Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Snow Blowers for Gravel Driveways

For those with gravel driveways, you know it can be a real pain to remove snow after a winter storm.  Shovels and plows can kick up rocks, and you don't want to destroy your beautiful gravel driveway with a snow blower either.  The advantage that some snow blowers possess by clearing all the way down to the pavement become a disadvantage when blowing snow from a gravel driveway.

Electric snow blowers and single stage snow blowers feature rubber or plastic augers that make contact with the ground when running.  While this means that you'll have a nice clean driveway, you'll also be flinging rocks across your yard & at your house if you're using one on gravel.

Two stage snow blowers have steel augers that do not make contact with the ground.  This leaves a thin layer of snow behind, and the skid shoes can be adjusted to keep the leftovers to a minimum.  This also means that there will be clearance room for the rocks and stones that make up your gravel driveway.  Ariens snow blowers are extremely popular in the two stage category, and they have 22 models in 2014 ranging from about $800 to over $3000 for professional models.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Electric Snow Blowers vs. Gas Snow Blowers

The type of power you choose for your snow blower will depend upon the type of snow you receive and your application.  Much like other pieces of power equipment, gas and electric snow blowers both have their advantages and disadvantages.

For areas where snow storms will typically only bring a couple inches of snow, an electric snow blower will serve you just fine.  What makes them even better in this scenario is that they are pretty   
Snow Joe ION18SB
Snow Joe iON Snow Blower
much maintenance free – no oil, no gas, no tune ups – just make sure the machine is free of snow before storage to prevent any parts from freezing.

Using an electric snow blower to clean up after a major snow storm will be quite a hassle, and in this case, what were their advantages become their disadvantages.  It’s great that they are lightweight, but if you have a heavy snow fall, electric snow blowers will tend to ride up the snow instead of blow through it.  This can even compact the snow further, and a vicious cycle of underpowered & under-weighted attempts at clearing snow begins. 

This is where gas snow blowers step in.  The extra depth and weight of the snow requires a gas powered engine and a step up in auger & auger housing capability.  There are 3 main types of gas snow blowers – single stage, two-stage, and three-stage – each a step up in performance and capability.  A single stage snow blower can handle up to about a foot of snow, but if that’s what you are frequently receiving, it will be a struggle. 

Cub Cadet 3526SWE
Cub Cadet 3 Stage Snow Blower
At this point you should step up to a two stage, because if you’re getting a lot of 12” snowfalls, you’ll probably receiving snowfalls above that as well, and you’ll need the extra height, width, and power.  Three stage snow blowers employ an additional forward facing auger that is capable of chewing through heavy, icy snow mixes typically left at the end of driveways by city plows..  If you find yourself muscling through this mass of snow, a three stage snow blower will serve you well.
Toro 38361
Toro Power Shovel

Some people will employ both types of snow blowers to finish clearing snow at their home.  Because of their light weight and maneuverability, an electric snow blower is great for large patios, long staircases, and hard to reach areas.  Weighing in at only 13 pounds, the Toro Power Shovel is perfect for this.  Patios constructed of pavers or wood planks can also catch the edge of a snow shovel, causing them to chip.  The softer rubber paddle will clear all the way down without catching edges, preserving your patio.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Plow it Yourself: Residential Snow Plow Options

Meyer Home Plow
If you're looking for a new way to clear snow from your home, a snow plow can be a great option to takeover or compliment what you're doing now.  Most people think of municipal or commercial trucks driving through their neighborhoods clearing the streets leaving it safe for drivers.  However, there are a variety of ways for the typical homeowner to employ the use of plow blades to cut down on time spent clearing snow.  Snow plows come in all shapes and sizes.  Depending on the equipment you already own, you have several options to strap on a plow – riding mowers, ATVs, snow blowers, or your own personal car or truck.

Tractor Snow Plow Blade
A commonly used option is attaching a plow blade to your riding mower. If you have a large enough area to clear that you're considering a plow, chances are you have a lawn you're already mowing with a zero turn mower or lawn tractor.  So why not make the most of that riding mower?  These plow blades require the installation of a sub frame, but many consumer grade models include this with the blade; larger garden tractors may require a separate purchase.  They start at around $310; a good investment to get the most out of your riding mower (as opposed to having it sit in the garage all winter).

Another great way to get more use out of the equipment you already own is by attaching a plow blade to your ATV or UTV.  ATV snow plows require mounting kits, but some manufacturers include them with the plow blade.  Given the additional power, traction, and ruggedness provided by an ATV, they are a little more versatile than going the tractor mount route. Many of these have the ability to be used year round, so you can also move dirt and gravel in spring, summer, and fall.

