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Electric Snow Blowers, Gas Snow Blowers
Snow Blowers Features
Electric Snow Blowers.Electric snow blowers are designed for relatively light snowfalls and moderate-sized snow-covered areas. They boast several critical advantages, not the least of which are quiet operation, light weight, and low cost.
On the downside, electric snow blowers require a power cord, which means you need access to an outlet and an extension cord intended for outdoor use and the amp rating of the unit. Don't count on going much farther than 150 feet from the power source, though, because at that point the power begins to degrade. Users also caution that you must take care to manage the cord so you don't accidentally run over it. The Toro Power Shovel 38361 and GreenWorks 26032 feature a cord lock that ensures the cord doesn't detach from its socket as you work. The Snow Joe Ultra 622U1 (starting at $168, Amazon) lacks this component and users report on Snow Blowers Direct that vibrations can cause the cord to come unplugged.
Gas Snow Blowers.Gas snow blowers are heavier, noisier, messier, and more expensive than electric snow blowers. Still, they boast certain benefits. Models such as the Toro Power Clear 418ZE (starting at $399, Amazon) and Craftsman 21" 88780 (starting at $500) are more powerful and perform better in heavier, deeper snow. They're also better suited for larger areas because there's nothing to restrict your movement.
But gas snow blowers have their drawbacks. For one, they require ongoing maintenance -- checking and adding fuel and oil throughout the season and cleaning the engine at winter's end. Gas snow blowers with pull-cord starts (picture your lawn mower) can be a bear to power up in extremely cold weather or for anyone lacking sufficient upper-body strength. The McCulloch MC621 (starting at $420, Amazon), another gas snow blower we researched, has a particularly large handle on the pull-cord that should make the job easier with gloves on. The best cheap gas snow blowers, including our top picks, feature a back-up push-button electric start that lets you bypass the recoil start and is much appreciated by users, particularly women and seniors, according to reviews on sites such as Sears.
One more thing about gas snow blowers: Gas engines are classified as two-cycle (i.e., two-stroke) or four-cycle (i.e., four-stroke). Two-cycle engines require premixing oil with fuel before filling the tank and are rare in the low-end consumer market. Most cheap gas snow blowers feature a four-cycle engine, which doesn't require premixing (separate tanks for each). Four-cycle engines also produce a cleaner burn than two-cycle engines.
Snow Blower Power.Manufacturers often specify the power of a snow blower in cc's (cubic centimeters) or amps, which can get confusing when comparing models. CC's refer to the volume of piston displacement in a gas-powered engine -- the greater the displacement, the more powerful the engine. The same is true for the amp rating in electric motors -- the higher the number of amps (a unit of measure for electric current), the more powerful the motor.
Opinion varies about the usefulness of power ratings. The experts at Snow Blowers Guide assert that more horsepower doesn't necessarily mean better performance. Indeed, the slew of satisfied reviewers of the little 7.5 amp Toro Power Shovel say it's superb for light snowfall on small, paved areas and deftly blows away a top layer of deep snow. But if there are more than three or so inches on the ground and/or sidewalks and a long driveway that need clearing, you'll probably want more power. The heavier electric snow blowers on our list feature 12- or 13-amp motors. Another model we researched, the Toro 1800 Power Curve 38381 (starting at $300, Amazon), boasts a 15-amp motor.
Frequent snows of six to eight inches at a time and larger areas to clear call for a gas snow blower. The Toro Power Clear 418ZE features a relatively small 87cc engine, while the Craftsman 88780 boasts a179cc engine. If it's brute power you're after, the McCulloch MC621and Poulan Pro PR621 (starting at $420, Amazon) sport 208cc engines. Ditto for the Ariens Snow Tek 24" (starting at $700, Amazon), one of the few good and moderately-priced two-stage snow blowers. (Reminder: Two-stage snow blowers are engineered to work on rocky surfaces and are preferred by commercial snow-removal services; homeowners generally opt for cheaper single-stage snow blowers like those on our list.)
Poulan Pro PR621 Review
Snow Joe Ultra Review
WORX Snow Thrower Review
Craftsman Snow Thrower Review
Toro Power Shovel Review
GreenWorks Snow Thrower Review
Toro Power Clear Review
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