A shovel is a handy tool for snow removal, but sometimes it’s just not enough. Unless you have a tiny area to clean up, you’ll want a snowblower to do the job It makes the work easier and quicker. That saves you a lot of body aches and may even let you sleep later. But choosing the best snowblower for your needs can be a headache. There are several types and lots of features.
Here we’ll look at the basics that can guide you when choosing a snowblower. You’ll be able to narrow down the type of machine you need. That will at least get you to the point where you only need to choose among models.
Factors To Consider When Choosing A Snowblower
There are a couple of things to keep in mind before deciding on this piece of equipment. It’s a bit of an investment, so you want to be sure to get one that will work for you.
The first consideration is how much snow you normally get. Areas that get just a few inches have different needs than those that get storms with a foot or more of snow. And different types of snowblowers will work best depending on the depth of snow. A larger blower will be fine with lesser amounts of the white stuff. But if that’s all the snow you ever get, it would be overkill.
Another factor is the type of snow you expect. A more basic model will do fine with powdery stuff but can’t handle wet stuff. A mid-range snowblower is useful for wet or dry snow. But if you normally find that you’re breaking up ice in the mix, you may need to choose a more powerful model.
You should also keep your terrain in mind when choosing your snowblower. While this doesn’t have as much to do with the basic snowblower types, you may want one that can maneuver around obstacles and handle slopes.
Types Of Snowblower
Snowblowers come in three major types: single-stage, two-stage, and three-stage. All three use augers to blow the snow out of the way.
A single-stage blower has a single auger. Not familiar with an auger? It looks like an oversized screw, and the “threads” catch the snow and hurl it out of the way.
Single-stage blowers are often powered with electricity. They may be plugged in during use or run on a rechargeable battery. They may also be gas-powered.
A single-stage blower is great for snow up to about six inches deep. It also works well with powdery snow. Most, though, would have a hard time with wet snow, since the auger may be able to pick it up but doesn’t have the strength to throw it far.
Since it also has a smaller clearance, it takes longer to cover the same area. You’ll have to make more passes to remove the snow. That’s fine for smaller driveways and sidewalks, but you’ll want something that will get the work done more quickly if you have more space.
Another drawback of a single-stage blower is that it’s not suitable for use on gravel driveways or paths. The auger sits low and will pick up gravel along with the snow.
A two-stage, or dual-stage, snowblower is a bit more powerful. It still has one auger, but there is also an impeller. This addition helps shoot the snow further – that means it lands in the middle of the lawn instead of just the other side of the driveway! Most impellers will shoot the snow 20 to 50 feet, perhaps even more.
A typical two-stage snowblower can handle snow about a foot deep. Most also do a pretty good job with wet snow, although they can’t be used once it starts to freeze over.
Most two-stage snowblowers are gas-powered, but there are a few models that run on batteries.
They are also generally self-propelled. That means less strain trying to push it around.
These are also generally wider than their single-stage counterparts, which means you can get the job done quicker. Also, the auger doesn’t touch the ground. That means it’s fine to use on a gravel driveway.
Of course, these more powerful machines are also heavier and more costly than single-stage models.
If you need the most power out of your snowblower, you may want a three-stage model. These gas-powered systems will help you get rid of the deepest snow even if it’s a bit icy. And it will do it over larger areas at faster speeds. Many consumer resources don’t even discuss this type since it’s generally suited for more commercial applications.
While augers may take different forms, a three-stage machine generally has two augers – a large one and a smaller one that rotates faster. This helps it handle ice and slush. Of course, it also includes an impeller.
It can toss snow about 50 feet and is suitable for hard surfaces or gravel.
Like the two-.stage, it will make quick work of light or wet snow. It can handle both deep snow and heavier snow.
These have a wide clearance and are self-propelled, making it easier to get the work done.
A three-stage snowblower is a major investment, but if you have a lot of space to clear and the snow tends to be heavy or icy, it can be worthwhile.
No snow blower will perfectly scrape the snow and ice to ground level. You’ll likely still need to use ice melt to finish the job.
Features to Consider
Besides the stages, there are other options you can look for in a snowblower that can greatly improve your “quality of life” while using your machine.
If you opt for a gas-powered version, it’s much easier if it has an electric starting. Some are battery-powered, but most have to be plugged in to start. After that, the power cord can be disconnected. Of course, you can always use the recoil starter too, but that can be annoying, especially in freezing temperatures.
Another great feature is a convenient control for the chute the snow blows out of. You’ll need to move the chute to keep snow from blowing where you don’t want it. It seems like most snowblowers have two controls to manipulate the chute. However, some allow one-handed control. You want the controls as easy to manipulate as possible! There are remotes as well as joystick controls that make this adjustment easier to make.
A self-propelled model also adds convenience. This will save you a lot of effort and is available in most two- and three-stage snowblowers. A self-propelled snowblower is more difficult to handle than its lawnmower counterpart. But it’s a huge advantage over having to exert all the energy yourself.
To make maneuvering your machine even easier, you want to model that has drive disengagement. You probably won’t need (or find) this on a single-stage unit, but it’s a huge help with the heavier machines. It lets you lock one wheel in place while the other is free, letting you more easily make turns.
At first read, you might think a headlight for your snowblower is overkill. But it’s a great feature to have! Winter days are short. You’ll often be clearing snow in the evening or early morning. And even during the day, you may be clearing while snow is blowing or still falling.
Don’t let the snow be all about work! Take time to build a snowman, too! We’ve even got a short guide!
You’ll want to wear gloves, of course, but heated handgrips are another fantastic idea that some snowblowers offer. They’ll make the work just a bit more comfortable.
Sometimes snow can jam the auger. You’ll want to use something to clear it out. But even if the mower is off, it’s dangerous to put your hand inside since the auger may still turn when the obstruction is cleared. Some snowblowers include a pole to help clean out the jam, and the pole can be mounted on the chassis.
If you live in a region that often lives with snow, a snowblower can make life easier. Still, it’s important to choose one that offers the right level of power and provides features that will make it easier to use. Fortunately, there are a lot of great models out there to meet any need! The best thing to do is to educate yourself and check out our reviews of various models that will serve you well.