Being a maverick is in my up-north blood. I live by an old “Wallerism” – “If nothing changes… nothing changes!” So I challenged ancient Yooper wisdom that says you need a 350 lb., 36” wide 2-stage snow-blower driven by a 15 horsepower gas engine to clear snow from a driveway in town. (Can it really require the power of 15 horses to clear a driveway? The filthy, noisy, gas guzzler price tag, anywhere from $1,500 to $2,500?) So last year I did the (almost) unthinkable – I bought an electric snowblower and put it to the test.
I endured all the “What, are you crazy?” comments, did some research, then ordered an 18” wide plug-in (not battery-powered) electric snowblower for only $135 and used it last year to move snow from a double-wide driveway at my daughter’s house in town. Based on experience, here are the advantages and limitations of an electric snowblower:
The electric model is a snow thrower not a snow blower. Blowers have two stages: an auger to scoop the snow into the blower, then a separate fan to blow the snow out 30’. The snow thrower has only a single stage that does both and throws snow 15’. Plus, the small electric motor versus a heavy gas engine means the thrower is only 32 lbs. versus 350 lbs.! It’s easy to lift in and out of garage doors or basements or to lift up stairs to clear off porches. This is especially convenient for older, smaller or younger people who can’t wrestle 350 lb. machines. In summer you can easily hang it up on the garage wall, out of the way.
Electric throwers have replaceable rubber edges that won’t tear into grass, won’t grind your stairs or other obstructions into sawdust, and are better able to clear snow all the way down to the driveway surface so you don’t have to shovel that last half inch. The narrower cut (18” vs. 36”) lets you clear tighter spots and is easier to navigate.
It’s easy to start an electric thrower. Just push the button and you’re blowin.’ No yanking, no cussing, no chokes, no fueling, no filling tanks, no oil changes. Since no gasoline is used, the electric thrower is cheaper to operate, needs way less maintenance, is much cleaner and environmentally friendly and above all – is much quieter. No earplugs needed.
Since it doesn’t have driven wheels, you don’t have to do “the snowblower crawl.” Move at whatever speed is convenient and efficient. If there’s only 3” of snow, you can almost run! When moving to a new spot, just drag it at your normal walking speed. This freedom to move quickly really shortens the time spent blowing.
There is a cord on my model but that is less of an inconvenience than I thought. You must use
a heavy 14ga or 12 ga extension cord tied to the blower handle but if you blow starting near the outlet and work your way out (just like vacuuming a carpet) the cord stays pretty much out of the way and keeps blowing all day. If the idea of a cord really bothers you, there are new lithium-ion battery models for about $400 that will run for about 30 minutes per charged battery (get spare batteries).
BUT DOES IT BLOW SNOW??? Yes! The 350 lb. gas guzzler will blow snow 30’ if you need that much power, but the electric is plenty powerful for clearing 8” – 10” of snow from a 15’ wide driveway, sidewalks, etc. I LIKE using this electric blower. It’s fast and efficient. Consider it.
A video of my model snowthrower clearing 10 inches of snow (2.5 minutes): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETHpvHf-zdA
A slightly more powerful plug-in blower: http://www.amazon.com/Snow-Joe-SJ622E-15-Ampere-Electric/dp/B008FV5R18/ref=pd_sim_sbs_lg_2
A Battery powered blower: http://www.amazon.com/Snow-Joe-iON18SB-Rechargeable-Lithium-Ion/dp/B00E3OXF6A/ref=cm_wl_huc_item
Battery charger: http://www.amazon.com/Snow-Joe-iCHRG40-Lithium-Ion-Charger/dp/B00F8FLB2I/ref=cm_wl_huc_item
Steve Waller’s family lives in a wind and solar powered home. He has been involved with conservation and energy issues since the 1970’s and frequently teaches about energy. He and a partner own a U.P. wind/solar business called Lean Clean Energy. He can be reached at Steve@UPWallers.net.
This article was reprinted with permission from the Winter 2013 – 2014 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2013. All rights reserved.