Choosing A Snow Blower
Snow blowers offer immense value, particularly in the winter months. Used to clear driveways and sidewalks from large snowfalls, they offer a quick, efficient way to handle snow and ice removal without having to spend the day digging out. Use this buying guide to create a checklist of important features and considerations when purchasing your next snow blower.
First and foremost, the size is a major consideration that home and business users alike have to consider. Like most outdoor power equipment, snow blowers come in various sizes that range from compact to commercial models with strong engines. The overall physical size of the snow blower matters. You want a model that is easy to push around, but large enough to handle heavier-than-normal snowfall.
Note: Snow plows and blowers are operated while standing on your feet. If you’re looking for equipment that you ride on, have a look at our snow plows.
A larger snow blower makes sense if you live in an area that receives significant snowfall while a compact model is fine for an area where low to moderate snowfall is common. Engine size matters as well; the larger the engine, the bigger the output. Commercial settings, like business parks and multi-family housing, require more powerful models than single-family homes.
Types of Snow Blowers
There are two main types of snow blowers: single- stage and two-stage. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Single-stage snow blowers are either gas or electric. Two-stage models only come in gas, and they offer more power and versatility than single-stage.
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Single-Stage Snow Blowers
Many homeowners choose single-stage snow blowers to keep driveways, walkways, decks and patios clear. Each has their own unique features that they bring to the table to make snow blowing more efficient. Aside from gasoline-powered models, there are two types of electric single-stage snow blowers: standard electric plug-in and cordless.
Plug-in models require a long, flexible cord that’s able to withstand extremely low temperatures in order to work. Additionally, you’ll need an outlet to plug it into, and likely an extension cord for it to reach long driveways or walkways. So if you have a very long driveway, you’ll need to make sure you have a long enough cord to go the distance.
Cordless electric snow blowers operate without the need for a cord. Simply plug it into a standard outlet to charge, then disconnect from the outlet after the battery finishes charging. Battery power is the key consideration with these, so make sure you compare the expected battery life of each model that piques your interest. Electric snow blowers also tend to weigh less than their gas counterparts, making them easier to maneuver. Additionally, they offer a push-button starting mechanism that’s easier to use than the pull cord that you find on many gas blowers.
Cordless electric and gas snow blowers offer the most mobility since they have no cords, which makes them more suitable for long driveways, big areas, or commercial settings. Corded blowers are ideal for smaller driveways and walkways that are relatively close to the power source.
Two-Stage Snow Blowers
Two-stage snow blowers are beneficial for both home and commercial use. These types of snow blowers are always gas, and they are more powerful than a single-stage. Another key difference between a single-stage and two-stage machine is in the design. While they both have augers, single-stage gas blowers only move the snow aside. Two-stage models, on the other hand, have an auger and an impeller. The impeller tosses the snow, blowing it away and clearing a larger path as a result, making it more efficient. These types of snow blowers are useful for long driveways or even those that have loose material such as gravel and rock that single-stage models cannot clear.
While the purpose of all snow blowers is the same, to clear a path through snow, features vary by model. It’s important to evaluate these features to determine if one is better suited for the intended job than others. Some of the features to look for include controls, types of tires, starting mechanisms and speed options.
Controls are likely the single most important feature after determining the size and use of the machinery, and many controls enhance safety and maneuverability.
Safety controls such as a dead-man control and one that controls the discharge chute are important. The dead-man control immediately powers down the spinning auger and the impeller when you release the handlebar grips. This prevents serious accidents if you should happen to slip and fall while working. The discharge chute let you change the direction and the height at which the machine throws the snow. Power steering lets you easily maneuver the snow blower around, and some models even offer single-hand operation that leaves your remaining hand free to control the discharge chute on some models. Wheel power controls let you quickly stop the machine if something or someone randomly enters your path. This feature prevents damage to the machine and injury.
It’s not uncommon for snow blowers to clog up, especially when there’s a large amount of snow on the ground. A clearing tool lets you easily clean out clogs without putting your hands or arms in the machine and risking injury. The tools easily reach into the auger or the chute. Not all models come with this tool, but you can purchase them separately.
The starting mechanism on a snow blower varies by model. Electric models have an easy-to-use push-button start. Gas models come in two versions: push-button or pull cord. With the pull cord method, you pull the cord to get the engine started, much like a lawn mower. Sometimes this is challenging, especially when it’s cold outside and you’re wearing multiple layers of clothing. Electric starts are easier.
Having multiple speeds is a benefit when you’re out clearing large areas or dealing with different types of snow. Single-stage models don’t offer much in the way of speeds, but two-stage models often give you several speed options. Not only does having multiple speeds give you enhanced control, it lets you adjust the motor for dealing with light, medium or heavy snowfalls. This helps prevent clogs which can slow you down.
Types of Tires
There are several types of tires to consider on a snow blower. Small tires make for easy storage but larger tires let you maneuver the machine more adeptly. Larger tires are also more durable than smaller tires. You’ll want to have easy access to the bearings in case of maintenance, which you should do on a regular basis.
In addition to tires, you’ll also find models that have tracks or treads. These replace the tires and make it easier to maneuver on land where you encounter different types of terrain. Tracks and treads are especially helpful in rocky or sandy areas, and especially helpful in icy conditions.
You’ll find a plethora of other features as well. One such option includes heated handlebars that keep your hands warm while you’re outside in cold temperatures, which can keep you feeling comfortable when gloves and mittens are not enough. You’ll also want to choose a model that fits your height. Some handlebars have adjustable heights or angles for a more comfortable fit. Headlights are beneficial for clearing out snow when it’s dark outside.
Whether you’re a homeowner or property manager who would prefer not to shovel, or a snow removal company looking to add more services, snow blowers are valuable machines. They help make clearing snow in the winter easier and are often a worthy investments. Shop for a snow blower today and be prepared for the next winter storm that comes your way.