Propane Mowers

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Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation, and Open Spaces Department

The Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation, and Open Spaces Department cares for many greenspaces in the county’s special tax districts — 42 parks, 122 residential communities, and too many sportsfields to count. It also holds contracts to do maintenance for other departments within the county, such as the Port of Miami and the Miami Police Department.

CHALLENGE & SOLUTION

The Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation, and Open Spaces Department needed a way to more efficiently meet the demands of southeast Florida’s year-round cutting season. The department did a study comparing gasoline- and propane-powered mowers and found that propane increased productivity while reducing costs.

RESULTS

  • The department has successfully used propane mowers throughout Miami-Dade County for nine years.
  • Because refueling can take place on location, operators don’t need to go off-site to a refueling station. With the time saved, crews can move onto other landscaping duties sooner.

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Details

The county faces a unique set of challenges as one of the largest counties in Florida, and one of the most populous in the United States. Located in a tropical climate, the county faces year-round plant growth, heat, and storms.

After completing an in-house study, Miami-Dade officials found that commercial propane mowers were better equipped to meet the never-ending demands of southeast Florida’s year-round cutting season — all at a lower cost per hour of operation.

RESEARCH HELPED GAIN ACCEPTANCE

The department began using commercial propane mowers in 2008 after comparing the fuel economy and overall productivity of propane mowers to their gasoline equivalents. The study showed the county that propane mowers could cut more grass, faster, and for less money.

“Now I don’t have to go home smelling like gas, like I’ve been all day on a dirt bike or a four-wheeler.”

Steven Rivera

Landscape Technician Supervisor

Gil Delgado, sports turf and landscape division chief for the department also saw that a transition to propane could result in a positive public relations opportunity for the county because of propane’s clean emissions profile. Delgado painted the county’s first propane mower green with the department logo so that residents would identify the county with green energy. The mower was brought to as many events as possible to make the public aware of the county’s plans to operate propane mowers and to build public trust. He says it was like the county had brought a new toy — people were curious and excited about the machines.

The propane fleet grew as the fuel continued to show efficiencies in the field and improvements to the department budget. Now, more than 95 percent of the department’s fleet consists of commercial propane mowers.

PROPANE INCREASES QUALITY OF SERVICE TO RESIDENTIAL COMMUNITIES

From the outset, productivity increased in the field once the department began transitioning its gasoline mower fleet to propane — especially in the residential communities. This is important, Delgado says, because the residents pay an additional assessment to the county for the department’s landscaping services. The more-productive propane mowers help free up crews’ time to landscape.

“We’re spending a lot of time now maintaining flowers and landscaping instead of cutting so much grass,” he says. “Part of that is because we don’t spend as much time refueling these units.”

One propane cylinder can power a day and a half of mowing, and refueling is as simple as swapping out an empty cylinder for a full cylinder. The operators can carry an extra propane cylinder to a site rather than leaving to fill up gasoline tanks at a filling station during the day. Before switching to propane, it could take 15 minutes each way to get to and from filling stations, says Steven Rivera, landscape technician supervisor with the department.

Because the propane mowers use a closed-loop fuel system, there aren’t any burns from spilled gasoline to mar the grass or leak into sewers, an additional advantage to the county’s image and to the employees, Rivera says.

“Now I don’t have to go home smelling like gas, like I’ve been all day on a dirt bike or a four-wheeler,” Rivera says.

TRANSITIONING TO PROPANE WAS EASY

“We’re spending a lot of time now maintaining flowers and landscaping instead of cutting so much grass. Part of that is because we don’t spend as much time refueling these units.”

Gil Delgado

Sports Turf and Landscape Division Chief

Along with increasing crew productivity, Delgado says fuel savings are another reason the department has continued using propane mowers for nearly a decade. It’s advantageous compared to the costs of gasoline and diesel, especially when considering that the county has a year round growing season.

“People don’t realize the grass doesn’t stop growing here in Miami. Then in the rainy season, we get a lot of rain, so you have to cut, cut, and cut,” says Delgado. “And this is why we use propane mowers, because to us it’s very efficient and very productive.”

Rivera says switching to propane cut fuel costs for the division in half, and a competitive bidding process between multiple area propane retailers helps ensure their fuel costs remain low. Plus, the propane retailer makes scheduled propane deliveries to several county facilities across Miami, making the process hassle-free.

“The more competition, the better it is for us,” Delgado says. “And it was easy.”

REDUCED MAINTENANCE INCREASES UPTIME

Maintenance costs are also greatly reduced with the propane mower fleet. In-house mechanics were trained to work on the propane mowers by the mower OEM, and quickly experienced maintenance advantages that helped reduce costs and increase uptime. The clean, ethanol-free propane keeps mower engines free from contamination and keeps filters from clogging. In the field, Delgado says operators noticed it was rare for the machines to break down, too.

Potentially best of all, the collection of benefits the propane mower fleet offers the department — reduced costs, increased productivity, not to mention a clean emissions profile — helps the department remain fiscally responsible.

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