When choosing a snow blower for residential use, you should consider the offerings on the market from the varied manufacturers available. Some advice when evaluating a snowthrower:
Sizing a snowblower
Consider the size of the area you want to clear and the type and frequency of snowfall in the area that it will be used in. A huge snow thrower with a big engine and wide clearing width will be faster in areas that receive lots of storms or deep snowfall. Infrequent or small storm areas can get by with smaller models. You wont find many models with less than a 24 inch clearing width, so use that as a minimum for most situations. Look to upgrade this size for larger areas and more frequent snow storms.
There are two different types of snow throwers: single-stage and two-stage. Two-stage models since these are the more effective for heavy snow- during operation the snow moves through the machine in multiple distinct phases. The auger screw pulls in the snow and the impeller discharges snow through the chute. Single stage snowblowers lack the impeller function.
There are different drive systems available. Some single stage models rely on the auger to provide locomotion, in contrast to higher end models with a dedicated drive system. These higher end models usually offer multi speed operation, which is great when now amounts vary- blast through light snow and go slower for deep or packed snow. The method that power is provided also something to consider – drive belts snap sometimes. Chain drives are better. Gear drives offer good torque and have less problems, but are more expensive.
Most mid- to high end models run on gasoline, but there are electric models on the market. You should only consider electric models for the smallest areas and the lightest snowfalls.
- Headlight- Great to have on a snowblower, not only can you see what you are doing, but provides additional visibility to others around you.
- Heated handles – Nice to have, but chances are the operator is wearing gloves anyway. Consider heated handles if you plan on using the snowblower for long periods of time.
- Electric start- One feature you really want. When it gets really cold, electric start can be the difference between a clear driveway and an expensive paperweight.
- Power steering – Nice to have if you need to make a lot of turns or are working in hard to maneuver areas.
- Drift cutters- Makes large piles of snow easier to manage, but unless you see high banks often, they may not be necessary.
- Large fuel tanks- great for extended operation, but most residential snowblowers don’t need a huge tank.
- Big tires- Good for traction and stability. The larger the engine, the larger the tires needed.
- Tank treads- mostly seen on the largest of snowblowers, and probably overkill for most – but very cool.
- Wide chute range – The ability to control snow output is paramount to operation, so having as many height, angle and orientation options is something to look for.
Many manufacturers offer a residential warranty of at least 2 years, and have a clause for commercial use of a shorter period. Depending on your small engine repair skills, you may feel comfortable with a shorter warranty period. Chances are you will be using that warranty at some point, which brings up another factor- replacement parts availability. Make sure that your replacement parts will be available when you need them- not when you are snowed in and the shear pins you need are at an Internet vendor 4 states away. Make sure you have the bear minimums on hand at all times.
You will find that many snowblowers are actually made by another company – MTD makes Yard Machine and Club Cadet brands, for example. Pick one that you know is a decent name and one that is sold locally, even if you do not buy it from the local store.
A good snowblower can make life easier, and some may feel its fun to throw some horsepower at Mother Nature. Choose a good machine that is sized for your situation, has the feature you need and will last – and you won’t regret your decision.