Two-stage snow blowers are great at removing lots of snow in a short amount of time.  However, they do not clear all the way down to the pavement, leaving a small layer of snow.  Conversely, when there is only a small amount of snowfall, a two stage snow blower loses its effectiveness by not being able to pull in all the snow.  In comes the slush plow, which attaches to the front of a two stage and utilizes the snow blower’s drive system to effectively produce a self-propelled snow plow.  This setup works very well for moving snow and slush up to 5 inches.

Residential snow plows are gaining in popularity with expanded compatibility, increased ease of use, and a competitive market driving down costs.  Some manufacturers like Meyer Home Plow have plow blade setups not much unlike what you’ll find the commercial guys using, apart from the durability (these are not designed for commercial use).  But if you have a lot of driveway to clear, they are a huge time saver.

Nordic Auto Plow

Another option is one of the more innovative inventions of late when it comes to snow plow blades, the Nordic Auto Plow line.  These plows are designed to simplify the process and create a more universally fitting product that does not require hitches or hydraulics for installation & use. They utilize straps & hooks to attach to the front or rear of cars & light SUVs (yes, even coupes & sedans).  This is one of the most affordable ways for a homeowner to quickly and easily clear large amounts of snow in a short amount of time.  Running at about $570, a Nordic Auto Plow will be a less expensive option than many 2-stage snow blowers.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The World of Toro Snow Blowers

Let’s introduce you to the world of Toro Snow Blowers.

Toro is based out of Minneapolis, so it’s safe to say they know snow.  They are one of the few snow blower manufacturers that produce the 3 main styles of snow blowers – electric, single stage, and two-stage.  While their two stage models are quality machines, they are best known for their electric and single stage models.
Toro 1800 Power Clear
Toro Electric Snow Blower
Toro electric snow blowers come in three sizes, the 12” Power Shovel, the 15” Power Curve, and the 18” Power Curve.  The Toro Power Shovel is a great tool to have if you only receive very light snowfalls, or for use on stairs, porches, and decks.  The 1500 & 1800 Power Curve models handle more snow than the Power Shovel, and can move between 500-700 pounds of snow per minute.  These models are all suitable for snowfalls of 4 inches & less.  The Toro 1800 Power Curve is the most popular of these models.

Toro 518ZE
Toro Single Stage

Toro single stage snow blowers are gas powered and can handle more snow than their electric powered counterparts.  They come in 18” & 21” sizes, each size with a few options for electric start & chute styles.  They have slightly redesigned the single stage line up for 2014-2015 to feature larger engines.  In years past, the model numbers looked like “418ZE” & “621QZR” – the models have simply migrated to the larger engine sizes, so “418ZE” is now “518ZE”, and the “621QZR” is now “721QZR.”  The perennial pick in this lineup is the Toro 518ZE (formerly 418ZE).

Toro 826OXE
Toro 2-Stage

If you’re looking for a little more power to help you conquer the snow, consider a two-stage Toro snowblower.  With features like an anti-clogging system to regulate snow intake, commercial gear case to withstand stress & eliminate need for shear pins, as well as power steering, these snow blowers are built tough for harsh winters.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Snow Blower Styles

Snow blowers come in all shapes and sizes, but which one is right for you?  There are a few basic types of snow blowers, each serving their own purpose.  On the smaller side, you have electric and single stage gas powered models.  Two-stage and three-stage snow blowers cover the larger options.

Toro 1800 Power Clear
Electric snow blowers are good for light, fluffy snowfalls and are very easy to use and maneuver.  They require no gas or oil, just a long, outdoor rated extension cord.  New to the market are cordless snow blowers from Snow Joe, which are equipped with lithium ion batteries and can run up to 40 minutes on a single charge.  However, if you typically receive snowfalls of more than a few inches, or have wet, heavy snow, you’ll probably want to move up to a single stage gas powered unit.

Toro 518ZE
A single stage snow blower can handle heavier snowfalls than electric models, typically up to 6 inches.  While not great at handling really wet & heavy snow, they will be able to handle the majority of moderate snowfalls.  Toro snow blowers are very popular in the single stage category, and have a wide range of options to meet your needs, including electric start, quick chute and the Power Propel drive system.

Ariens Deluxe 28+
2-stage snow blowers can handle the heavy stuff.  They feature metal augers capable of powering through heavy, wet snowfalls up to 18 inches.  Ariens snow blowers are the leaders in the 2-stage category, and offer one of the largest selections on the market.  They cover everything from basic models with just the necessities, to professional grade models with all the bells & whistles.
Cub Cadet 3526SWE

3-stage snow blowers are capable of grinding through the compacted snow & ice left at the end of the driveway by city plows.  They feature an extra forward facing auger for drilling through the tough stuff.  Cub Cadet snow blowers are the only 3 stage models on the market, and produce a few different sizes that even include a track drive model for 2014-2015.