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Competitive Lawn Service Switches To Propane

Propane Trucks and Equipment running on propane? You bet!! Propane is cleaner, significantly reduces our emissions, and lowers costs, allowing us to pass savings on to our clients.

Request a fast free estimate delivered to your home or business. Let us show you that going green can also mean receiving quality lawn maintenance services that people have trusted for over 25 years.

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Eric Hansen Talks about Propane Powered Lawn Equipment – Lawn & Garden Webvision had a chance to interview Eric Hansen of Competitive Lawn Service ( at the 2010 GIE+EXPO. Eric explained how he was the first company in the US to have an ALL alternative fuel lawn care business, primarily using Propane. It was here that he shared how he was able to do this using the advice from the Metro Lawn Program. ( The Metro Lawn program was able to connect the dots for him on running his business using propane. Eric also explained how he was able to use his alternative fuel fleet to get a leg up on his competition. Even if he was a little higher on his bids, he was getting the contracts based on his company being Green.

Hansen also shared with us how is going to be the first company in the country to tackle the snow business using an all alternative fuel fleet. We can’t wait to speak with him next spring where he will share the success of his first Winter season. Check back for all the latest updates.

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Green Propane Power and the Chicago Clean Cities Coalition – Eric Hansen speaks with Samantha Bingham of the Chicago Clean Cities Coalition about propane, what it is, the equipment he uses for his business, and the future of propane.

Bingham of the Chicago Clean Cities Coalition describes the importance of use alternative fuels such as propane and how it helps the environment. She also recognizes that alternative fuels like propane will help reduce our dependency on foreign oil.

Hansen talks about the 1 pound refillable cylinder from Manchester Tank that he uses for his small lawn equipment and shares the benefits of this new revolutionary product. The cool thing about this new innovation is that it is stopping cylinders from going into the landfills.

Eric Hansen also describes some of the obstacles he has come across by switching to alternative fuels, but Hansen tells us that the payoff is well worth it.

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Why Wrapping Your Vehicle Works!

Eric Hansen speaks with Mike Heffner about wrapping your commercial vehicles for advertising. Hansen explains how he was doing this years ago and how it helped increase his visibility and his business.

Heffner explains the benefits of wrapping a vehicle and how it is like driving a billboard around advertising your business. Another key benefit of wrapping a vehicle is that depending on your geographic area, a good vehicle wrap can last 3-4 years. This is a great investment in advertising your business because you can average out those costs over time. Depending on what kind of business you have, a vehicle wrap can pay for itself in one job.

Hansen talks about the 1 pound refillable cylinder from Manchester Tank that he uses for his small lawn equipment and shares the benefits of this new revolutionary product.

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The Humidor on Alternative Fuels and Green Propane Power

Eric Hansen speaks with Tim Moore at the Humidor about business in general and the benefits of using alternative fuels for business. Moore thinks that alternative fueled vehicles are a great idea as long as the fuel is available.

Hansen talks about the 1 pound refillable cylinder from Manchester Tank that he uses for his small lawn equipment and shares the benefits of this new revolutionary product. It’s portable and affordable.

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Illinois Business Systems talks about Alternative Green Propane Power

Eric Hansen speaks with Richard Mytnik, President of Illinois Business Systems about alternative fuels today. The focus of this discussion was about small handheld equipment and Hansen shows Mytnik a propane powered blower by Lehr that uses the Manchester 1 pound refillable cylinder.

In the News

Propane Fuels A Greener Lawn Care Crew

A green lawn can have hidden costs–such as the fuel used and greenhouse gas emissions spewed by noisy, inefficient gasoline-powered mowers and other landscaping equipment.

One commercial landscaping firm in Chicago’s western suburbs is taking a step toward reducing that environmental burden by setting up the state’s first all-propane-powered landscape maintenance crew–from mowers to trimmers to a heavy-duty 1-ton pickup truck.

The truck, a Ford F350 equipped with a propane engine, will arrive in the Chicago area Wednesday, Dec. 16, after a propane-powered drive from the factory in Detroit. It will be the first Ford F350 off the assembly line at Rousch Performance in Livonia, Mich., which adapts the trucks for propane.

