An electric snow shovel is a machine that is designed to take the majority of the work out of clearing light snow fall from smaller spaces such as porch stairs, short walkways, patios and decks. Shoveling snow by hand is not only a tedious and tiring job, it can also be dangerous: the task sends more than ten thousand adults and children to emergency rooms every year. Manually shoveling snow can cause back and shoulder strain, but it also increases the workload put on the heart and cardiovascular system and along with cold temperatures, it increases the chances of a heart attack for individuals who are at risk.
For seniors especially, and adults in general, using an electric snow shovel instead of clearing snow manually can go a long way towards reducing health risks during the winter. And on a lighter note, an electric snow shovel will make clearing snow off your deck, sidewalk or porch stairs much easier and faster – so much so that it will be an almost enjoyable experience.
Electric snow shovels come in a variety of styles and sizes, but they all work on the same basic principle. As you move the electric snow shovel forward, a plastic auger scoops up snow and flings it forward – usually about fifteen or twenty feet forward. This gets rid of the need to bend over and scoop up snow yourself, let alone throw it. Clearing snow is practically as easy as vacuuming a rug with an electric snow shovel.
Unlike snow blowers, which tend to be rather heavy and have larger dimensions, electric snow shovels are comparatively very light and quite compact. The majority of electric snow shovels weigh less than 20 pounds, and they have small enough overall dimensions that you can easily find enough storage space for them in a hall closet or in your front foyer. That way, they are always easily at hand, and you can start clearing snow right out of your door, instead of trekking through it to the garage or tool shed.
Electric snow shovels generally have clearance widths of around twelve inches. This makes them wide enough to efficiently clear small spaces, but they quickly become less efficient in larger areas such as big driveways or very long sidewalks. If you have a driveway that is more than thirty feet long and wide enough for two cars or more, and electric snow shovel may not be efficient enough to get the job done.
Along the same lines, electric snow shovels have snow cut depths that are generally around six to eight inches. This makes them well equipped to handle light snow fall, but less able to handle deeper accumulations. If you live in a region that regularly gets snow storms that drop more than six inches at a time, an electric snow shovel may not be able to reliably keep your property clear. But if you live in a region that gets regular light snow fall, and you do not have a particularly large area to keep clear, and electric snow shovel may be perfect for your needs.
1. Electric Snow Shovel Selection Criterias
The clearance width and snow cut depth will be two of the most important factors determining the overall performance of your electric snow shovel. These two measurements largely determine how quickly and efficiently you will be able to use your electric snow shovel to clear snow from your deck, patio or sidewalk. The clearance width describes how wide a path the snow shovel can clear on a single pass, and the snow cut depth describes how deep snow can get before the electric snow shovel is no longer able to efficiently deal with it.
The clearance width on electric snow shovels is generally about twelve inches, although different models’ clearance widths may fluctuate slightly around this. The clearance width of an electric snow shovel affects how quickly and efficiently you will be able to clear an area; an electric snow shovel with a wider clearance will be able to clear a given area in fewer passes than one with a narrower clearance. When you are looking at clearance widths on electric snow shovels, it is important to note how wide the overall dimensions of the shovel are and compare them to the clearance width of the auger.
Some electric snow shovels have overall dimensions that are several inches wider than the clearance width of the auger. This can present problems if you are using the snow shovel to clear porch stairs, or if you are clearing a walkway or deck that comes up against a fence or wall. If the overall width of the snow shovel is considerably wider than the auger, you will wind up with a few inches of snow that cannot be cleared easily. This can be frustrating on walkways, but it can be a safety issue on stairs if you are unable to sufficiently clear snow from them.
The snow cut depth on most electric snow shovels ranges from about four inches all the way up to 6 1/2 inches or more. Generally speaking, a taller snow cut depth is better on an electric snow shovel. While this is not always the case for larger machines such as single-stage and two-stage snow blowers, in which higher snow cut depths dramatically increases the overall size and weight of the machine, the same rules do not apply to electric snow shovels. Snow shovels with higher snow cut depths usually do not have much larger dimensions or weight than those with smaller snow cut depths, although they may be somewhat more expensive.
The overall dimensions and weight of the electric snow shovel are also important considerations. Most electric snow shovels have dimensions that make them small enough to be fairly easy to find storage space for them in a hall closet or front vestibule. This is extremely useful during the winter months because it means you will not have to walk out to your garage or tool shed in the middle of a snow storm to get your electric snow shovel out. Instead, you can plug your snow shovel in inside the house and start clearing snow right out of your front door. This allows you to keep your deck and porch stairs clear more safely, because you will not have to be negotiating them in slippery snow.
As I mentioned in the section on clearance width, it is important to make sure the overall size of the electric snow shovel is not too much wider than that of the auger. It is also important to make sure the overall height of the snow shovel is neither too tall nor too short for your own height. You do not want to have a snow shovel that is not tall enough for you, since that will wind up making you hunch over it to use it, which can bring the problem of back and shoulder strain right back before you know it.
The weight of the electric snow shovel is also an important consideration to keep in mind while you are comparing models. While most electric snow shovels are not particularly heavy, you want to make sure you do not get one that weighs too much to be maneuverable. This is especially true if you intend to use your electric snow shovel to clear steps, since you will have to be lifting it from one step to another.
If you are an older person like I am, or if you do not have the kind of strength and ability necessary to be lifting a big, twenty pound machine from one step to the next, you should make an effort to find a lighter machine. You do not want to be attempting to use a snow shovel that is too heavy for you on slippery, snowy stairs, as this could present obvious safety issues. This is an area in which it is definitely acceptable to sacrifice clearance width or snow cut depth for a lighter, smaller machine.
