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Electric Snow Blowers vs. Gas Snowblowers Which One Is Best For You?

Is an electric snowblower or gas snow blower best for you?

Picking the best snow thrower for you can be a very daunting task. There are so many options, types, and styles that you can easily get lost in the decision. Going online to a retail site or into a home improvement store can make the decision even harder. This article is intended to give you an in-depth look at most of the things you need to know BEFORE you even begin to decide what brand or store to buy from.

This article is fairly long but I’ve tried to write it so it’s easy to understand will give you the information you need.  My goal is to give you the information you need so you can pick the best snow blower for you.

First, a quick recap of the different styles of snow blowers.

 Electric Corded:

Corded electric snow blower

Corded electric snow throwers use 12-15 amps when running so you will need a 50 ft. 14 ga. outdoor extension cord for driveways less than 30 feet or a  75 to 100 ft. 12 ga. cord if your driveway is over 40-60 feet. This length includes the extra length needed to get to the nearest electrical outlet.  If your driveway is over 60 feet long, you’ll likely have trouble clearing it with an electric model. If you use an extension cord that is too small, i.e., 16 ga. you will overheat the cord and snow blower. The cord or snow blower will most likely overheat and burn up. A properly sized cord will always be cool to the touch.

Corded electric snow throwers can be a great choice for decks and patios because they are lightweight and can be stored in the home. Be aware a 100 ft 12 ga outdoor extension cord will cost $60-100.

 Electric Cordless:

Cordless electric single stage

are starting to appear on the market. The current models come with batteries designed to clear about a 2 care wide by 40-foot long area of your driveway on one charge. Cordless electrics also work well for decks and patios.

 Gas Powered: Gas snow blowers are a better choice for longer driveways and bigger jobs. They’re limited only by the size of their gas tank and how much time you want to spend clearing the snow. If you’re clearing a long driveway, clearing sidewalks, clearing aggregate surfaces or working anywhere that’s more than 60 feet from an available electric outlet, then a gas snow blower is the best choice.

Gas-powered snow blowers come in different widths and capacities. Residential Snow blowers under $1100 work well for most suburban driveways. Other, more expensive models can offer “over-the-top” power for moving some serious snow. City plow piles at the ends of your driveway will be too much for an electric model, but an easy task for a two or three stage gas-powered machine.

3-stage snow blower

Gas powered snow blowers currently come in three types. Single stage, 2-stage, and 3-stage. Single stage snow throwers have a rotating paddle up front that grabs the snow and throws it out of the machine through a chute.  Two-stage snow blowers have a front auger chews up the snow and ejects it into an impeller (or fan) that throws the snow farther than a single stage. The current style of 3-stage snow blowers adds another auger that grabs the snow from the front auger and throws it more forcibly into the impeller.

Please don’t look at cost at this time. The cheapest, best rated, best-reviewed or the most expensive snowblower will not be the best choice for you. 

The Type And Slope Of The Surface That Needs To Be Cleared.

The type of surface you want to clear and how steep of a slope you need to go up and down will also impact your decision of what snow blower to buy. I’ll go through a few different types.

Cement, Stamped Concrete, Blacktop, and Paver Surfaces. Electric and gas-powered snow blowers will clear these types of surfaces but there are a few small details that will help you narrow down your selection. The biggest and most important detail is – Snow blowers with metal skid shoes can scratch your beautiful pavers or leave brown rust stains on your concrete.

Gravel parking, or other loose material that you drive on.  With electric single stage snow throwers, the plastic scraper bar always touches the surface being cleared so it will pick up and throw gravel, pea gravel, mulch, and rocks. With gas-powered single stage snow throwers, the paddles touch the ground at high-speed so they will pick up anything loose and throw it. Unless you like to pick up rocks off your lawn or replace windows and vinyl siding I strongly suggest not using these types of snow blowers on gravel.  Adjusting the skid shoes on a 2 or 3-stage snow blower though will allow you to clear gravel driveways without throwing rocks.

Track Drive Snow Blower

 Turf or paths out to the woodshed and other outbuildings. Turf or the old path out to your chicken coop can be a very hard area to clean.  Single stage snow throwers can’t clear this area for you. Since the turf sticks up a lot higher than gravel you will usually have to raise the skid shoes on a 2 or 3-stage snowblower so the scraper bar has as much clearance as possible underneath and it may still want to fight you and lose traction. A few companies make track drive 2 and 3-stage snow blowers that can clear these areas well.

Sloping driveways and sidewalks. Sloping driveways and sidewalks can be very slippery and hard to clear. You will need a self-propelled snowblower and if the slope is steep a track drive snowblower. Electric snow blowers are not self-propelled so I DO NOT recommend them for any type of slope. Even with a snowblower that is self-propelled I strongly suggest work/mountain boots with deep traction treads as a minimum. If you are older (like me) or not that stable on your feet I also suggest ice cleats for the steeper slopes.

The Amount Of Snow You Get

There are four things to consider about the snow you normally get when picking the best snow blower for you.

 The amount of snow you average a year. Knowing this can also help decide what type of snow blower is best for you.

Just Google: average snow (your city, state) For example. Chippewa Falls, Wi. averages about 46 inches per year.

