Electric Snow Blower Buying Guide
One of my favorite things about winter is sitting in front of the fire in my living room, with a heavy sweater and a warm beverage, and watching snow falling in my front yard. It is a very relaxing, cozy experience, and it’s one I hope all of my readers in more northerly areas also get to enjoy. And I have lots of fond memories of building snowmen and snow forts when I was younger, and enjoying winter fun like sledding and skiing with my family. There is also nothing quite like enjoying a white Christmas, with a quiet blanket of beautiful snow carpeting the outside world.
On the other hand, I do not have such fond memories when it comes to clearing my driveway, however. For many years I used an old-fashioned snow shovel to clear snow from my property. While this was a great workout and was just fine when I was younger, it often left me with sore muscles and an aching back. Switching over to using a snow blower instead was one of the best decisions I made. Now I am able to clear my driveway in about half the time it use to take, and that means I am back indoors in front of that cozy fire all the more quickly.
If you have a short, paved driveway, an electric snow blower can take a lot of the work out of keeping your property clear without costing too much money. Electric snow blowers are available as single-stage units only. That means that the auger – the piece that scoops up the snow – will make contact with the ground surface as it passes over it. So if your driveway is not paved, or if it is covered with gravel, an electric single-stage snow blower will not be right for you. There is a danger that the auger will scoop up gravel or other detritus as it passes over it and fling it along with snow out the chute.
Electric snow blowers are also not particularly ideal for longer driveways, as they tend to be limited in their range as well as in the size of their auger and intake height. But for walkways and smaller driveways and decks, electric snow blowers can be just about perfect. And if you live in an area of the United States that does not receive very heavy snow storms during the winter, an electric snow blower will provide all of the snow clearing power you need to keep your driveway clear of snow.
Electric snow blowers have auger widths that range from about 12 to 18 inches. While this will not be sufficient to clear bigger driveways efficiently, it is enough to get smaller areas cleared quickly. And they have intake heights of about ten inches, which will allow them to clear moderate accumulations of snow. They range in price from extremely affordable smaller models to more expensive, larger units. All electric snow blowers are single-stage, and their engines range from around 12 amps up to 20 amps.
1. Electric Snow Blower is a Good Buyer’s Choice
These days, more and more consumers are finding ways they can reduce their overall carbon footprint, as they become more aware of the effects carbon emissions are having on the environment. This is evident from the increasing popularity of hybrid cars in the driveway and energy efficient appliances in the home; many consumers are choosing to switch to electric lawn mowers as well. Gas powered appliances produce a significant amount of the carbon emissions and other pollution produced by households in the United States, and switching to electric appliances can go a long way to reducing your family’s environmental impact. For the same reasons that these are popular, electric snow blowers are becoming increasingly popular as well.
If you do not have a particularly long driveway, or if you only need to keep walkways or a deck clear of snow, an electric snow blower can provide all of the snow clearing power you need without requiring gas or producing any harmful carbon emissions. These energy efficient machines also do not give off stinky gasoline fumes while you are using them, so your winter clothes will not smell after you are finished clearing your driveway or walkways with one.
The fact that they run on electric power will not only help reduce your household’s carbon footprint, but will also reduce the amount of money you will have to spend clearing snow from your property. As gas prices continue to skyrocket, switching to electric power is a great choice if you are able to. The amount of money an electric snow blower can save you over the years on fuel costs is considerable, and after a few years you may find that it will have practically paid for itself.
In addition, electric snow blowers require a lot less maintenance than gas powered snow blowers. There are no spark plugs that need changing or air filters that need cleaning. That also means more savings for your household budget. All you have to pay for once you have purchased an electric snow blower is the modest price of electricity. You will also never have to deal with changing the oil, which can be a messy and difficult process. And you will not have to keep smelly gas cans or oil rags in your garage. Furthermore, electric snow blowers are much easier to get started than many gas powered snow blowers. You will not have to rely on pulling a heavy recoil starter cord to get an electric snow blower: you simply plug it in, push a start button and you’re off.
Electric snow blowers have a considerably smaller overall footprint than most gas powered snow blowers, which means you will find it much easier to find storage space in your garage or tool shed for one. And because they are smaller, they are ideal for clearing smaller walkways that a bigger snow blower could not negotiate as easily. Then again, even if you do have a medium sized driveway, you can definitely still clear moderate snow accumulation with an electric snow blower without losing too much efficiency or speed. While you will probably have to make a few more passes with a smaller electric snow blower than you would with a big gas powered two-stage snow blower, on a one- or two-car driveway that isn’t very long, an electric snow blower will be able to do the job just as well.
Electric snow blowers are considerably quieter than gas powered snow blowers, which can be very advantageous if you have neighbors. You can never predict when a snow storm is going to move into your area, and you may have to clear overnight snowfall early in the morning before you can get your car out of the garage and get on your way to work. A gas powered snow blower is going to be fairly loud, and so you may wind up disturbing your neighbors’ sleep if you are using one very early in the morning. But with a quieter electric snow blower, you can clear snow at any time of day or night without worrying about its noise level. That provides a significant amount of convenience in terms of keeping your property clear of snow whenever you need to do so.