Eric Hansen, president of Competitive Lawn Service Inc. in Downers Grove, expects that over the coming growing season the crew will replace about 5,000 to 10,000 gallons of gasoline with liquid propane, which burns far more efficiently, reducing emissions by 50 to 60 percent.

Hansen is a member of the Midwest Ecological Landscaping Association, a group of more than 140 Chicago-area contractors, growers, suppliers, landscape designers and architects and other professionals dedicated to finding greener ways to create and care for landscapes. “By banding together we can get more traction on these issues,” Hansen says.

“MELA hopes to showcase and encourage these kinds of methods of chipping away at the unsustainable elements of the landscape industry, and the turfgrass industry in particular,” said MELA president Garth Conrad of Garth Conrad Associates, a design firm in LaPorte, Ind. “We applaud Eric’s move and hope others can learn by it.”

Other MELA members also are experimenting with propane equipment. Christy Webber Landscapes in Chicago uses two 6-foot-wide propane-powered lawnmowers. “My guys like them,” says owner Christy Webber, and she’s driven them herself. Of Hansen’s propane crew, she said, “We support anybody that’s trying to kick our industry up to a greener level.”

Hansen, whose 36-employee firm cares for commercial and residential landscapes, said he joined MELA because he wanted to work with others to reduce the environmental impact of maintaining landscapes in the long term–both by designing them more thoughtfully and by finding ways to care for them with less toxic chemicals and fuel.

One way Hansen hopes to influence others in the industry is by collecting data over the coming season on the performance, costs and emissions of his propane-powered crew compared to his seven other mostly gasoline-powered crews. Real numbers from real work, he hopes, will help convince others in the business to consider alternative fuels.

He’s not sure exactly how his costs will work out in this first season, he says, but experimentation over several years already has revealed unexpected benefits: His crews learned that trimmers and blowers retrofitted to use propane are substantially quieter than gasoline-powered ones and need their oil changed far less often.

The new truck, with Hansen driving, is scheduled to arrive at 3 p.m. Wednesday at the dealer, Al Piemonte Ford Sales, 2500 North Ave., Melrose Park.

Original article: CLICK HERE

In the News

Propane Provides a Competitive Edge

Eric Hansen takes delivery of the first propane-powered Ford F-350 from Jack Roush at the Roush Performance assembly plant

When Eric Hansen set out on his mission to create the first propane-powered lawn care crew in 2008, he couldn’t have imagined the attention his 10-vehicle fleet would eventually attract. Last December, the founder and president of Downers Grove, Ill.-based Competitive Lawn Service Inc., took delivery of the first propane-fueled Ford F-350 from the Roush Performance assembly plant in Livonia, Mich. Auto racing and engineering mogul Jack Roush greeted Hansen at the plant and personally filled the truck’s underbed tank as the cameras rolled.

It was more publicity than the unassuming Hansen was used to, but he didn’t hesitate to lend his name to the movement toward alternative fuel use in commercial fleets. The Roush truck is Competitive’s first propane vehicle, but Hansen’s interest in alternative fuels began back in 2008, when gasoline hit $4.50 per gallon and the company had to find ways to cut costs.

Investing strategies
Hansen started by retrofitting lawn care equipment such as mowers, trimmers and blowers to run on propane. There were a few bumps in the road as the Competitive team learned how to maintain the equipment on the fly. But for every obstacle, the “new” fuel seemed to present an advantage: Propane can’t be spilled, and the cleaner burn produced quieter engines, less maintenance and fewer oil changes. Most importantly, the savings, even on a small scale – “Fifty bucks here and there,” as Hansen recalls – began to add up.

Impressed, he pressed on. After testing all the new-to-market propane-powered equipment he could get his hands on, Hanson started looking into replacing his gas and diesel F-150s, F-250s, F-350s and Super Duty dump truck.

“Ford began producing vapor propane trucks in the late ’90s, but there were two concerns for us,” Hansen says. “One, they were 30 percent less fuel efficient, which we couldn’t quite make up in the per-gallon cost. Two, they were F-150s – not big enough for our needs.”

