May 22, 2006
If you’ve been thinking of going green with your gasoline-powered lawnmower by switching to an ethanol based product, then Thomas Eddie Allen of Huntsville, Alabama, reminded me of a little problem that old-timers might face.
Allen read the Ap Weekly Features on “Go Green In The Grass” this weekend and emailed to say that while he is all for ethanol-based gas but there is a problem that is not mentioned in the article.
Older lawn equipment, mowers, weed-eaters, blowers, and chain-saws use plastic gas tanks that were made before ethanol was a factor. It attacks the tank, hoses, filter, and any carburetor gaskets and o-rings that have not been upgraded from rubber to synthetic material. The resulting leaks are a fire hazard, says Allen. Readers should be warned to check with the owner’s manual to be sure their equipment is set up for ethanol before using this “green” fuel.
Just think of all that CO2 that will be released if you set yourself on fire!
I asked civil engineer Tadeusz Patzek of the University of California, Berkeley, about the problem. “Ethanol dissolves sediments in the fuel systems, making them into electrolytes. Once you have an electrolyte, corrosion accelerates. Alcohol
and its own impurities, especially furan, will dissolve with time any elastomeric seal.,” he explained.
So, be warned.
More information available in pdf.