The type of snow you usually get. I lived in Alsip. Il for a year. That winter we had two lake-effect snowstorms that dumped 18-26 inches of snow on our neighborhood. Four miles away they did not get 2 inches. Lake effect snow, especially snow off the Great Lakes can be very wet and heavy most of the time. 2 and 3-stage snow blowers for this type of snow need to be able to clear it without constantly plugging up. I normally recommend high-capacity snow blowers if you live in areas that get a lot of lake effect snow because they don’t plug often and clear your area quickly and efficiently.

 The area you live in. Do you live in town? In a wooded area? Out in the open where you can get huge drifts? When it snows, is the area you live in shut down because of the Blizzard conditions and high drifts.

If you live in town you probably won’t get deep drifts but most of you get a knee-waist high snow plow drift across the end of your drive. A 2 or 3 stage residential snow blower can handle that pretty well.

Wooded areas also don’t get a lot of drifts but you may want a 2 or 3-stage snow blower that can throw the snow far away from the sides of your drive. Any residential snow blower that is rated to throw the snow 40 feet or more will work well. This will keep the driveway from drifting over when the “big one” does come.

I lived out on a farm about 10 miles west of Joliet, IL for a year and when it snowed all of the snow from the entire state seemed to drift around the house and farm buildings.  A 4-inch storm would give me 4-foot drifts and the 11-inch blizzard we got that year gave me drifts higher than my 2-car garage. In addition, the wind packed the snow down so hard that you could walk on it just like you were walking on pavement.  The only snow blower that could cut through those drifts was a heavy, duty high-capacity model.

What is the worst storm you and your neighbors remember in the last few years? For example, The average snowfall for Boston is only 44 inches so I’d normally recommend any 2 or 3-stage snow blower. But it seems like they get one or two 22-30 inch wet, heavy snow storms every couple of years.  The normal residential models don’t handle that type of snow well so I always ask if you want to purchase for a normal year or buy for the worst. If you live in the Boston area and want to buy for the worst you will need a heavy-duty, high-capacity snow blower.

The Size Of Area You Have To Clear.

Wider Is Not Always Better?

Smaller models are easier to move around is a common misconception about snow blowers. Single-stage and electric snow blowers look small and are light-weight, but they’re not always easier to maneuver.

Two and three-stage gas snow blowers are self-propelled, and many have power steering. Features like this mean you can easily move and steer your snow blower by simply operating some levers. You drive the larger machines and don’t require “manhandling.”

The best snow blower for you is not always the widest you can afford. Keep that in mind if you have to go through a narrow door or are you not physically able to maneuver and use the snow blower.

If you are physically capable of twisting, turning and moving 25 to 50 lbs. If you can walk at a normal pace and use both hands you can operate most of the residential snow blowers on the market that have power steering or auto-turn. If you have a bad back, or not physically fit snow blower without power steering may be too hard for you to use.

Can you always go through the garage door or do you have entry doors to go through? A 28-inch snow blower needs a 32 inch or wider door. A 30 inch will need a 36-inch door.

Clearing Width & Intake Height

Electric snow blowers have a maximum clearing width of 18-20 inches with a practical snow depth of about 6 inches. This means, they’re not designed for snow deeper than a few inches and can clear a path no wider than 20 inches at a time.

Gas-powered single stage snow blowers have common clearing widths of about 21 inches and a practical snow depth of 6-10 inches. The exception to this for 2017 is the Toro Snow Master that is 24 inches wide and can clear 14-inch depths well.

Gas Powered 2 and 3-stage snow blowers have common widths from 24 to 34 inches. There is a handful that will clear 36-45 inches but for all practical purposes, they are too big, bulky and hard to use for residential use.   Most of these snow blowers have an intake height between 21 and 24 inches and most of them can work through a drift as deep as that intake.  In addition, 2 and 3 stage snow blowers can be equipped with a simple drift cutter that will allow you to clear drifts 36 inches tall.

What’s the best size for my driveway?

I base my recommendations on clearing your driveway and a short sidewalk or two taking about 30 minutes. Typically we say:

2 car wide up to 70 feet long.  A 24-inch snow blower works well.

2 car wide up to 125 feet long. A 28-inch snow blower works well.

Over 125 feet a 30 inch works well.

If you have a sidewalk where you make a round trip (out and back) a 24 inch is just as efficient as a 30 inch.

A 10-foot wide driveway will need 3 round trips with a 24 inch but only two with a 30 inch. If you have a 200-500 foot driveway the 30 inch may be the better choice.

A snow plow is a better choice for large areas.

If you have a large area to clear, say a parking lot a 32-36 inch snow blower is a good choice. These machines are heavy and even with power steering can be hard to use for some people. Make sure your operator can handle the larger, heavier machine.

Machines larger than 36 inches are impractical for most people and I would only recommend them for large, flat parking lots where you can’t use a snow plow. I do not recommend any of the 45-inch walk-behind snow blowers currently on the market.

In Summary:

In summary, bigger isn’t always better, and cheaper isn’t always easier.

There are many factors that go into selecting the best snow blower including your personal preferences, property size, type of snow and geographic area.

To find the best snow blower for you check out this article at our Snow Blower site, MovingSnow.com:

The Twenty Best Snow Blowers – September 2017 – Which Snow Blower Is Best For You?

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