Which Snowblower is Right For You
Thinking about buying a snowblower this year? You might want to do it sooner than later. Consider these points:
Yes, the stores are fully stocked with the machines now. Yes, I know you're waiting for a better sale. But all it takes is one good snowstorm to turn snowblowers into the equivalent of this year's golden toy -- y'know the one that every child MUST have, but consequently can't be found --- anywhere!
That's an extreme scenerio, I know, but it can happen --- and it's not fun.
Regardless, even with a winter on par with normal snowfall records, it's a simple fact that the earlier you shop, the bigger selection you'll find. This will give you an opportunity to choose the best snowblower for your needs, instead of settling for a huge higher-priced model just because it's there.
So, if you don't want to spend more than you have to for a snow thrower, don't just do your homework --- do it early.
What Size Model to Buy
When deciding on what size model you should buy, determine how much area you'll be clearing around your home, and the amount and type of snow (wet, fluffy) typical for your region.
The larger snowblowers on the market can clear up to 18 inches of snow from long driveways and small parking lots, while power shovels are for moving small amounts of snow from decks and short sidewalks.
For an average suburban home with a driveway and sidewalk, a single-stage snowthrower is the way to go. They are relatively lightweight and affordable, and are capable of handling up to 8" of snow. Although technically not self-propelled, the auger (shaped like a corkscrew) moves the machine along with it's rotating action as it scoops up snow and throws it through the chute.
Most single-stage snowblower engines run on a mixture of oil and gas. And most have a crank starter. An electric starter can be added for a fee, but one should consider the pros and cons. Aside from the added cost, having to rely on an electric cord can be a hassle for some people. Today's new models have better and more efficient pull starters, in fact some manufactures guarantee it. On the other hand, electric starters might be a necessity for some people with physical limitations, including senior citizens.
There are some tough trade-offs when deciding between electric and gas-powered snowblowers. Electric snowblowers and power shovels are the best choice for porches, decks, or small sidewalks. However, they do begin to lose power with an extension cord longer than 100 feet. (Make sure you get an extension cord intended for outdoor use.) On the other hand, not having to worry about gas or oil makes your electric snow thrower virtually maintenance free. Their small size is helpful if storage room is a problem. But being less powerful than gas-powered snowblowers, your electric model may have problems with snowfalls over 6 inches. Again, you must take into consideration the amount of snowfall you typically get as well as the area you have to clear.
Two-Stage Snow Throwers
The more rugged and powerful (and thus more expensive) "two-stage" snow throwers have a spinning "impeller" located behind the auger which takes the snow collected by the auger and pushes it through the chute at a faster rate. Thus, more snow can be moved in a more efficient manner, allowing two-stage throwers to handle deeper snow and larger areas. Depending on the make and model, you can find 'clearing widths' up to 36 inches.
In addition, two-stage models possess wheels that are powered by the engine. The fronts of the machines ride on metal plates commonly referred to as skids, which keeps the auger from touching the surface. These skids can be adjusted for clearing height giving two-stage snow throwers the ability to handle almost any surface.
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