaner than gasoline, "you won't smoke yourself out in the shop if you need to turn it on while you're performing maintenance," Smith says.

LP gas can also lessen some other maintenance woes. Varnish created by stale gasoline can cause damage to the fuel passages in a standard gas engine; LP gas tanks do not have this problem. Another problem can be the introduction of water and dirt into fuel containers. The pressurized and closed system of the LP gas tank helps prevent these kinds of contamination concerns.

Furthermore, many major municipalities observe times when mowing with standard gasoline is prohibited during certain hours or days when the atmosphere is most vulnerable to pollutants. A propane mower allows you to continue working and being productive during these times.

This also means that you can advertise yourself as an environmentally-conscious contractor. The 'green/eco-friendly' movement is a growing one among American consumers; setting yourself up as a truly 'green' member of the green industry, whose mower is designed to cut ozone-forming emissions by 50%, differentiates you from your competition.

In fact, it was the desire to be a good steward of the environment that led Dixie Chopper to create the propane mower in the first place. While fuel savings due to the rising price of gas are probably the biggest motivator for contractors to buy an LP gas machine now, when the company originally designed the mower, it was the protection of the environment that was really the impelling force.

Finally, you won't be sacrificing any performance with a propane mower: the LP-3000 is factory-tested to cut at a rate of 7.5 acres an hour. If you're working at speeds like that, you can get more work done in a day, and if you're getting more work done in a day, you're making more money for your time.

"A propane mower will not only put you on the cutting edge, but actually ahead of the ballgame," Smith says. "Federal and local emissions regulations aren't going to get any less strict -- they're going to get stricter." If you want a greener, more environmentally-friendly company, as well as keep your productivity up to earn a bit more green of the paper variety, when you decide it's time to purchase your next mower, a propane model could be just the ticket.