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Tips for purchasing and using snow throwers

By  Michelle Sordi

If this winter proves to be anything like last year’s, groundskeepers and property managers can expect to spend many hours keeping pathways and properties clear—even if it means having to remove snow multiple times per day.
If this winter proves to be anything like last year’s, groundskeepers and property managers can expect to spend many hours keeping pathways and properties clear—even if it means having to remove snow multiple times per day.

Winter is quickly approaching, and for many Canadians this means frigid temperatures and heavy snowfall are just around the corner. Waking up to a fresh blanket of snow is a reminder of the country’s beauty, but when it comes time to reach for the shovel, many may think otherwise. If this winter proves to be anything like last year’s, groundskeepers and property managers can expect to spend many hours keeping pathways and properties clear—even if it means having to shovel multiple times per day.

Shoveling snow can be a great workout, but the combination of harsh winds and heavy lifting can take its toll on the body—and in heavier snow conditions, it can be downright exhausting. Therefore, investing in a snow thrower could save a lot of time and effort this time of year. In fact, this equipment provides a variety of options depending on particular snow clearing needs (i.e. a small walkway, meandering path, or a large parking lot). Before heading out to purchase such equipment, keep the following in mind.

Power and stages

A snow thrower with power steering can help users to better navigate sharp corners and/or difficult terrain.
A snow thrower with power steering can help users to better navigate sharp corners and/or difficult terrain.

Snow throwers are powered by gas or electricity and come in single- or dual-stage designs.

Electric

Electric snow throwers require little maintenance when compared to the gas alternative. With no oil or gas required, this equipment is simply plugged-in and ready to use. These snow throwers also tend to be quieter, making them ideal for neighbourhoods or early morning snow clearing jobs. The lighter design also makes electric snow throwers easier to manoeuver; however, users must be conscious of the electrical cord during operation as driving over it poses many dangers. Further, due to their compact size, these units are best suited for light snow conditions.

Gas

Gas snow throwers are a popular choice for many industrial users as they usually feature a more durable design and can handle heavier snowfall in comparison to an electric unit. Gas snow throwers are also ideal for larger areas as they are not limited to the length of a power cord.

Single-stage units

Single-stage snow thrower systems use a fast-spinning auger to collect and expel snow through the chute. With a light and easy-to-use design, these models are best suited for smaller areas covered in dry, powdered snow. If there is a need to clear snow from delicate surfaces, such as paved areas and wooden terraces, consider using a snow thrower equipped with a rubber auger. This allows the area to be cleared without scratching or damaging the surface. Keep in mind, the auger on a single-stage snow thrower actually comes in contact with the ground; therefore, it should not be used on gravel surfaces as it will eject debris through the chute along with the snow. These units are also typically more compact in design for convenient storage and clearing tight spaces.

Two-stage models

Two-stage snow throwers also use an auger to collect and breakdown snow. They are designed to be effective for heavy and packed snow removal—whether it is a fresh snowfall or a few days old. Two-stage snow throwers have a larger and more complex structure to tackle wide areas efficiently with minimal effort. Newer two-stage models can also be used on gravel and uneven terrain because of the difference in auger design and the inclusion of adjustable skid shoes.

Size of area and snow conditions

The size of the wheels is also important as they will determine the equipment’s grip while working.
The size of the wheels is also important as they will determine the equipment’s grip while working.

When considering the purchase of snow throwing equipment, make sure to take the size of the area that needs to be cleared into account. For example, large gardens, pathways, and paved areas naturally require more power than smaller outdoor spaces. The amount of snow and the typical snowfall conditions in the region where the company works should also be considered. A snow thrower with a powerful engine and wide-working width will save time if the area is covered in deep, heavy snow, whereas smaller areas covered in dry snow require less power.

The size of the wheels is also important as they will determine the equipment’s grip while working. For example, in a region where there is a lot of snow or uneven terrain, a snow thrower with a track drive will provide better traction.

In areas where approximately 50 to 200 mm (2 to 7.8 in.) of new snow falls regularly, a low-duty single-stage snow thrower could certainly handle the job. Whereas a two-stage snow thrower would be recommended for areas that regularly receive more than 150 mm (6 in.) of new snow on top of old snowfall buildup.

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