Best Snow Blower
I thoroughly enjoy watching the seasons change, and I do not think I could ever get used to living in a climate that did not have considerable differences in weather and temperature from one season to the next. I love the heat of summer, but I also love watching the leaves turn in the autumn and seeing the days shorten as we approach Christmas. I often spend my afternoons in winter eagerly anticipating what the following spring is going to bring in the garden – and I begin leafing through seed catalogs and planning what I will grow the next year. Frankly, I find the change from one season to the next makes life more interesting. You always have something new and different to look forward to.
But if you live in a region that experiences big changes from one season to the next, you are probably all too familiar with the fact that what you have to look forward to in the winter is snow, snow and more snow. This is true if you live in a region like the Northeast that gets an average of more than fifty inches of snow every year, or one that gets more moderate snow fall. Of course, snow is part of winter’s charm in a lot of ways – when I was growing up, “White Christmas” was one of the most popular holiday songs, and it remains so today. It just would not be a real winter without a nice, beautiful snow fall.
But it is not like we can just hole up in our houses all winter long and enjoy watching the snow pile up. We are all busy people, and our lives do not stop over the winter, no matter how much snow accumulates. And if we want to get on with our lives, the first thing we will have to do is clear that snow. For many years I did this the old-fashioned way: by hand, and with a shovel. But sooner or later I wised up and realized that I could keep my driveway and sidewalks clear with a lot less effort and a lot more quickly by switching over to a snow blower.
Snow blowers are the best way to quickly and efficiently keep your driveway clear of snow. But it can be quite overwhelming trying to find out which kind of snow blower is not only right for your needs but also the best in its class. There are snow blowers that are gas powered and electric, single-stage and two stage, small power snow shovels and massive gas two-stage machines that are almost like scaled-down snow plows.
The good news is that there is no reason finding the best snow blowers should be all that difficult. There are a few basic characteristics that the best snow blowers will have, and if you look for a new snow blower based on them, you should be able to quickly and accurately determine whether one model or another has what it takes to be considered the best snow blower.
1. Best Snow Blower Characteristics
1a. Wide Clearance
On any given snow blower, regardless of whether we are talking about a big gas two-stage snow blower or a compact electric snow shovel, the clearance width is going to be the first thing to look at. That is because the clearance width on any snow blower is going to be the single most important thing that determines how efficient the machine is at clearing snow from your driveway.
Snow blowers with wider clearances will be able to finish removing snow from the same sized driveway in much less time than those with narrower clearances can. That is because a wider clearance on a snow blower significantly reduces the number of passes you have to make to clear that area. Whether you have just a small deck or short driveway to keep clear, or a long, winding drive down to the road, wider clearance is going to make a lot of difference in how much time you have to spend out there getting all of the snow off of it.
This is important not only because it is more convenient to finish clearing your driveway or walk more quickly. It is also a fairly serious safety issue. When temperatures drop well below freezing and wind chill effectively makes it even colder, the risk of frostbite or hypothermia goes up dramatically, no matter how well bundled up you are. Under severe weather conditions, you can contract frostbite in less than half an hour on exposed skin. That makes getting back inside as quickly as possible an important health issue.
The whole point of switching over to a snow blower is the amount of time and effort it saves you. If you are not maximizing its snow clearing efficiency, you are missing out on the full potential of these machines to save time. So regardless of whether you are looking at a compact electric snow shovel, a single-stage snow blower, or a gas two-stage snow blower, begin by narrowing down your list in terms of which machines have the widest clearance for their class.
For electric snow shovels, this will be at least ten or twelve inches. For electric single-stage snow blowers, at least 18 inches. For gas single-stage snow blowers, at least 20 inches; and for gas two-stage snow blowers, at least 24 inches. There is no reason – in any of these categories – to settle for less than the widest clearance available.
1b. High Snow Cut Depth
Once you have narrowed down the field based on the clearance width on each snow blower, the next thing to look at is what kind of snow cut depth each model has. Clearance width determines the speed and efficiency with which the snow blower can clear your driveway and sidewalks: snow cut depth determines how much snow fall the snow blower will be able to handle on each pass. And just like with clearance width, you want to find the snow blower with the highest snow cut depth.
This also varies from one class of snow blower to the next. And if you live in a region that does not experience heavy snow fall, you will not have to go with the biggest class of snow blower (gas two-stage) to take care of your driveway. Of course, if you do live in a region in which serious snow storms are common, you are definitely going to want a gas two-stage snow blower.
But say you live in a part of the country that usually experiences accumulations of just a few inches at a time. If this is the case, you might think that these conditions do not require the highest snow cut depth on an electric snow shovel or single-stage snow blower, and that you can get away with saving a few dollars by purchasing a shorter model. But you would be wrong.