The next important consideration when you are comparing electric snow shovels is the size and power of the motor. Motors on electric snow shovels can range from about 6 amps all the way up to 13.5 amps or more. The size and power of the snow shovel’s motor will affect a number of other features on the snow shovel. More powerful motors are generally bigger and heavier than less powerful ones, and therefore usually require a snow shovel to have larger overall dimensions to support them, and also usually add a few extra pounds to the overall weight of the machine.
More powerful motors also obviously draw more power from whatever outlet they are plugged into. While this is generally not much of a concern when you are using an electric snow shovel, it is important to make sure you are being careful about the kind of load you are putting on the circuit breaker. While modern circuit breakers are able to easily support loads of up to about 16 amperes, older circuit breakers are not designed for these kinds of loads. Also, garages often do not have the kind of wiring necessary to support big amperage loads. Before you purchase an electric snow shovel with a particularly powerful motor, make sure the circuit you intend to use it on is designed to support the amount of power it will be drawing.
The major advantage of purchasing an electric snow shovel with a bigger, more powerful motor is that it will be able to support a wider auger – giving it a higher clearance width – and also have a higher snow cut depth, making it better equipped to handle heavier snow fall. But two other important areas the motor’s power affects are the per-minute snow clearance capacity and the distance the electric snow shovel can throw snow.
Per-minute clearance capacity measures how many pounds of snow an electric snow shovel can clear, and on these machines they range from about 250 pounds per minute all the way up to 400 or more. The higher the clearance capacity, the faster you can clear heavier snow fall, as it allows you to move the electric snow shovel through deeper snow more quickly. It also makes the shovel better equipped to handle wetter, slushier snow. The distance the shovel can throw snow can be important because these machines typically only throw snow in one direction – forward. The farther you can throw that snow, the less often you will have to go over it, especially on long sidewalks.
There are a number of other features that all fit, more or less, into the overall design of the electric snow shovel. These include the design of the handle, whether there is an external drive system or additional wheels on the machine, how the unit’s cord is designed and whether there are additional accessories such as headlights.
The design of the handle is important for a couple of reasons. You want a handle that is the right size for your height, but because not everyone is the same size, it is best to simply get an electric snow shovel with an adjustable handle. The more adjustable, the better, as that will allow multiple members of your household to all use the electric snow shovel comfortably by setting it to whatever height is most comfortable for them. Handles that are advertised as “ergonomically designed” are often a good buy, as well; at the very least, the manufacturer will have taken steps to make them easier to use, such as padding, or added additional grips on the front of the handle to improve maneuverability.
Almost all electric snow shovels have rear wheels to help improve the machine’s traction and maneuverability, and while most of these are small, some are in fact quite big. Electric snow shovels fall into one of two categories: manual push shovels and self-propelled shovels. Manual push shovels, as the name suggests, require the operator to move them over the surface of the ground. Self-propelled shovels, on the other hand, do a lot of that work themselves.
While the vast majority of self-propelled electric snow shovels rely on the auger to propel the machine forward while it simultaneously scoops up and throws snow, there are a few that have additional drive systems. These are overwhelmingly rear wheel drive systems, which can be quite useful for propelling the electric snow shovel over uneven ground or on surfaces with inclines. If you have a front walk that slopes down to the street, finding a snow shovel with a rear wheel drive can save you a lot of work. At the same time, these generally come at a higher price than auger-driven electric snow shovels.
The cord design is also important: it’s best to have a cord that is a few feet long, has a three-pronged socket, and some sort of locking mechanism to keep the extension cord attached to it. Finally, some machines offer a number of additional features, such as LED headlights, which can prove quite useful as well.
Once you have narrowed down your purchase options for a new electric snow shovel based on the size of its clearance width and height of its snow cut depth, its overall size and weight, clearance capacity, and additional features such as ergonomic design, drive system and accessories, the last thing you have to decide is how much you want to pay for your machine. Fortunately, unlike a lot of other yard machines, this is a relatively simple problem with electric snow shovels.
While the total price for electric snow shovels can range from very affordable all the way up to prices that are comparable with some two-stage snow blowers, I tend to think that if you stick to the lower end of average on the price range, you will be fine. There is no compelling reason to spend a fortune on an electric snow shovel, because when it comes down to it, these machines have fairly similar manufacturing guidelines and rather stringent limitations on their size, power, and performance ability. What I mean by that is that there is a ceiling for clearance capacity and snow cut depth on electric snow shovels that is pretty rigid. As a result, it does not make a lot of sense to spend twice as much on a machine that is going to provide the exact same performance as a less expensive model.
At the same time, that is not to say that you should find the cheapest available model and call it a day. There are certain factors outside of the overall dimensions and clearance capacity of the machine that will directly affect its price. The cheapest machines will have the least powerful motors – but if you only have a small area to clear, and you do not experience very heavy snow fall in your region, you may not need a 13.5 amp motor in your electric snow shovel.
But other factors, such as the overall design and the durability of the machine, as well as the quality of the manufacturing and parts used to assemble it, will affect the price to some degree. You should try to avoid buying the cheapest machine available because it will usually be made with the cheapest parts. As a result you may wind up with an electric snow shovel that is prone to breakdowns after only a year or two. So: as a general rule, don’t buy the cheapest machine, but don’t spend more than the market average, either.