Snow Blower Buying Guide
There are a dozen or more factors to consider when buying a snow blower. Some are key, others fall into the “nice to have” category. Let’s see if we can boil these down to something you can wrap your head around without it exploding.
Size and Power
The first considerations for most buyers is the width of the path they want to clear, followed almost at once by the amount of power they need. The two characteristics are interrelated.
Snow blowers come, no pun intended, in a wide range of intake/auger widths. There are models everywhere from a dozen inches up to 30 inches or more. Anything larger than that will usually put you into the professional niche, at a correspondingly professional-level price.
Naturally, the wider the better – other things being equal. Not surprisingly, other things are rarely equal. The wider the intake the harder the snow blower may be to handle, unless it has features to compensate.
That feature can be something like a chain or belt drives to make the snow blower self-propelling. Keep in mind, though, that the auger on even a modest-power electric version will help to pull the unit forward. Of course, that might not do the trick if the snow you’re plowing is deep, heavy mush or (worse still) very compact.
That maneuverability aid can also be in the form of a ‘steering’ mechanism, such as the levers on the Husqvarna 12527HV or the Husqvarna 1830HV. Press one and it disengages one wheel. As the other continues to roll it naturally pulls the blower in one direction, like moving the rudder on a boat.
How easily (or not) the snow thrower does that depends also on the power provided by the engine.
Electrics vary from 9-amp to 12-amp typically, with a few being smaller or larger. The Toro 38381 houses one that is 15 amp, the Toro 38361 a mere 7.5 amp. Know, though, that the number specifies the amount of current the motor draws not how much power it delivers to the wheels.
A more efficient motor can actually provide more power to the auger, even if it uses less current. On average, though, the bigger number will deliver more power to the wheels/auger.
As a result, if there’s a drive mechanism, you have an easier time moving the blower forward. Also, that extra power can help drive the snow faster and more forcefully through the chute. That puts snow well out of the way. That has two advantages: (1) no need to plow the same snow twice, (2) no pile up near the home, which would gradually narrow the open space in which you move around.
Size and Power, Revisited
There’s another aspect that will influence the size and power you need, though: depth. Most snow blowers (both electric and gas-powered) vary in auger diameter and intake height, both of which heavily influence how deep a layer you can remove in one pass.
On average, electrics tend to have smaller-diameter augers and shorter scoop housings. “Smaller” is typically from 6-9 inches, though some are as large as 12 inches. The Snow Joe SJ620 electric model features a 10-inch diameter auger in a 12.6 inch high intake. By contrast, the typical gas-powered model will have at least a 12-inch diameter auger. The Poulan PR624ES gas model is a good example.
As a result, if you live in an area that regularly sees overnight snowfalls of 6 inches or more, you’re going to have a hard time with a small unit like the Greenworks 26022.
That electric model is nice and lightweight at only 32 lbs, and even the 9-amp motor delivers adequate power to clear dry snow. But the auger is just six inches in diameter and the intake is only 16 inches wide. That requires that you get after that snow right away and have to hope you don’t get any more before you get done.
By comparison, the 100-lb Murray 1695885 hits a sweet spot with a 22 inch wide intake that has a 12.6 inch high housing and a 10-inch diameter auger. It’s driven by a 205cc Briggs and Stratton engine. For those needing a truly beefy model, though, there is the Husqvarna 12527HV with a 27-inch intake and huge 16″ x 5″ X-trac tires.
So, the key factors to consider are simple:
Type and Depth of Snow – Heavier, deeper snow leans you toward a gas model, especially one that’s self-propelled. (Multiple speeds are a nice extra.) A two-stage gas model (which has both an auger and impeller – a fan that blows snow out the chute) is essential for those who get truly heavy, fast snow dumps in winter.
Size of Area – Closely related to the first point, a larger area can stretch the cord of an electric to the max and make it harder to handle. You need a wide auger/intake model, which usually means gas. On the downside, a gas model requires fuel and maintenance. Here again, though, a larger two-stage may be needed for those with truly large plots to plow.