Why? Well, nature is fickle – and even if your region rarely experiences serious snow fall, you still want to be prepared for that occasional storm that drops twice the amount of snow that typically accumulates. If you are not prepared for that, you will wind up hacking your way out to the garage the old-fashioned way – with a shovel – while your snow blower with a short snow cut depth sits idle and completely useless. When this happens, the few dollars you may have saved by getting a snow blower with a shorter snow cut depth are not worth it.
So a word to the wise: no matter which category you are shopping for a snow blower in, make sure that it not only has the widest clearance you can find, but also the highest snow cut depth. On electric snow shovels this should be at least ten inches; on electric single-stage snow blowers, 14 inches; on gas single-stage snow blowers, 16 inches; and on gas two-stage snow blowers, 20 inches.
1c. Thoughtful Design
A snow blower with the widest clearance and highest snow cut depth you can find in your price range and model class is going to have a lot to offer in terms of being able to efficiently and easily tackle whatever kind of accumulation you may get in your area. These are excellent characteristics to help you be well on your way to narrowing down your list of potential units to the very best snow blowers.
But the clearance abilities are not the only factor that will make one or another model the best snow blower. The snow blower should not only have a wide clearance and high intake, it should be easy to use as well.
The degree to which a particular snow blower is or is not easy to use is determined largely by how thoughtfully it has been designed. Any number of manufacturers can make a big, powerful snow blower that easily handles deep accumulations of snow (whether you live in a region where “deep” means six inches or sixteen inches).
But how convenient is the machine to use and find storage space for it in your garage or house? Is it going to be a heavy, oversized thing that you practically have to wrestle with to maneuver it around your driveway? Or will it be a compact, relatively lightweight machine that is easy for anyone to use?
Electric snow shovels in particular should be very lightweight and compact – so much so, in fact, that you should be able to easily find storage space for them in a hall closet so they are always readily available. And they should be light enough that anyone can lift them easily, regardless of their strength level.
Single-stage snow blowers, whether they are gas powered or electric, should also be light enough that they can be easily maneuvered by hand and fairly simple to tuck away in your garage or tool shed. There is no reason they should weigh so much that they are difficult to use.
Gas two-stage snow blowers are necessarily going to be the biggest and heaviest of all the different kinds, but again they should not be so big that they are difficult to use. The overall width should not be much more than the clearance width. And if they do weigh a lot, there should be a self-propulsion drive to help you maneuver them around the driveway more easily.
1d. Quality Parts
Your list of the best snow blowers should be getting pretty short by this point: it should include only those that have the widest clearances and highest snow cut depths, but are designed in a way that manages to fit that large intake into a compact, lightweight package.
Now it is time to separate the real work horses in the group from those snow blowers that are not going to be able to stand up to long term heavy duty use. Unfortunately, there are plenty of snow blowers – from electric snow shovels all the way up to gas two-stage snow blowers – that do not have the kind of quality parts and manufacturing that can ensure they will not break down or experience other problems over time.
The materials that will make or break a snow blower depend a little bit on what kind it is. Electric snow shovels typically have bodies made of plastic, and the same is true for their augers. Make sure that the body of the shovel is made of tough composite plastic, and if you can find a machine with dual augers, it will have a longer life. Do not bother with electric snow shovels that do not at least have metal handles.
Single-stage snow blowers – both gas powered and electric ones – should have augers and bodies made of steel. There are plenty of electric single-stage snow blowers out there that have plastic augers and bodies, and those are not going to make it onto any list of the best snow blowers. You want a machine that has the kind of steel parts that will stand up to tough jobs and long term use. Steel might get dinged, but plastic will crack and break. If you are spending good money on a single-stage snow blower, make sure it is at least made of stamped steel parts.
Gas two-stage blowers should be entirely made of steel components, all the way from the auger to the snow chute, if possible. Typically snow chutes are made of composite plastic, which is sufficient, but the best gas two-stage snow blowers will have metal snow chutes that can handle heavy snow without breaking. The auger should be high gauge welded steel. If possible, find a snow blower with a steel auger that has rubber tips, which will help to protect it further and make it more durable for the long term.
1e. Considerate Details
Now you should have a list of lean, efficient, powerful snow blowers in front of you. These machines are going to have the kind of design that allow you to handle tough jobs quickly and efficiently without having to worry about them breaking down or losing performance over the long term. These are almost certainly going to be some of the best snow blowers on the market.
