From areas of the nation that get just the lightest dustings of snow to the snow belts of the north, there is a snowblower to fit the job.
On the lower end, the smallest snowblowers can be had for perhaps as low as $150. Larger, higher end machines can top
$2,000. Chances are your next machine is somewhere inbetween those two extremes. The first question you need to ask before you buy a snowblower is the standard question on lots of yard power tools – gas or electric?
Here’s the basic answer. Electric-engine powered snowblowers generally feature less horsepower than gas-engine models. The electrics also, generally speaking, cost less. And then there’s the cord issue. For some folks, a trailing a 100-foot extension cord behind them is simply no big deal. Others find it to be just one more headache out there on that cold, snowy morning.
Now that electronic-start ignitions are standard on virtually all models of gasoline-powered machines, the question of how easy it is to start a gas blower vs. an electric blower has been eliminated. The days of pulling relentlessly on a rip cord to start your snow blower are pretty much behind us, at least on a new machine.
Most electric motor snowblowers are formatted in what’s known as a single stage blower. In a single stage, the augur that lifts the snow off the ground is also what propels the snow out through the chute. These single stage snowblowers are really ideal for areas that generally get lighter snowfalls or snow that is not very wet. An electric motor is also generally not as noisy as their gasoline brothers, which is very attractive to some people.
I saw an 8.5 amp single-stage snowblower from Yardman on sale recently for about $170. It is probably a little under-powered for life here in Michigan, but would be greater for areas further south, particularly if you don’t have a large drive way to clear. A good single-stage machine will last about 10 years with moderate use. When you buy it, be sure to ask about what oil the machine takes. The machines are sold without oil in them. Some stores will add it for you when you leave the store, others will give you a container of the oil. Many manufacturers include the oil in the box. Be sure you add the oil before you use the machine. And then be sure to change the oil every year at the beginning of the winter.
Moving up the scale, Toro features a good-midsized snowblower with a 5 horse power engine that goes for around $700.
This is still a single-stage machine, but features a 30-foot snow-throwing distance. The Yardman mentioned above only features a 15-yard throw. The Toro will probably last about 10-12 years of regular use.
Like virtually all gas-powered snow blowers, it requires a gas-oil mixture, so you’ll want to check the manual to make sure you have the right mix in the machine. Not surprisingly, larger machines are called two-stage snow blowers. Seperate augers lift the snow from the ground and throw the snow, allowing even large snow loads to be blown 40 feet – or more – away. Generally on the two-stagers, the augers are made from heavy-duty steel and these machines are made to last a couple of decades. Prices generally start somewhere north of $1,200.
Simplicity makes a snow blower that it labels an “intermediate” grade two-stage snow blower. It isn’t quite as heavy duty as some of the larger commercial machines, but with an 8 horsepower Tecumseh engine with electric start and 16-inch tires, this beast will tackle heavy, northern snowfalls. The Simplicity 860E features five foward gears and two reverse gears and has a 24-inch-wide bite. Depending on exact features, prices can start around $1,400. Some dealers may deal in used equipment for some of these heavier duty models. About 10 years ago, I got a great deal on a commercial grade lawnmower, that should have sold for about $800. I bought it used, about two years old, for about $160 and it has been running great ever since. Likewise, I was recently in a store and saw a used Simplicity 860E, one year old, listed about $900.
That’s one of the best benefits of dealing with a local shop owner. If you develop a regular relationship, he might keep you in mind the next time a good, quality used piece of equipment comes his way.
Snowblower Safety Tips
According to the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration, the average victim of snow blowing injury accident is a 44-year-old male. The most common injury, OSHA says, is to the fingers or hand, trying remove a blockage in the machine’s mechanism
Here are some tips you can use before, during and after snow blowing to keep yourself safe:
* Make sure the snow blower is completely off before working on it.
* Do not stick your hand in the chute or near any moving parts of the snow blower. If necessary, use a stick or broom handle to remove debris.
* Before snow blowing, remove all objects that may come in your path.
* Do not disable any safety mechanisms.
* When using an electric snow blower, know where the cord is at all times.
* Avoid clogging the snow blower by not rushing the job.
* If the snow blower jams while you are using it, immediately turn it off.
* Control where the snow blows because everything, including unexpected objects, will fly where you aim.