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Your Continued Support is Appreciated

Thank you for taking the time to read our newsletter and hope you find the contents useful and informative. With Christmas and the new year celebrations over and done with, now is the time for me to remind you to book your mower in for service before we get crazy busy. Give us a call or click here to book online.

With Springtime collection waits last year of over 3 weeks when the grass was growing at pace, those who had booked in the new year were happily cutting their lawn while others were waiting for their mowers to be repaired and with a 12% increase in customers last year, many kindly recommended by you, we are keen to support you in return so please help us to help you by getting it done now. We really appreciate your continued support, wish you a happy new year and hope you find my thoughts and ramblings below interesting.

Updates and recent changes

It is a well known fact that we have a skills shortage in the UK and the horticultural engineering trade is particularly effected by this. Not many young people are attracted to the industry and in a few years time finding someone to service or repair your garden and small construction equipment will be a challenge to say the least. At Fenland Spirit Services we have a fantastic team with a range of skills and we do our best to keep up to date on all the newest trends in garden machinery including fully battery powered machinery from handheld tools to ride on mowers and robotic mowers.

We are delighted to share some recent changes to our team, firstly Twist, our new canine addition joins Arfur & Sue padding around the workshop, while our son Matthew is back working for us on a part-time basis, driving the van and helping in the workshop. He is studying for a degree in Mechatronics (Mechanical Engineering & Electronics) at Anglia Ruskin University, learning about machinery of the future including how they are designed and built, filling some of the gaps in our current and forthcoming knowledge. He will mostly be seen collecting and delivering our customer’s equipment so do have a chat with him if you get the chance.

The latest Battery Tech in Garden Machinery

We recently had a customer’s machine in our workshop which had got some nylon wrapped around the blades, not an unusual occurance. If it were a petrol ride on we would have cut it off and advised the customer to be aware of debris when mowing the grass, at worst we might have needed to change a bearing in the blade mandrel. In the case of this battery ride on mower however, the nylon had gone up inside the seal of the motor, melting and completely destroying it. Unfortunately the seal was not available separately, only sold as part of the motor. The result was both blade motors needing replacement on a 2 year old machine. Expensive!!

We worked with the manufacturer and they thankfully replaced the 2 motors under warranty and are now talking to their supplier about making the seals replaceable. This highlights how manufacturers really need to make their products more easily repairable (a feature of my last newsletter) as these 2 motors would have written off the mower all for the sake of a couple of £10 seals. It also goes to show how even a small business like ours can have an influence on large manufacturers by providing feedback and encouraging design changes to make the products more repairable.

As part of our continued learning Stu, Matthew and I visited the Saltex show in November at the NEC in Birmingham. We had an interesting day looking at all the latest offerings from the major mower and garden machinery manufacturers from around the world, as well as some from lesser known brands. We saw some amazing and exciting (to the boys at least) bits of kit, including ride-on mowers on tracks like a tank and larger autonomous machines capable of cutting huge areas of grass controlled by an App! We met several new manufacturers looking to break into the market (mostly from the far East) and chatted to a variety of distributors for some well known brands diversifying into handheld battery garden machinery.

Some of the technology includes a battery powered ride on mower capable of a mowing speed of 25 km/hr, the fastest on the market. Batteries can now be charged to 100% in less than 8 minutes and boundary free robotic mowers capable of mowing areas up to 75,000sqm. A benefit of an automower is of course the time saving which can also mean a cost saving if a gardener is being paid to mow the grass. New robot mowers can adjust their own height automatically depending on the requirement, travel back to the base station to recharge when needed, cut slopes of up to 45% with built in GPS and have cut out systems if tipped or lifted, alerting the owner and other pre-identified persons should there be an issue of any kind.

The biggest advantages of battery powered equipment are savings in fuel cost, no emissions to damage the environment or the operator and a big but often overlooked benefit is the noise reduction. Imagine hours of strimming or cutting the grass with a noisy, vibrating machine to be replaced by the low hum of the blades and the sound of birdsong. OK, it’s not quite as idyllic as I make it sound, it’s still hours of work but definitely quieter.

Our main interest and to some degree our concern was what happens if this equipment needs repair? In the case of most battery tools, if the machine is under warranty, the customer is expected to box it up & send it back to the manufacturer for repair or exchange. This is fair if the repair is down to a failure of the product, however if the damage is due to use, eg a customer hits something and damages a blade or moving parts within the item, the supplier may then be charging an unknown amount to repair the equipment with an unspecified timescale or the machine may even be written off. Not what you want to hear as a customer having potentially spent several hundred pounds on a product which may only be a few months old.

Beyond the warranty period the distributors were not clear as to the availability of parts for much of this machinery so our advice would be to ensure you register any battery tools you purchase to gain the maximum warranty period. Stick to well known brands when buying new battery equipment, check out the reviews, be mindful when using them and perhaps consider the item as disposable when the warranty runs out, although this goes against my personal ethos of keeping things going.

On the other hand, parts for makes such as Stihl including battery items are available and of course we continue to be able to service and repair most brands of petrol or small diesel equipment. Maybe there is more life left in dated technology than we thought, especially if using alternative fuel such as Aspen. If in doubt give us a call and we will be pleased to share our knowledge, experience and advice with you & if needed, we can assess your equipment to see if it can be repaired.

Lithium-Ion Batteries in Garden Equipment

Although hand tools such as drills have been battery powered for years with minimal issues, the rise in use of lithium batteries has made headlines and causes concern for consumers about their safety. First used in mobile phones in the 1990’s they are now found in almost every industry including cordless garden equipment, lawnmowers and increasingly ride on mowers. Videos of electric cars on fire and stories of batteries overheating whilst charging makes us worry about the vulnerability of this kind of power source.

Lithium-Ion batteries do pose a risk of fire especially if they have been damaged, are charged unattended or with an unsuitable charger. While normal operation is considered safe, a damaged battery may discharge it’s energy in an uncontrolled manner, if it exceeds the melting point of the lithium an unstoppable chain reaction, known as ‘thermal runaway’ may occur. This is when the fire becomes difficult to manage, explosions may occur and all the fire brigade can do is make the area safe.

So how worried do you need to be? If the batteries are handled carefully, stored safely and charged under supervision with an appropriate charger there is minimal risk in the domestic environment. In our workshop we are mitigating any risk to our customer’s equipment and our property by storing any batteries we have on site in a flame retardant cabinet. Special fireproof bags are also available at a reasonable price online. They are designed to make storing and charging lithium batteries safer in the home or while being transported.

Many of the explosions or fires associated with lithium-ion batteries have been caused by damaged batteries eg on e-scooters or due to incorrect chargers bought cheaply online which are not matched to the product and therefore not suitable. Our advice is to handle and store your batteries carefully, use the correct charger and if any damage is noticed or when they are ‘dead’ you can dispose of small batteries at supermarket collection points or larger batteries should be taken to the nearest recycling centre eg Witchford, Crimplesham or Mildenhall. Please remember to keep them separate from your general recycling or waste due to the risk of chemical burns or even fire caused by a leaking Zombie battery, as they are known.

Remember we are always here to answer your questions, our team will continue to learn about innovations in garden machinery for the benefit of you and we have just invested in a 3D printer so we can make some parts which are hard to obtain, meaning we can help you keep your equipment going for longer.

Just a final reminder that NOW is the perfect time to say YES to a service, saving your machine from breaking down when you need it. Simply book online or give us a call. Thank you once again for your custom and continued support of our small business.

Kindest Regards & Happy New Year

Carol, Stu & the team