Strauser Nature’s Helpers is on a mission to make the green industry a little greener. So when owner Zech Strauser saw a couple of landscape companies switching to propane, he realized it was the right move for him as well.
Ten years ago, he heard of some early adopters and after doing some research, he decided to purchase his first couple of mowers about four years ago.
Then, when the company opened a new location in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, they went all in and outfitted the entire branch with propane equipment. “And that was the trigger,” he says, adding that 90 percent of that location’s mowers are propane while company-wide about 65 percent of all mowers are propane.
“It was really peer-driven and hopefully we can inspire some people that it might not be as complex as you think,” Strauser says. “And, there are some benefits.”
The No. 1 benefit for Strauser Nature’s Helpers is cleaner burning fuel, but the cost-savings and reduced maintenance are also big bonuses.
“Our philosophy at the company is we’re a super un-green industry that really needs to work on that, and I think (propane) is just one of the things,” Strauser says. “It’s a big one and I think we should be doing everything we can.”
Some of those other things include electric handheld equipment and electric mowers to reduce the company’s carbon footprint. Strauser is also investigating robotic mowers and planning to try them out on a few properties this year.
Strauser Nature’s Helpers received about $1,000 per unit by applying for the Propane Mower Incentive Program offered by the Propane Education & Research Council. But the company is also saving on decreased maintenance and lower fuel prices.
“Do you save 10 percent in the long run? I’d like to think so,” he says. “It’s a little hard to track for us, but if you can be even-Steven and you can be burning cleaner and not spilling fuel on people’s properties, that’s great.”
Besides the bottom line savings, Strauser says his employees love the operator ease of propane equipment. All of the trailers are equipped with racks specially designed for propane canisters employees can just grab and switch out easily.
“It takes the brain work out of things,” he says. “Ultimately all the guys like it. They’re not carrying around a can and pouring it in.”
Employees also appreciate the reduced fumes, plus there’s no smell from oil like there would be on a gasoline mower. The mowers are also quieter and run more smoothly, he says.
If you’re thinking about trying propane, Strauser recommends talking with a contractor who’s already up and running with the equipment. “That’s what got me,” he says. “It’s rob and duplicate. Don’t try to reinvent it yourself.”
Once you decide to make the jump, the first thing you need to find is a good dealer, Strauser says. He’s never retro-fitted mowers, preferring instead to buy directly from a manufacturer whose entire fleet is propane-ready. He admits he’s not much of a mechanic and doesn’t want to deal with modifications. “I really don’t want to play in that world,” he says.
Then, you need a propane supplier. Strauser uses a company that delivers right to his yard every week like clockwork. That also saves on fueling times and, “We don’t really have any pain points with it,” he says, noting that if you get the right vendor, manufacturer