MARSHFIELD – Master Trimmers, a 10-year-old lawn and landscaping business in Marshfield, Mo., converted two of its commercial mowers to propane in March, a few months before the business’ summertime peak. Dustin Leighty, the company’s founder and president, was optimistic that propane would prove cost effective in the long term but was quickly impressed by the immediate savings he saw.
“We did save around $10,000 this year on propane,” Leighty said. “We have 12 that are converted and we plan to do the rest of the fleet this year."
Overcoming misconceptions. A veteran of the landscaping business, Leighty started mowing lawns when he was 12 years old. He started Master Trimmers 10 years ago. When he first considered switching his fleet of 15 commercial mowers to propane last year, Leighty grappled with many of the same misconceptions first-time propane users in the green industry often have.
“We were worried about a lack of power and how efficient they were really going to be,” Leighty said. “Is it going to run as efficiently as gasoline, and am I going to get my investment back?”
Taking advantage of the Missouri Propane Education & Research Council’s Lawn Equipment Assistance Fund (LEAF), Master Trimmers received $1,000 toward each of its 10 conversion kits, reducing the up-front costs of converting..
“The cost and time savings have had the most impact,” Leighty said. “Even if I didn’t save any money on fuel, the time saved alone with on-site refueling would be worth it.”
Less maintenance, more efficiency. Ease and mechanical efficiency with propane-fueled equipment are among the most impressive improvements Leighty has seen over gasoline, with Master Trimmers reporting substantial savings on routine oil changes alone.
Master Trimmers plans to have a bulk tank and pump installed, which will allow staff to fill propane cylinders on-site. The company has already benefitted from the portability of propane, outfitting vehicles with racks to maximize time spent on the job.
“Refueling with propane is very simple,” Leighty said “We’ve built racks on our trailers and trucks, and each crew takes two extra tanks with them per day. If they run out of fuel, they simply hook the new tanks back up to the mower. It takes seconds.”
Building new business. Propane has also had an immediate impact on customer acquisition. The tanks, and how they’re mounted on the machines, provide a platform for staff and Leighty to talk to customers about the green benefits and cost savings of propane.
“We have picked up a few extra customers because propane is environmentally friendly,” Leighty says. “It’s an attention-getter when you’ve got a shiny silver tank on the side of your mower. I get asked about it several times a week.”
Because of Master Trimmers’ reduction in overhead expenses, Leighty has even begun to reduce rates for certain clientele, and it’s given him a competitive advantage in the bidding process for larger jobs.
“It’s definitely a benefit when I bid on a job. There aren’t too many other companies in our area that use propane, so we can reduce prices and put together a more attractive bid,” Leighty said.
The author is a media representative for the Propane Education & Research Council