A great lawn does a lot more than just increase your home's curb appeal. It's also good for the environment. A well-maintained lawn keeps your home cooler on hot summer days, helps prevent rainwater runoff, and cleans dust and dirt from the air. Maintaining your lawn means regular mowing, and this means selecting a lawnmower with enough horsepower to get the job done right -- but the average horsepower varies based on the type of mower.
Horsepower Vs. Gross Torque
In its most basic form, horsepower is a measure of work: 1 horsepower is the amount of work required to move 33,000 pounds 1 foot over the space of 1 minute. A lawnmower with higher horsepower can typically do more work faster than a comparable mower with a lower horsepower rating. Lawnmower industry standards are changing, and some manufacturers, such as Briggs & Stratton and Troy-Bilt, rate their engines by gross torque rather than horsepower.
Push and Walk-Behind Mowers
If you are in good physical condition and have a lawn smaller than 1/4 acre, a push mower will usually be sufficient to keep your grass in top shape. Low-cost push lawnmowers typically have engines with horsepower ratings of between 2.9 and 4.0. A self-propelled model might be more appropriate if you have up to 1/2 acre to mow, but these models need greater horsepower to help with the increased workload. These so-called walk-behind lawnmowers come with engines with average horsepower ratings of from 5.0 to 7.0.
Trying to mow a lawn that is larger than 1/2 acre with a push mower, or even a self-propelled model, can be both time consuming and physically exhausting. A lawn tractor, sometimes referred to as a riding lawnmower, might be the answer. The average horsepower ratings on riding lawnmowers range from 12.5 to 20.0. A mower on the lower end of the horsepower average might be fine if your lawn is smaller, flat and level -- but if you have a lot of ground to cover and the terrain is hilly or on an incline, selecting a model with higher horsepower might be your best bet.
A relatively new development in lawn care is the stand-on mower, sometimes called a surfer. It's something of a hybrid between a walk-behind and a riding lawnmower. You stand on a platform behind the mower deck and ride the mower. Surfers are faster than walk-behind mowers and less expensive than comparable riding mowers. The average engine on a surfer-style mower is rated between 19 and 23 horsepower.