Competitive’s needs also include full use of the cargo area, as it would be impossible for his slide-in dump/haulaway units to share space with an in-bed fuel tank. Luckily for Hansen, Roush’s F-350 was already in development, and the design included an underbed tank.

“They really worked hard to get it right,” Hansen says. “It’s a 100 percent liquid system, so the propane goes in full liquid direct to the cylinders. There’s no dropoff in performance or hauling power, and its range is about 300‑320 miles. And where the vapor Ford F-150s were 30 percent less efficient, this truck is only 10 percent less efficient. With the reduced cost for fuel, that’s viable.”

[frame_left][/frame_left]To accommodate the switch, Hansen installed a private, aboveground fill station on company property. The installation cost $10,000, but Competitive now spends only $1.50 to $1.70 on each gallon of propane. Hansen says that was the only option because the retail cost of propane in Downers Grove is more than three dollars per gallon. The company also recoups 50 cents on every gallon that goes into the truck, thanks to a federal tax credit which, unfortunately for Hansen, does not apply to the fuel that powers the equipment.

“That creates a little work for our accountant,” he says. “He’s working on how to split the expenses. I don’t necessarily want to lead the fight to extend the tax credit to lawn equipment, but they did see the need to extend it to forklifts. It’s possible that our equipment also could eventually qualify.”

There are two ways to obtain a single propane-fueled F-350 from Roush. A new truck can be ordered through the Ford dealership or lease management company with Roush’s ship-through code. For an existing truck, Roush can send a conversion kit to a local dealer, where it will be installed with support from the company. To retrofit an entire fleet that operates in multiple locations, Roush works with fleet managers to determine where their “SWAT” teams should be sent to support the conversions.

Reducing Emissions
Even as he enjoys the cost savings, Hansen is equally proud of his company’s shrinking carbon footprint.

“With 60 percent less emissions, we’re also reducing our total annual output of CO2,” he says. “We currently use about 35,000 gallons per year of unleaded gasoline and diesel. In 2009 we were able to use 1,500 gallons of that as propane. For 2010, our goal is to use between 5,000 and 10,000 gallons of propane and cut our usage of unleaded and diesel fuel to 25,000‑30,000 gallons. The heavy initial cost should pay for itself over the course of the next few years.”

The propane-powered F-350 and equipment display a prominent “Green Propane Power” logo. Han-sen believes that branding will help attract environmentally aware clients.

“Larger companies are getting into the green initiatives,” he says. “They’re going to their plant managers and looking for lists of ways to cut emissions. When I meet a prospective client, I’ll say, ‘Every time we service your property, we’re creating 60 percent less carbon output. Does that matter to you?’ For smaller companies, the answer may be ‘Not really.’ For larger companies, it will likely be ‘Yes.'”

Spreading the Word
Hansen’s efforts have already brought in phone calls and e-mails from other business owners across the country. Most of them want to know about the maintenance and tax-credit aspects of switching to propane.

“I tell them we know how to maintain the equipment, but not the trucks – yet,” he says. “As for the tax credits, we know the implications at the state and municipal level, but of course those will vary from place to place.”

The purchase of the propane-fueled pickup earned Competitive a one-time credit of $4,500 from the State of Illinois. Hansen hopes to pick up a few more in 2010 by retrofitting some of his existing fleet trucks. “We’ll do two or three more this year,” he says. “There’s also a federal credit of $5,000, so if we apply for both, the conversion cost is a wash.”

Original article: CLICK HERE

In the News

Lower cost of propane, sustainability resonate for Chicago’s Competitive Lawn Service

Jack Roush of Roush Industries fuels the first-in-the-country Ford F-350 propane conversion truck with undermount tank being delivered to Competitive Lawn Service, Inc., in December 2009.

Working toward having what he believes to be the first entirely propane-fueled commercial lawn maintenance service in the country, Eric Hansen, president of Competitive Lawn Service, Inc., based in Downers Grove, Ill., has begun retrofitting his company’s mower fleet. During the last two years, Hansen has reaped benefits from propane, including reduced costs, maintenance convenience, and the ability to offer customers a more environmentally friendly, sustainable solution.

