Shoveling snow is tiring and takes a long time. Snow blowers and throwers are great solutions for tackling built-up snow. They take a lot of the physical demands out of the task of snow removal. How do you know which one is right for you? What are the different types? What are the advantages of electric vs. gas snow blowers? This snow blower buying guide will answer these questions and more.
What Is a Snow Blower?
What is snow blowing? It is the process of moving or blowing snow off the ground with a machine. A snow blower is a machine that removes snow, and it propels snow in its path in a certain direction. Snow blowers are typically used for removing snow from larger areas. However, there are smaller snow blowers and electric shovels for smaller areas. There are different types of snow blower machines. Electric-start snow blowers are powered by direct electric current, and some have electric-charged batteries. Others are powered by gas. There are snow throwers and blowers, and there are single-stage or two-stage mechanical designs.
Are Snow Blowers the Same as Snow Throwers?
People often use the two terms interchangeably. However, snow blowers and throwers have one key distinction: their stage design. Snow throwers are single-stage snow removal machines, and snow blowers are two-stage machines. Because of its design, a two-stage snow blower is more powerful. In the snow thrower vs snow blower purchasing dilemma, a snow blower is better for tougher jobs. For example, if you often have packed snow or ice, a snow blower delivers more removal power. Snow throwers are good for lighter applications.
Electric Snow Shovels: Are They Worth It?
Unlike a traditional snow shovel, an electric shovel has a double or single-turning blade. The blade collects the snow in its path and moves it aside as you push it. In comparison with snow throwers or blowers, this product requires a little more physical effort. However, it does not require as much strength or exertion as regular shoveling. Electric snow shovels usually cost between $60 and $200. Alternately, good snow blowers can cost well over $1,000.
Electric snow shovels may be corded or cordless with a battery. If you opt for a battery model, it may run 20 to 50 minutes. There are different cord lengths for corded models. Trying to manage a cord can be a hassle for some. If you have a large surface area to clear, an electric shovel may not be ideal. It is ideal if you only need it for a deck, porch or smaller sidewalks.
How Long Do Snow Blowers Last?
The answer to this question varies. Consumer Reports analyzed a wide variety of snow blowers and throwers. The analysis showed that while some products lasted only a few years, others last 20 or more. A good way to gauge longevity potential is to look at warranties. How long is the warranty the manufacturer offers? Good products that manufacturers feel confident about tend to have longer warranties. However, a top-rated snow blower will typically cost more. In the end, it is still a better investment since it costs more to replace a snow blower every few years.
How to Take Care of Your Snow Blower in 6 Steps
How long your snow blower or thrower lasts also depends on care and maintenance. If you take good care of it, the machine should last longer. These are some important steps for proper care and maintenance.
Step 1: Inspect and Replace Parts
A couple times each year, inspect the snow blower's parts. Look at the belts to see if they are worn and need to be replaced. Keep in mind that two-stage snow blowers have two belts, and single-stage machines have one. Tighten any screws, nuts or bolts as necessary. Also, check the starter cord. If there is any fraying, replace it.
Step 2: Check and Change the Oil
Check the oil using a dipstick. When it is dark, it should be changed. Refer to your owner's manual to determine how often you need to change it. Always do this before the start of winter.
Step 3: Check the Tires
Many snow blowers have pneumatic tires, which means they need air. Some newer models today have airless tires. If you are looking for a new machine or tires, those are the gold standard for low maintenance. For pneumatic tires, check your owner's manual to determine correct tire pressure. Check the tires regularly to fill them as necessary during the winter.
Step 4: Lubricate the Drive and Chassis
You will need to read your owner's manual to ensure you do this properly. Also, make sure you use the right lubricant. While you have it turned on the side, check the condition of these parts:
- Auger rubber
- Skid shoe
- Scrape bar
If there is significant skid shoe or scrape bar wear, replace them. When you can fit a finger between the housing and auger rubber, replace it.
Step 5: Check and Replace Shear Pins
This step is for two-stage machines. They have shear pins, which help protect the transmission if the auger jams. These tiny but critical parts must be inspected regularly. If they look worn or corroded, replace them immediately. Most snow blowers come with extras. Also, you can find replacements at a hardware store.
Step 6: Replace Air Filter, Fuel and Spark Plug
How often do you need to change snow blower spark plugs? Change them about every 100 hours of use or once per season. Check the owner's manual to ensure you do this correctly. Also, be sure to avoid over-tightening the new spark plug. Refer to your owner's manual for guidance on air filters, fuel use and correct replacement parts.
Which Type of Snow Blower Is best?
Now that you know the key difference between the two products, it is time to determine the right choice. The right one for you will depend on what you need it for and how often you will use it.
Single-Stage Snow Blowers
Single-stage snow blowers or throwers are limited to about 36 inches of snow discharge distance. With a single-stage machine, the auger touches the ground. However, it is coated to protect it. This makes it suitable only for pavement.
Two-Stage Snow Blowers
These powerful snow blowers have a discharge distance of about 60 inches. Their metal augers do not touch the ground. You can use these machines on dirt or gravel surfaces in addition to pavement. Also, you can use them on steeper inclines.
Electric Snow Blower vs. Gas Snow Blower: Which One Is Best?
When choosing between gas or electric, power is the key consideration. You can find both single-stage and two-stage machines that take gas. However, only single-stage snow blowers are electric. Many people prefer gas to avoid the hassle of a cord or charging a battery. Also, gas models are more powerful. If you have heavy-duty needs, a gas machine is better for you. If you want to save money and do not need a two-stage machine, an electric machine may be better. Additionally, you do not have to worry about oil changes, spark plugs or storing gasoline.To find the best single-stage or two-stage snow blower for your needs, compare warranties and reviews. Head to your nearest True Value to find the best snow blower or replacement parts.