Choosing The Right  Snow Thrower /Snowblower

Also See:

Keep Your Snow Thrower | Snow Blower Performing Like New

Snow Blower | Thrower Safety

Save Time And Money With These Tips For Choosing The Right Snow Thrower | Snow Blower | Snowblower

Honda Snow BlowerAt some point in home ownership you'll at least want to consider a snow thrower / blower. You may not need something as big as the $8000 Honda Snow Blower to the right, but it's nice to dream!
Younger folks like snowblowers because they make winter life easier and for many, there is a certain "toy factor" to the machines. Older people like them for the ease of use and reductions to back and other injuries (and the toy factor). Let's face it, if you have to take a week off work with pulled muscles and pinched nerves every time there's a heavy snow storm, a snow blower becomes a serious investment.

If it's time to consider a snow-blower you'll want to know a bit about what to look for so you don't end up buying something you'll regret for the next decade.

There are essentially three different kinds of snow blowers intended for urban use:

The Electric Snow Blower: Made for the lightest and fluffiest of snow falls. Severe snow storms that accumulate inches and feet of snow fast will overwhelm this type of snow blower very quickly. Electrics can range from small snow shovels to machines that look much like gas powered single stage snow throwers. How much power can you expect from an electrical outlet in in terms of horsepower? A typical house's electrical outlet is rated at 15 amps, but for continuous loads (more than three hours) the limit is 20% lower. 120 volts X 12 amps = 1440 watts, (1440 watts/746 watts per horsepower) = 1.93 horsepower. 1.93 HP is not enough for heavier snow duties. Don't forget that you will be playing with a rather long extension cord in a snow filled driveway while you operate this type of snowblower (not fun).

The Single Stage Gas SnowBlower: Single Stage Snow Thrower | Snow BlowerThe single stage blower has one auger spun at relatively high speed. Single stage machines grab the snow and throw it out the chute - all with the same auger, hence the name “single stage". The single stage machines don't have powered drive wheels to move it along, so the auger also has the job of pulling the snow thrower along the driveway with it's rubber tipped blades. Pulling itself into the heavy stuff at the end of the drive or up a steep incline is often not possible for the single stage so you'll frequently find yourself pushing it along. Keep in mind that the auger contacts the ground and throws whatever it finds out the chute, making it a poor choice if you have a loose gravel driveway.

Single stage snow blowers can be underpowered if you buy the economy models but most can be found with appropriate engines to do the job. Engines in the 208cc area are a good size for these machines to be happy with most snow conditions. You may even find the die-hard two-stage neighbors watching in amazement at what some of these units can do!


Two - Stage Snow Thrower | Dual Stage Snow BlowerThe Two-Stage Gas Powered SnowBlower: This is the snow thrower you'll need for heavy duty snow blowing tasks, if your driveway is large, has an excessive grade, or you want to power through the heavy stuff the snowplow left behind.

Two-stage units are self propelled by wheels (often with chains) or tracks (see unit to left) so there will be no need to help it along in most cases. Some come with power steering if you need to turn many times during a session. You can also find models with heated handles to keep your hands toasty while snow throwing.

It is possible to buy a unit that is underpowered at a budget price but avoid doing so unless you are willing to put up with some inconveniences. Budget units tend to come with small drive wheels that have a harder time gripping the frozen driveway. Larger tires or tracks are the way to go.

Two Stage Auger and ImpellerThe two-stage snow blower has an auger up front (see right) to break up the snow and feed it into a second impeller spinning at high speed which in turn throws the snow out the chute.

Note: The augers of 2 stage snow throwers are normally protected by special shear bolts that are intended to break if the auger bites into something that may damage the machine (such as a chunk of firewood) – a good feature that, with forethought, would hopefully never be used. If you do break a shear bolt make sure to replace it with the correct manufacturer's part.


The Engine Is An Important Part Of The Decision

Prices for snow blowers can be shocking to the uninitiated, so some manufactures will include a stripped down and likely underpowered machine to their lineup. Usually these underpowered machines fall into the "entry-level" or “tight-budget” category. Underpowered snow blowers can bog down and even stall when working with heavy snow, especially the compacted snow that the snowplow curls up in the end of your driveway.

Snow thrower engines are no longer rated by horsepower and are now rated by torque (turning force) and engine displacement (cubic centimeters) instead of horsepower. Torque is really what we're after for the purpose of throwing snow anyway. If you've ever used an underpowered snow thrower, you know what it's like to be missing the muscle (torque) to get the job done.

An underpowered two-stage machine may bravely attempt the snowplow's heavy snow curled at the end of the drive then bog down and spin it's small wheels, yet it could be just fine for the rest of the driveway.

An "underpowered" single stage snow thrower may bog down and possibly stall while attempting the heavy stuff, prompting you to pull it back, let the engine spool up, and charge the snow repeatedly. Not great for the machine or yourself.

An electrically powered snow blower, well, forget the heavy snow from the snowplow altogether – there's only so much power that can come out of that electrical socket!

Snaow Rated Engine For Snow Throwers

When considering the engine's displacement and torque you'll also want to be aware of who made the engine. Has the manufacturer been in business for a long time and do they have a proven track record for making "snow-rated" engines (such as the one to the left)? Engines made for snow blowing need to start easily, be very reliable and perform in the nastiest of weather.

Note: If you see a metal gas tank on the snow thrower's engine that you're considering, you may want to reevaluate that unit. There's no reason to be using a tank that can rust under severe conditions when plastic tanks have proven reliable on snow throwers for decades. There are ways to keep rust at bay such as removing the tank and oiling it, fogging it etc. but who needs the hassle when this problem has already been addressed with plastic tanks.

Other things to consider before buying your first snow blower

Where will you store the unit? – Will it take up your whole shed or half of your garage? Do you need to get it through a fence gate? Are you prepared for the extra maintenance a 2-stage snow thrower may require over a single stage? Do you need electric start on your snow blower and do you have an electrical outlet near where you will be starting it? Do you intend to transport it in the back of your pickup or SUV? Are you able to maintain it yourself or is it too complex for what you really need? How important is a good warranty and brand-name to you? Is there a service center near your home that can do repairs if needed? Will the service center pick up and deliver the unit?
All are worth considering when making your choice!

Use caution when using your snow thrower and hopefully say goodbye to that aching back!

Keep Your Snow Thrower | Blower Performing Like New

Snow Blower | Thrower Safety

Repairing a joystick controlled chute

Repairing a joystick controlled chute Part Two

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