Jeff’s Perfect Lawn Care Secrets – Week 14 of 2010
I had to put some gasoline into my lawn mower last week. I was using one of those bright red plastic five gallon gas cans that I have had for years. The nozzle that comes with the can has always been awkward so I use a funnel to guide the gas into the tank. And as has happened a few times in the past I put a bit too much into the funnel and the tank overflowed, maybe a half a cup of gas. After wiping the gas from the engine surfaces with an old rag I let the mower sit for ten minutes to make sure the fumes evaporated and there would be no problems when I started the engine.
I have since learned that by spilling a little gasoline I am a hazard to the environment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans homeowners spill over 17 million gallons of gasoline every year as we fill our various gas powered yard care equipment. I found that figure to be astounding. Then I learned that those 54 million yardeners use over 800 million gallons of gas each year in caring for their yards. Think about that figure in relation to today’s price of gasoline. At $2.50 a gallon Americans waste $42 million worth of gas and that isn’t the most serious problem.
The real problem is the impact of that spilled gasoline on the environment. Obviously spilled gasoline can seep down into the soil and may eventually pollute the water table. That is bad enough, however the really serious problem caused by spilled gasoline is the air pollution that is created as the gasoline evaporates. In 2001 the California Air Resources Board (CARB) determined that the gas fumes from spilled gas, fumes from gas cans with vents left open, and even fumes from just putting gas into a lawn mower created about 87 tons of smog producing pollution per day, equal to the daily fumes from a million automobiles. That’s just one day.
The culprit is that gas can. Whether you use the spout or a funnel, there is no easy way to determine when the level of gas in the tank is reaching full.
It turns out that there are gasoline cans that have what are called “spill proof” nozzles. The nozzle automatically stops the flow of gas when the gas level in the tank makes contact with the end of the nozzle. In the past five years, California, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware have established regulations requiring all new gas cans sold to consumers in those states to have the “spill proof” nozzles. They estimate that in ten years, as the older cans are replaced with these new designs, the spillage in those states will be reduced by a whooping 75%.
Armed with this new information I went shopping for a replacement for my old fashioned gas can. After visiting three stores selling gas cans I found that the new technology in gas can nozzles is not readily available. After calling the Clean Air Division of the Department of Environmental Quality in Lansing, I learned that this problem of air pollution from the evaporation of spilled gasoline by homeowners has never been brought to the attention of that organization. If those new spill proof cans are not required in Michigan, I guess the stores figure why stock an item that will cost $6 to $12 more than the traditional gas can.
Several years ago, Consumer Reports evaluated the gas cans that were advertised to be spill proof. The can with the best evaluation was made for Briggs and Stratton. Called the “Smart Fill” fuel can, the nozzle is unlocked before filling the tank and then is inserted into the tank in a vertical position. When the gas level in the tank reaches the end of the Smart Fill nozzle, it shuts off and you can remove the nozzle from the tank with no spills. Holding 2.5 gallons of gas, Smart Fill fuel cans can be bought at http://www.jackssmallengines.com Jack’s Small Engines Web Site for $25. I have ordered two; one for regular gas and one for gas mixed with oil for my tools with two-cycle engines. Jack’s also sells another gas can, the envroflow, which looks just as good.
I put my lawn mower back into the tool shed; it’s much too early to mow the lawn.