This is where the final decision can start to get very challenging: it is easy to eliminate poor quality snow blowers based on their clearance width or intake height, and cross the ones made with sub-par materials off your list. But how do you decide which one is really the very best snow blower?
Well, it is all in the little details. The best snow blowers will have accessories and design notes that make them considerably more convenient to use and greatly improve the overall experience of using them to clear snow. You do not just want a tough, powerful snow clearing machine – you want one that has the kind of thoughtful design that will make it much easier and more pleasant to use.
On electric snow shovels, these are fairly basic: an extra handle on the front of the machine can make it much easier to use. A locking mechanism for the extension cord plug prevents hassles with dropping cords. Engaging the auger should be a simple matter of pressing a single switch.
On single-stage and two-stage snow blowers, there are even more design notes that can go a long way to improving the experience. Headlights, whether halogen or LED, will help you see what you are doing if you’re clearing snow after dusk – which comes early in the winter. Heavier models should have a rear wheel drive to make them easier to maneuver. The drive system should have multiple speeds in both forward and reverse so you can choose the best one for you.
On any snow blower the controls should be intuitive and easy to use. You should be able to change the snow chute direction remotely with either a crank or a joystick. Gas powered snow blowers, both single- and two-stage, should have an electric starter so you do not have to struggle with a ripcord.
And safety features are paramount. Over 5,000 people are sent to the hospital every year with snow blower related injuries. Features like a dead man’s switch, child safety locks, and auger disengagement switches can all help to prevent accidents.
2. Best Snow Blower
The best snow blowers will have wide clearances, high snow cut depths, be made of durable parts and designed so they are efficient and compact, and they will have features dedicated to improve the overall experience of using them. Each kind is designed for a particular type of job, but which every you need, make sure you are getting the best snow blower in its class.
2a. Best Electric Snow Shovel
Electric snow shovels are extremely useful if you live in a region that does not experience very heavy snow storms and you do not have a large area to keep clear of snow. They are perfect for homeowners who only need to keep a deck or walkway clear of snow, or those whose driveways are not particularly long. These machines are compact enough that they can be stored easily in a hall closet or the foyer, where they will be readily available at a moment’s notice as soon as it does snow. They are not recommended for regions that regularly experience heavy storms.
- Best Use: Patios, decks, short driveways and porch steps.
- Pros: Lightweight, compact and easy to store and use.
- Cons: Limited to small areas and light snow fall.
2b. Best Electric Snow Blower
For the longest time, if you wanted to have the convenience of owning a snow blower, you had no choice but to purchase a gas powered one, because that was all that was available. And even when electric snow blowers started to become more common, they often did not have the kind of wide clearances or high snow cut depths you needed to make them efficient enough to be worth the cost. But recently, a number of technological innovations have considerably improved their power and performance, and now they are comparable to many of the best single-stage gas snow blowers.
- Best Use: Average size, paved driveways in regions that get moderate snow fall.
- Pros: Quiet, environmentally friendly, lightweight and compact.
- Cons: Limited snow cut depth, range is determined by power cord length.
2c. Best Gas Single-Stage Snow Blower
In spite of the fact that electric single-stage snow blowers are more environmentally friendly and quieter than gas single-stage snow blowers, these still remain as popular as ever. That is largely because the clearance widths and snow cut depth on gas powered snow blowers is still a bit higher than what is available on electric models. And gas single-stage snow blowers have more powerful engines as well, which means they will be able to support higher pound-per-minute clearance capacities. This means they will be able to handle heavier, wetter snow more easily. And they are not tethered to a power supply.
- Best Use: Average to large driveways with moderate to heavy snow fall.
- Pros: No range limit, high clearances and snow cut depths.
- Cons: High emissions production and noise levels.
2d. Best Gas Two-Stage Snow Blower
When you live in a region that gets serious accumulations of snow fall – in parts of New England, for example, where 100 inches a year is common – you need a big, powerful snow blower in your garage that will not be cowed by even the most serious blizzards. This is a gas two-stage snow blower: these machines have the highest snow cut depths and widest clearances of anything short of a snow plow truck. They are also the best option for unpaved drives, since the auger does not make contact with the ground. These big machines can handle anything Old Man Winter can cook up.
- Best Use: Unpaved driveways, long driveways and regions with heavy snow fall.
- Pros: Extra wide clearance and snow cut depth, powerful engines.
- Cons: Large footprints, high emissions, very noisy engines.
Now you are all set – you’re practically an expert in what characteristics make the best snow blowers better than all the rest. When you start shopping for your new snow blower, whether it is a small electric snow shovel or a big, powerful two-stage snow blower, you will know exactly what to look for to make sure you are getting the very best there is to offer.