Problems With Ethanol Fuel in Outdoor Power Equipment
As we’ve all become increasingly aware, we have a finite amount of fossil fuels available. To supplement this, the government enacted the renewable fuel standard in 2007, which requires transportation fuel sold in the United States to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuels. Ethanol, an alcohol distilled from plant materials like corn and sugar, seems to be the poison we’ve picked to supplement our unleaded gas. As the years have rolled on, ethanol gas has become more widely available at the pump, and in varying concentrations.
In theory, this sounds like an effective solution. Corn and sugar, and the ethanol fuel we can make from it, can be regrown ad infinitum. Meanwhile, the coal and petroleum and natural gases derived from the broken-down remains of our geological past have become more scarce. As we’ve all become increasingly reliant on our automobiles and gas-powered equipment, it makes sense to find a renewable source of power. However, in practice, ethanol fuel has its issues, and we recently talked with Kris Kiser from OPEI to learn the ins and outs of using ethanol gas with outdoor power equipment.
Ethanol Fuel In The Tank
For one thing, ethanol fuel causes a combustion system to run hotter and faster. So, the higher the concentration of ethanol in your gas, the hotter and faster your engine will run. This can cause potential problems in a variety of applications, but let’s consider the guy climbing a tree with a chainsaw strapped to his leg. The last thing he really needs is for his chainsaw to throttle up while in idle…
Gas that has been supplemented with high concentrations of ethanol fuel can misshape gas caps and seals, which can lead to fuel leaks. Leaving aside, for a moment, the obvious long-term, environmental implications here, let’s again consider the immediately practical consequences of leaky equipment in the field. As a consumer, your fuel and repair costs go up as you now not only need to replace the fuel that’s leaked from your tool, but you’ll need to replace those warped seals.
Speaking of costly repairs, ethanol fuel has a tendency to wreak havoc on small engines that sit unused for 30 days or more. That’s because ethanol absorbs water, and water doesn’t play well with carburetors. Water can foul up the carburetor, preventing your engine from starting. When this happens, you’ll need to drain, clean, or potentially replace your carburetor. Unless you practice vigilance with your winterization, your small engine repairman will look forward to seeing you every spring.
With 100 million pieces of gas-powered legacy equipment still in use today, it’s more important than ever for folks to keep informed. While you used to be able to pour the same gas into your truck, and then in your lawn mower, times have changed. For outdoor power equipment, if you have to use ethanol fuel, use gas rated E10 or less. You want to avoid using gas that’s older than thirty days. You might invest in a fuel stabilizer and add that to your gas tanks. An even better option, though admittedly a more expensive one, is to use ethanol-free canned fuels, like TruFuel.
Special thanks to Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute. To learn more about OPEI you can visit them here.