You needn't buy the biggest snow blower to get competent clearing. Manufacturers offer small, easy-handling machines for homeowners with small driveways. But for large or hilly areas or deep snow, choose a larger model with power-driven wheels. Use this snow blower guide to make your buying decision.
Don't fall for sales pitches
Some manufacturers and retailers have been pushing Briggs & Stratton engines and disparaging other engines. But the other engines on most of the machines we tested performed well.
Don't count horses
The big snow blowers might promise 11 horsepower or more, but some less-powerful machines clear snow just as well.
How to stay safe
Snow blowers cause 3,000 finger injuries each year, including amputations, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Don't ever clear a clogged discharge chute or auger housing with your hand. Most machines now come with a plastic clearing tool, but a broom handle will do.
Besides snow, a snow blower—particularly a small, single-stage model—can pick up and throw ice, gravel, and other objects. Keep people and pets away when you're working. Wear hearing protection with gas-powered machines. Wait until a gas model's engine is cool before refueling. For electric models, use an outdoor extension cord with a ground-fault-circuit-interrupting circuit feature, and keep the cord away from the spinning auger.
Heavy exertion and cold temperatures can also be a dangerous combination. Take frequent breaks to avoid overexertion. Seniors and people with hypertension, heart disease, or diabetes should consult a doctor before using a snow blower. If your driveway is especially long and two or more cars wide, consider having it plowed.
Copyright © 2006-2012 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.