Snow Blowing - What you need to know 

If you own a home, snow blowing is usually the best option to clear the driveway, walkways and paths.  You can remove the majority of the wintry mix with the machine and finish up with a shovel as necessary.  In most situations, it will handle 95% of your clean-up.

Gearing up to use your machine

As I always say, preparation is key.  You can take certain steps to make the job easy on yourself or you can do it the hard way.  I prefer to make it easy on myself.  You will find job you do is better and you don't waste precious time.

  • Be sure you read the manual before using the snow blower.  The owner's manual is a great resource. It covers everything from A to Z ( machine assembly, how to operate machine, machine safety, necessary adjustments to the machine and maintenance). If you have a problem with the machine, you can even trouble shoot the problem.  This step you do not want to skip.
  • If you have a machine that requires gas, fill the gas tank before you begin.  It is best to put fresh gas in the machine each time you use it. You do not want to be in the middle of snow removal and have to stop to refuel.  
  • Check the oil.  You want to make sure the oil level is right.  By taking care of your machine properly, you ensure that it does the proper job and it lasts for many years. This is an expensive piece of equipment, you don't want to have to replace it any time soon.
  • Make sure you have on the proper clothing.  You want to layer your clothing and be sure that you don't have loose fitting clothing on. You don't want the machine to catch your pant leg because it is baggy.  Don't forget to wear gloves, glasses or goggles to cover your eyes and make sure the shoes you are wearing have the proper traction in the snow.  You don't want to end up under the snow blower, it can cause some serious damage.
  • Adjust the chute so that it throws the snow in the direction your desire. It is best to set the chute so it is throwing the snow in the same direction as the wind.
  • Please make sure you have proper lighting.  Most gas powered 2 stage models actually have headlights.  You can always use the headlights from your car.  Otherwise, turn the lights on around your garage, driveway and walkways. You always want to be able to see what the machine is plowing over.
  • With a hand shovel, I always clear a 3 - 4 foot area by the front door and also by the garage. I do this so it is easier to turn the machine around.  
  • Using the machine, go down one side of the driveway and back up the driveway in straight lines until the entire driveway is finished.  Be sure to change the position of the chute so that it throws the wintry mix whichever direction you want.  You never want it to land where you have already used the snow blower.  You will be doing double the work.
  • Let the machine run when you are done to remove the snow that has built up.
  • Rest often and if you feel any discomfort stop immediately.  If you have a medical problem, don't risk it. Have your son or even a neighborhood child handle the snow removal for you.

Return from Snow Blowing to Snow Removal page

Which snow blowing machine is best for me

Not all machines are right for you.  You should look at several factors when determining which snow blower will suit your needs best.

  • How much snow do we get in a typical year? 
  • How much terrain do I have to cover? Are there only a few sidewalks that will need to be cleared or do I have a long winding driveway?
  • What is the terrain that needs to be cleared like? Is it flat or does it have lots of hills?
  • What is the surface of the driveway/walkway made from (pavement or gravel) ? 
  • How much do you want to spend and do you want to have the added cost of maintaining your machine?

By knowing the answers to these few simple questions, you can determine which machine will best fit your needs.

There are four types of machines available:

  • Single Stage Electric Snow Thrower
  • Single Stage Gas Snow Blower
  • 2 Stage Snow Blower or a 3 Stage Snow Blower
  • Tractor Snow Blower

Single Stage Electric Thrower

More eco-friendly than it's gas counterparts.

Great for small areas that have flat surfaces. Also, good for walkways and decks. Best for snowfalls of  6 to 10 inches depending on your machine. Throws the snow 15-18 inches. 

This machine is not good for gravel surfaces because the auger (which  gathers the snow) touches the surface it is cleaning.

Typically the machine itself is less expensive and it requires little or no maintenance. A middle of the road machine can cost $359 (corded) to $500 (cordless).  If you buy the corded model, make sure the cord is not sold separate from the machine.

It is lighter which means it is easier to maneuver.  Both corded and cordless versions are available.  The corded versions, you are limited by the length of the cord. If you use an extension cord, be sure it is made for outside use.

The machine is quiet, unlike it's gas powered rivals.   

Requires very little room to store the machine.

Single Stage Gas Powered Thrower

Great for mid-sized driveways that have flat surfaces.  Best for snowfalls of less than 10 inches. Throws snow 20 - 22 inches.

This machine is not good for gravel surfaces because the auger (which  gathers the snow) touches the surface it is cleaning.

The machine is more expensive than it's electric counterpart. A middle of the road machine will cost around $400 - $500.

You must use gas and oil to run the machine.  Maintenance of the machine is also required.  

There are old school 2 cycle machines where you have to mix the right amount of gas and oil.  Most are 4 cycle machines where all you do is fill the tank with gas and put oil directly into the engine.

It is heavier than it's electric rival and tends to be noisy.

Can purchase models that are either electric start or have a pull cord.

There are several chute options. Manual chute where you walk around the machine to change the direction of the chute.  There are also models with a lever you move backwards and forwards to move the chute. Lastly, there are models with a "quick shoot" which have a trigger you slide up and down to move the direction of the chute.

2 Stage Gas Powered Blower

Great for longer and wide driveways. Good for snowfalls in excess of 8 inches.  Throws the snow 28 - 30 inches. This is a heavy duty machine that can also break-up and remove ice from the surface of the ground.

Good on gravel driveways because the auger doesn't actually make contact with the ground.  The Auger gathers the snow and the Impeller throws the snow.

The machine is more expensive than it's electric counterpart.   A middle of the road machine can cost $599 - $1,200.

You must use gas and oil to run the machine.  Maintenance of the machine is also required.

Typically has 4 speeds and always has an electric start.  A "trigger drive release"  for the chute makes the machine easier to maneuver.

The majority have halogen headlights.  Make clearing your driveway and sidewalks at night and early in the morning easier.

There are two different chute styles. Crank controlled chute which allows you to manually adjust the chute right or left from behind the machine. Lever controlled chute gives you more control over the direction the snow is thrown and requires less physical effort on your part.

Interlocking controls allows you to lock down one of the 2 control handles which frees one of your hands to adjust the speed of the machine or control the discharge chute while the machine is moving.

3 Stage machines are available. These machines have 2 heavy duty steel augers.  This machine offers increased efficiency and moves 50% more snow than it's 2 stage counterpart.

Tractor Mounted Snow Blower

Heavy duty clearing so great for large areas and sloping driveways.

Quick snow, ice & slush removal.

Typically 57 inches wide and fits on a tractor or a lawn tractor.

Can be purchased with or without an electric lift.

Expensive - The snow blower is an attachment for your tractor or lawn tractor.  The snow blower and the tractor / lawn tractor are sold separately.  A middle of the road attachment will cost you between $1,250 and $1,500. Be sure the model you purchase will mount on the brand tractor / lawn tractor you own. 

Snow thrown in a 25 - 40 foot parabolic arc.

Return from Snow Blowing to Lawncare Home Page

Snow Removal - Using a Snowblower

It has been a very cold and snow winter in the Chicago Area.  I personally use a 2 stage snow blower. It is a Husqvarna that was approximately $1,100 about 5 years ago.

Tip from the Snow Removal Guru

If you are buying a new snow blower and don't want to mess around with putting it together, consider this....... For a nominal fee, your local hardware store or home remodeling store may put the machine together for you before the machine leaves the store.  If you opt for this convenience, be prepared to get the assembled machine home from the store.