Hansen has six propane-fueled mowers among a fleet of 30, and one of his 10 trucks is fueled by propane. He plans to have both fleets completely converted to propane within five years; once the conversion is complete, he estimates his business will save about $2,500 each month by using propane. That translates to payback on his investment in new and retrofitted propane products in less than two years.

“Propane costs less than gasoline or diesel fuel, it costs less to maintain propane-fueled equipment, and it’s better for the environment, all without sacrificing performance,” Hansen says. “It just makes sense to use it in every piece of equipment I can.”

Shifting to propane-fueled mowers
As Hansen began to research propane conversion options for his lawn mower fleet, he learned he could convert his existing Kawasaki engines to run on propane for about $1,000 per mower with quick payback because propane costs about 30 percent less than gasoline.

Hansen realized he would need a refueling source, so he worked with United Propane, a Heritage Propane company, to install a fueling station at Competitive Lawn Service, which bought about 1,500 gallons of propane in 2009. Hansen plans to use between 5,000 and 10,000 gallons in 2010 as he adds propane- fueled trucks and more propane-fueled mowers to his fleet. The on-site propane refueling system is more secure, making it easier to track fuel usage, while simultaneously eliminating theft, spillage, and loss.

Another benefit: Hansen’s lawn equipment requires far less maintenance since the switch to propane. Competitive Lawn Service’s mowers typically run 25 to 35 hours per week and required weekly oil changes. With propane, the same mowers run for a month, or about 100 hours, before they require an oil change, saving 6 quarts of oil and an hour of shop time per month per mower.

Hansen also has answered his customers’ call for an environmentally friendly lawn maintenance option. Studies show that propane-fueled lawn mowers produce almost 50 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than a similar mower running on gasoline,1 and significantly reduce other polluting emissions such as ozone and particulate matter. This has given the company a competitive advantage, particularly with commercial customers.

Expanding to propane-fueled trucks
After enjoying success with his new propane-fueled mowers, Hansen considered the trucks that transport those mowers to and from customer sites. He bought a Ford F-350 propane-fueled pickup truck that uses a liquid fuel-injection system. His mowers use vaporized propane. As a result of Ford’s partnership with Roush Performance Products (a division of Roush Industries), the propane-fueled trucks realize no reduction in power and less than a 10 percent reduction in fuel economy, a cost recouped by a 50 percent reduction in fuel cost. These trucks are built to last 300,000 miles, a longer lifespan than gasoline-fueled counterparts, further reducing fleet costs. Also, by deploying propane-fueled trucks to move lawn equipment from job to job, Hansen will eliminate 1,340 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions per vehicle per year and save an additional $300 to $400 per month in fuel and maintenance costs.

Employee support builds fast
The switch to propane-fueled equipment has required minimal training time for Hansen’s employees. Hansen holds quarterly training sessions on propane fueling. As a result, his employees have become relative experts in propane-fueled lawn equipment.

Shifting to propane has made financial and environmental sense for Competitive Lawn Service. Propane reduces fuel and maintenance costs for both commercial mowers and the fleet of trucks that transport them. Customers’ increased awareness of their carbon footprint has helped to make the fuel a market differentiator. Considering the ease of refueling and minimal employee training, those benefits will continue to compound for Competitive Lawn Service.

The Propane Education & Research Council was authorized by the U.S. Congress with the passage of Public Law 104-284, the Propane Education and Research Act (PERA), signed into law on October 11, 1996. The mission of the Propane Education & Research Council is to promote the safe, efficient use of odorized propane gas as a preferred energy source.

1 Energetics Inc., Propane Reduces Greenhouse Gas Emissions: A Comparative Analysis (Washington, D.C.: Propane Education & Research Council, 2009).

Original article: CLICK HERE

In the News

Lawn Mowers on Propane

When Eric Hansen read about a Dixie Chopper salesman driving a propane-powered lawn mower from Indiana to Sacramento, Calif., it sparked an idea Hansen hadn’t thought of during his nearly two decades in business.

