Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. When you have a snow blower, your shoveling worries are at an end. Say goodbye to working up a sweat in the bitter cold, back pain, and tired arms. Although they're not all that easy to use, a snow blower can save you a lot of time, especially if you have a large driveway or sidewalk to clear. Even when the weather outside is frightful, snowblowing is so delightful!
Snow blowers, also known as snow throwers, are helpful pieces of power equipment if you live anywhere that gets even a few inches of snow in the winter. However, snow blowers aren't right for everyone. While they superficially resemble lawn mowers, they are harder to use. On the other hand, they require less exertion than shoveling when used properly and in the right conditions. They are especially useful for clearing snow from large spaces, such as driveways, sidewalks, and patios.
There are three main types of snow blowers, and each is geared to work in specific conditions. The main criteria you should consider before committing to a specific type of snow blower include the amount and type of snow you get, the size of the space to be cleared, and the terrain.
* '''General Features'''
** Most models run from 5-11 horsepower. Some very powerful models go up to 13 hp and will clear 45-inch paths. Obviously, those with more horsepower will be bigger, heavier and more powerful. They will be more expensive as well.
** Look for comfortably placed handles (possibly heated and/or adjustable).
** Handles with enough clearance that you can fit your gloved hands around them.
** Add-ons such as drift-cutter kits (to break up drifts without them collapsing) and non-slip wheel chains (to keep the machine from sliding) make things a little bit easier.
* '''For Safety'''
** '''One-handed drive control'''
*** On two-stage models, you want the ability to control the levers with one hand and the chute with another.
** '''Trigger drive disengagement '''
*** It allows you to disconnect the wheels from the transmission, thus enhancing control over the steering without stooping to move pins or levers.
*** This feature is only on two-stage models.
** '''Kill switch'''
*** All models should have a way to quickly disconnect and stop the auger (the mechanism that rotates to gather snow and propel it from the chute) from spinning.
*** Many two-stage models automatically stop the impeller when the handlebar is released like on a lawn mower.
* '''For Convenience'''
*** There's nothing like getting up in the dark and having to clear the driveway so that you can go to work. And don't forget that winter days are short; even a late-afternoon session of snowblowing is enhanced by good lighting.
*** Headlights make it a little easier to see what you are doing regardless of the time of day.
** '''Easy starter switch'''
*** Electrical starters or starter kits make it much easier to get your snow thrower running.
** '''Chute lever'''
*** Chute adjustment should be easy.
*** On two-stage models, there is often at least one or two levers within reach so that you can easily change the height and/or direction of the snow coming out of the chute.
*** Single-stage models tend to use a long, awkward and stiff control handles.
It is very easy to lose a finger or more while clearing a clogged snow blower. Take proper precautions to keep yourself safe.
* Always turn off and unplug the snow blower before attempting to clean it.
* When you decide to clear the chute or the auger housing, always use the clearing tool and not your hands or feet.
* If you are using a gas-powered snow blower, always start the machine up outside, instead of in a shed or garage, to avoid potential carbon monoxide poisoning.
Additional safety tips:
* Wear hearing protection when using a gas blower.
* Wear well-fitting (i.e., not loose) clothes that can't get entangled in the blower.
* Never refill the gas tank until the unit has cooled.
* Read this page from the Consumer Product Safety Commision.
* Buy off-season to get a better deal.
* Save money and get a single-stage unit if your area doesn't get lots of snow on a steady basis. Do NOT buy a snow thrower if you get only a few feet of annual snowfall. It will simply be a waste of money.
* Check with neighbors who already own a snow thrower to see what models they own and whether they are satisfied with them.