Rebate program encourages Athens residents to switch from gas-powered yard equipment to electric

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) – A new program in Athens is encouraging residents to go green when it comes to their lawn care. 

The “VoLTaGE” (Voluntary Lawn Tool Going Electric) program offers rebates to people who switch from gas-powered yard tools to battery-powered or plug-ins. 

Participants can get a $50 rebate for new electric leaf blowers, hedge trimmers and other small equipment, $100 for string trimmers, and $200 for push mowers. 

“We tried to bring the cost down by approximately 50% so that the rebate is impactful,” said Athens Deputy Service-Safety Director Andrew Chiki. “We didn’t want to create a program that was throwing pennies toward high-dollar pieces of equipment.” 

The city hopes the rebate entices residents to make the switch, especially if they are already considering going electric. 

The program is being funded by a NOPEC Energized Community grant. Athens has been a member of the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council’s gas aggregation since 2017, and the Energized Community grant allocates funding each year to allow for energy efficiency projects. 

In past years, the grant has funded free-standing solar lighting in the far east neighborhood and west side of Washington Street, lighting for several Athens Public Transit bus shelters, solar picnic tables for personal device charging, and the majority of LED lighting in the community center. 

When the city saw it had a little more than $12,000 to use this year, Chiki pitched a program that he had been workshopping in his mind for a while. 

“I was extremely intrigued with this idea,” said Mayor Steve Patterson. “Director Chiki I think nailed it with what’s going to be a really great and popular program.” 

On top of the many environmental benefits, Chiki added that electric equipment tends to be lighter and easier to use. 

“If you have mobility issues, if you have issues with strength or just getting around, it makes doing chores and yard work a little bit easier,” Chiki said. “And a little bit easier means a better quality of life.” 

If you are an Athens resident or business that maintains your own yard and are interested in the program, begin by filling out the registration form on the city’s website. 

Old gas-powered equipment can then be taken to a scrap yard or to the city service garage for disposal. 

To claim your rebate, submit your disposal and purchase receipts and a picture or video of you using your new equipment to the mayor’s office. 

Chiki said these videos and images can help show prospective residents how “apples to apples” the switch to battery power can be. 

“Having pictures and videos of people actually using what they got — and it’s friends and neighbors and people that you know, it’s not just a stock photo — it’s something that I think will help tell the story of the program and helping us to capture what this could look like on a larger scale,” he said.