Snow removal equipment isn't a style-conscious subject like planting black petunias for Halloween. But winter and the snow season are upon us.
If you're ready to trade in your snow shovel for a snow thrower, here is some practical info that can help you figure out what type of thrower you need. How well a snow thrower throws snow around your house depends on several key factors.
Start with your property size.
• For a home with a one- or two-car garage, driveway and small walk area, a small-size, single-stage thrower is adequate for most storms. It will be reliable for throwing snow that's 3 to 6 inches deep. It will stop being efficient at around 9 inches of snow.
• For a home with a two-car garage, large driveway and some walks, a medium-size, single-stage thrower will be more adequate for your needs. In most snow conditions, it will be efficient up to a 9-inch snow depth and will lose efficiency at about 12 inches of snow.
• For a home with three-car garage, larger driveway and sidewalks, with more surface area to clear, consider moving up to a two-stage thrower. This machine chews through crusted, mounded snow, works well on slopes and also clears multiple surfaces. Besides clearing hard surfaces such as cement, it will also clear snow off of loose gravel.
What's the difference between a single-stage and two-stage machine?
• Single-stage snow throwers are light weight and easy to maneuver. Rubber paddles inside the machine self-propel it and throw snow out a shoot. They perform best on newly fallen snow that has not been compacted.
• Two-stage throwers are heavy-duty machines on larger frames. They have high horse-powered engines and multiple speeds. Their inside component is a steel auger that has the power to get through compacted snow. If you live in the mountains or in an area with heavy snow and/or lots of area to clear, consider this more powerful machine.
Traditionally, snow throwers have been available as either two-cycle or four-cycle engines. Some manufacturers are no longer making two-cycle equipment because the four-cycle engine is cleaner and more fuel efficient.
If you purchase a two-cycle thrower, be aware of the tradeoffs. In addition to reduced fuel efficiency, these engines require you to mix oil and gas before putting them into the equipment, which takes a little more know-how from the operator. On the other hand, two-cycle engines are smaller and have fewer moving parts to break or maintain. Know the features and buy accordingly for your needs.
• Some two-stage machines offer an optional cab that protects the operator on three sides. If you have a lot of snow to move, this can be a nice feature.
• Other models come with a hand warmer add-on.
These warm-up options can be nice on a chilly night, as can headlights, which can keep you moving snow in the early and late hours of the day. Need help with snow-management services on your property? Find a professional from one of Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado's nearly 700 members statewide. ǆ