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    Categories: Lifestyle

Let your friendly robot cut the grass

Justin Taylor

What would you call your lawn-mowing robot if you had one? Bot? Husqy? Maybe George? Or perhaps you’ll call it Dad, in honour of Father’s Day.

Whatever your little robot’s name, except for battery charging, you won’t have to feed it. You won’t have to mind it either. You can beckon the little 30 pound bot to your feet, pat it on the head and tell it to get to work. Then you can go golfing or even to Vegas. Whether you come home that night, the next day or next fall, your lawn will be cut.

“You can sit in your living room and watch TV or you can sit in Phoenix and if you want you can use your phone to check its progress. You can be anywhere and pull it up on your phone to show your property and see if the grass has been mowed,” said Dean Mace, co-owner of the Lawnmower Hospital in Edmonton.

Robotic lawnmowers are not new and have been around for years, Mace said, but Husqvarna, which is the main manufacturer, recently stepped up its selling campaign in Canada.

“People are getting more and more used to robots and now the technology is better,” Mace said.

Domestic robots of any kind are still not that easy to see on store shelves. In search of the little automated lawn-mowing guys several stores were phoned.

In St. Albert, Backtrack Husqvarna sells Husqvarna equipment but does not have the lawnmowers in stock. They will custom order the machines. LBH Building Supplies has one in stock on a trial basis and can also order them for customers.

Wherever they are purchased, they range in price between $2,200 for the base model and $4,000 for the top model. In addition, an installation kit is needed and costs up to $1,000.

The Husqvarna Auto-mower uses razor blades to cut the grass. The cutting blades are on a pivot system so if they come up against something, like a kitten, or a child, or a rock, they instantly retract.

“They are safe to use,” said LBH sales associate Justin Taylor, adding that at a recent course from Husqvarna he deliberately caused the mower to run over his shoe.

“Most times if there was a kitten there, or a dog’s paw, or a child’s toy, it would go around but I made it go on my foot. It hit the high point of the shoe and you couldn’t tell where it had hit,” Taylor said.

The Auto-mower weighs approximately 30 lbs. If it is lifted, it lets out a high-pitched alarm.

“As soon as it’s lifted it has an alarm and to stop it, you need a pin code that is specific to each model. If a robber took it to their own yard, they couldn’t use it because they need the pin code,” Taylor said, adding that a GPS tracker means it can be located, even after being stolen.

Part of the installation includes setting up a charge-station for the little robot as well as a property perimeter wire. Most models will mow up to two acres of land, then they steer themselves back home to their little charge station and call it a day.

“It knows to stay within the perimeter, which is a buried wire,” Mace said.

The mower can be programmed to cut at whatever time of day suits you best, including midnight.

“It’s quieter than you and me talking,” said Mace, adding that he recommends using the robot to cut the grass every day, even if it’s raining.

“It’s better for the grass. There’s no harm cutting in the rain and if there is a drought, the machine is so smart, it senses that the grass is not growing, so it quits,” he said.

Top-of-the-line robots have lithium batteries that have a lifespan of 1,500 cuts, which in our climate, Mace said, equates to about seven years before they would need to be replaced.

“You could get a ride-on mower. We sell both. The difference is you don’t have to go out and do the work. The Auto-mower does it,” Mace said.

Susan Jones: Susan Jones has been a freelance writer for the St. Albert Gazette since 2009, following a 20-year career at the St. Albert Gazette. Susan writes about homes, gardens, community events and people.