Do you get a lot of snow in the winter? Do you have a long driveway and sidewalks to keep clear of snow? Then a snow blower might be a good idea, especially if you have a bad back or are in poor health and can’t handle shoveling snow.
Indeed, shoveling snow can be too strenuous for a lot of people – it’s a leading cause of heart attacks. But there are different types of snow blowers, in different sizes and with different features that you may or may not need. Here’s what you should know before you go shopping.
snow blowers come in one-stage, two-stage, and three-stage models. The stage numbers refer to the number of augers the snow blower has to collect snow and push it up through the impeller. So a one-stage snow blower has one collection auger, a two-stage snow blower has two, and so forth.
The more collection augers, the more powerful the snow blower. A one-stage snow blower can handle accumulations of up to six inches, but might struggle if snow is heavy and wet. A two-stage snow blower can handle snowfall depths of up to 12 inches. A three-stage can handle 18 inches of snow. If you get deep accumulations of heavy snow, a three-stage snow blower is essential. If you get lighter accumulations and snow is often light and dry, you need a smaller snow blower.
Of course, if you have a lot of space that needs to be cleared, a larger snow blower will get through it faster. Two- and three-stage snow blowers are better for chewing through packed snow and ice. One-stage snow blowers are best for handling light accumulations of snow on even surfaces, like a paved driveway or sidewalk.
All newer gas snow blowers are made with four-cycle engines, so you don’t need to mix gas and oil. You do, however, need to do yearly maintenance, including using fuel stabilizer, changing the oil, and changing the filter and spark plugs.
Gas snow blowers run as long as you need them to, or until you run out of gas, and there’s no dragging a cord around. However, gas snow blowers do make a lot of pollution – running one for one hour is the equivalent of driving your car 339 miles. That’s because small engines aren’t built with emissions in mind. Electric snow blowers don’t create any emissions, and they’re much quieter than a gas-powered model with its loud combustion engine.
While many snow blowers do require a winter-rated, heavy-duty extension cord, you can now use an electric snow blower without the tether. You can buy electric snow blowers from brands like Ego that run on powerful batteries for up to 50 minutes. If you need more time, you can simply buy additional batteries. Electric snow blowers are generally cleaner, quieter, and lighter in weight than gas models. They need little maintenance and less frequent repairs.
These days, you can get snow blowers with all kinds of features – like hand warmers, for example. Of course, you may not need all the bells and whistles, but there are some features that can really come in handy. For example, a plastic chute is essential. Metal ones rust, and become more easily clogged. Nor should you try to do without a headlight, because you’re likely to be clearing snow in the dark and will need it.
Electric start is also essential whether you decide to buy a gas or electric snow blower. Pulling on a cord can be hard on your back and shoulders. If you flood a gas snow blower, you’ll need to pull the cord as many as 20 times just to clear it. An electric start is easy and much better for your body, so if you’re buying a snow blower because you’re not in enough shape to shovel, don’t make any more work for yourself than you have to.
If you can’t manhandle a heavy snow blower into position every time you need to turn, get a model with power steering. Power steering can help you turn your snow blower on a dime without putting your back out. You should also consider getting a self-propelled model, so you don’t have to push it through heavy snow.
A snow blower can turn a strenuous winter chore into something much more pleasant. Make sure you get a machine that can handle your snowfall, and has the features you need to get the job done easily.