Electric snow blowers can typically clear a path from 12 to 20 inches wide. Depending on their engine and overall size, they can clear between two hundred and eight hundred pounds of snow every minute. And they can generally throw snow around 25 feet. That is more than enough snow removal ability and throwing distance to efficiently clear most walkways and decks as well as the average suburban driveway. Experts recommend that you clear your driveway in back and forth rows from one end to the other, with the chute facing to one side as you do so. Another technique is to clear the driveway in a diagonal pattern while throwing the snow in front of the snow blower as you do so. The method you choose will depend upon the size and shape of your driveway as well as how far your electric snow blower is able to throw snow through its chute in either forward or side settings.
Not only does an electric snow blower save you money on fuel and maintenance costs over the long term, it will also tend to save you a lot of money on the initial purchase price. Single-stage electric snow blowers tend to be considerably less expensive than either single-stage or two-stage gas powered snow blowers, which can be as much as five times as expensive. If you do not have a very long or unpaved driveway, and if you are only responsible for about a two car driveway, a few short walkways, or a deck, a low-budget electric snow blower can be just right for your needs. By switching to an electric snow blower, you will not only be doing your part to help save the environment; you will be doing a lot to save your household budget as well.
2. Electric Snow Blower Buying Specifications
2a. Auger width and intake height
When you are shopping for a new electric snow blower, auger width and intake height are going to be two of the most important buying specifications to consider. The auger is the part of the snow blower that scoops up the snow and throws it through the chute. A wider auger will allow you to clear your driveway, walkway or deck in fewer passes. That means you will have to spend less time out in the cold and inclement weather while you are doing so, which is not only far more convenient but better for your health and safety as well.
Intake height determines how heavy the snow accumulation that a snow blower can deal with will be. Higher intake heights mean a snow blower will be able to handle heavier snowfall. Of course, electric snow blowers are limited in the height of the intake they can support, which is why they are ideal for areas that do not get heavy snowfall too frequently. But if you can afford a higher intake height, you should opt for it, as it will increase the range of snow accumulation you can deal with. That will keep you from having to repeatedly clear snow as it accumulates.
2b. Plug in or cordless?
While the vast majority of electric snow blowers still require the user to find an outdoor outlet and plug in an extension cord, there are some models available that run on batteries. Most cordless models run on lithium ion batteries. There are advantages and drawbacks to both. Cordless electric snow blowers will help to extend the range of the machine, since you will not be limited by the length of your extension cords. You also will not have to worry about accidentally running over an extension cord that is hidden under the snow, which can be a considerable safety hazard if you aren’t careful.
At the same time, you have to make sure that the batteries for a cordless electric snow blower are fully charged if there is any chance of a snow storm, which can be somewhat inconvenient. If there is a sudden snow storm and you have a plug-in electric snow blower, all you have to do is grab an extension cord and you’re ready to go. If you’re using a cordless electric snow blower and you experience heavy snow accumulation that forces you to make multiple trips to the driveway, there is a risk that the battery could die after repeated use.
2c. Amperage load of the snow blower
A number of plug in electric snow blowers have increased amperage loads these days, which has benefits as well as certain drawbacks. The increased amp load allows these snow blowers to support wider augers and taller intake heights, and it also gives them the kind of power necessary to scoop up and throw wetter snow. If you are using your electric snow blower on a medium sized driveway, the extra few inches of auger width will allow you to finish the job a lot more quickly, which can be considerably advantageous. And the taller intake height means you can let more snow accumulate before you go outside to clear your driveway.
But increased amperage loads can be somewhat problematic depending on what kind of outlets you have in your yard or driveway. These days, most breaker boxes are designed to handle a 20 amp load, and dedicated breaker switches will trip if the box reaches 80% of its capacity. Because of this limit, an electric snow blower with more than a 15 amp load may run the risk of blowing a fuse, especially if you are running other appliances on that breaker. So be aware of what your outlets can handle when you are shopping for an electric snow blower.
2d. Material durability and overall design
While it is often tempting to look for the most inexpensive product available, especially when you are shopping for new appliances that can run into the hundreds of dollars, the price tag is not the first – or even the last – aspect you should look for. What is more important is the overall design of the product and the durability of the materials that are used to manufacture it. Appliances that are cheaply made or poorly designed will tend to offer poor performance quality and may break down more easily. They will not be able to handle tougher jobs like deeper or heavier snow as well, and you may find that they force you to do more work than they help you with.
Try to avoid electric snow blowers that are made with too many flimsy plastic parts, and if at all possible stay away from those that are made with stamped, rather than fabricated steel parts. Those electric snow blowers that have cast iron gear cases are going to be a bit more expensive than those made with other materials, but it will be worth the added expense in the long run as they will last much longer.
2e. Accessories, control design and wheel size
These three buying specifications are the last but certainly not least that I will cover, as together they will affect your overall experience with the snow blower. Accessories like headlights are very useful, since winter days are very short and you very well may find yourself clearing snow in the dark. Halogen headlights are useful but LED lights work just as well and last longer. The control design will affect your comfort level while you are operating the snow blower. Some snow blowers have controls that are designed to be easy to use while wearing mittens, and snow blowers with easy startup sequences are always more convenient.
The wheel size will affect the snow blower’s ability to handle uneven ground as easily. Bigger wheels will also offer a bit more traction to the snow blower, which will help it to maneuver over icy or slippery surfaces. Although the auger is typically what propels the single-stage snow blower forward, some more expensive models have wheels with drive systems that help propulsion. If you have a sloping driveway, or if you think you may have some difficulty maneuvering the snow blower around your driveway, opting for a snow blower with a drive system can be helpful.