“I thought that was really interesting that they would come up with an engine that would work and run and operate on propane,” says Hansen, president of Competitive Lawn Service in Downers Grove, Ill.
Hansen turned to the Internet with questions about converting his equipment to propane. There was nothing. He called propane wholesalers. They thought he was nuts. “They said, ‘We don’t know what you’re talking about. This is crazy,’” Hansen says.

A similar story has taken place in the last three years as Hansen has navigated the world of propane-fueled equipment through his own experimentation.
He started by installing propane engines into two ride-on mowers. They performed so well he decided to take the idea one step further, and then another and another. Now, he’s retrofitted equipment of all sizes with propane tanks. From Roush, Hansen purchased the first Ford F-350 to run on propane. And Competitive Lawn Service installed a 1,000-gallon propane tank on its property.

“This isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t cheap,” Hansen says. “The reality is that this is beginning to shape the market for what it actually can be. I think over time things are going to change. Manufacturers will hopefully not be so old school and respond to these things.”

While Hansen has made propane work for his company, it has created headaches.
First was meeting compliance issues. What should have been a 30-day process to install the propane tank turned into seven months of waiting to receive permits and to meet codes.

Second, the upfront cost involved: That F-350 cost $43,000. The company received about $9,500 in state and federal money for buying an alternative-fuel vehicle, but Hansen says it can take a year to see the checks.

Third, there’s risk in betting on government reimbursement. Competitive Lawn Service was getting a $.50 per gallon tax credit from the federal government, but in 2010 it stopped extending the credit for lawn equipment use.

“The fun thing is, yes we can do it, and we can make this is a viable opportunity,” Hansen says. “It’s difficult, but we can do it. I think it’s worth it, and I think it will be worth it over time as we drive the prices down.”

Certainly, Hansen has seen benefits: Installing a fill station on site and working with suppliers has dropped Hansen’s price for propane to $1.70 a gallon.

“The benefit is that propane is cheaper annually than gasoline and it always has been,” he says. “The second thing is that the equipment runs cleaner and more efficient, it’s an efficiency benefit and it’s a benefit on the maintenance.”
Instead of changing oil every 25 hours, on propane-run equipment Hansen now does it every 100 hours.

The fuel is in enclosed containers and can’t spill from its tanks onto trailers or customers’ lawns. And propane cuts emissions on his equipment by as much as 60 percent.

Hansen’s residential and government clients haven’t shown much interest in the switch to propane. But he’s made headway with larger companies with established environmental policies of their own.

In 2010, Competitive Lawn Service used 35,000 gallons of fuel, 5,000 of which was propane. Hansen’s goal is to burn about 25,000 gallons of propane in 2011.

The jump will be helped partially because of Manchester Tank’s new one-pound propane cylinders due out in January 2011. The cylinders can be used to fuel smaller equipment like blowers and trimmers.

“We worked for a year and a half screaming to get one-pounders and the market responded,” Hansen says. “Every day gets even better and better because I see more equipment we can retrofit.”

Alternative Fuel Lawn Care goes national by offering self-installed conversion kits
Gasoline to Propane or CNG for commercial mowing units now available
Kits for conversion of a gasoline mower to use propane range in price $250 – $750 dependent upon engine size and model. Conversions help to reduce operating costs through fuel and maintenance savings as well as reducing emissions. A typical commercial mower will save over $1000 annually per unit they convert to propane.

Components vary but a typical conversion kit includes: couplings, fuel lines, lock off solenoid, regulator, filer, wires, protective coverings, tank mounting brackets and other required components for installation. Bi-fuel options are available for those who choose to leave gasoline as an option.

  • Costs average 30 to 40% less per gallon than gasoline
  • Delivered tank exchange services reduce refueling trips
  • Over 88% of propane used domestically produced in the USA
  • Spillage and theft are virtually non-existent
  • Propane is in many ways safer to handle than gasoline
  • Mowers can operate on Ozone Action Days
  • Will not go stale when stored
  • Engine life is extended
  • Will not wash cylinder walls thus oil life extended and routine maintenance costs reduced
  • Companies take a step in becoming environmentally friendly

Original article: CLICK HERE