Photo credit: UGA CAES/Extension licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
by Jan L. Mayes, MSc, Audiologist
How loud are robot mowers?
A New York Times article on reducing pollution emissions discusses increased focus on landscaping equipment like robot mowers to replace hazardous gas or fossil-fuel powered landscaping equipment. Jamie Banks, president of the nonprofit Quiet Communities, is interviewed in the article, where she emphasizes that manufacturers need to target noise pollution and air pollution emissions for leaf blowers, lawn mowers, chain saws, and other widespread landscaping equipment and machinery.
Robot mowers are becoming popular for emission-free lawn care. Experts say they significantly reduce sound levels compared to fossil-fuel powered mowers. This is part of a home and commercial trend to use electric equipment powered by longer lasting lithium batteries with reportedly lower noise levels.
John Medina, an affiliate associate professor at the University of Washington department of bioengineering, states “sound above 45 dBA is likely to start having negative effects.” This is consistent with quiet community sound levels recommended to prevent health problems and protect speech understanding and sleep. The public health daily limit to prevent auditory damage is < 70 dBA average noise.
Forgive me that I have trouble believing robot mowers will emit safe sound levels. Using the NIOSH smartphone app at public health settings, I measured my recently purchased electric leaf blower advertised as “50% quieter” at 90 dBA. I still needed earplugs.
Electric or clean chemical-free emissions doesn’t automatically mean equipment sound levels are quiet enough to be healthy.
How loud are robot mowers? I can’t tell you. Robot mower noise emission levels are not included in the news article.
Banks is primary author of a 2015 report for the Environmental Protection Agency that clearly identifies hazards of lawn and garden equipment emissions. It would be amazing if the future brought cleaner quieter equipment to maintain green spaces and landscaped locations. This would avoid exposing wildlife to preventable noise and prevent human noise-induced health hazards
Without required noise emission limits and without accurate noise emission labels on equipment, we’re left to trusting the manufacturer’s word for it that their equipment is “quiet” enough for public health. I believe preventing landscaping noise emissions will take more than trust.
Jan L. Mayes is an international Eric Hoffer Award winning author in Non-Fiction Health. She is also a science enthusiast and newly retired audiologist still specializing in noise, tinnitus-hyperacusis, and hearing health. You can read more of Jan’s work at her site, www.janlmayes.com.