When choosing a snow blower, reviews of different types of snowblowers, such as those you will find on this site, will help you identify the one that will suit you best.
However, our reviews, or indeed any snow blower review, can only really help you if you understand the terminology used and the different types of machine those snow blower reviews may refer to.
Here, therefore, we set out a comprehensive overview of different types of snow blowers and snow throwers. We also cover how they work and how to choose the one to match your needs.
Different types of snow blowers
There are six basic different types of snow blowers:
- The hand held electric ‘power shovel’ – corded and cordless models;
- The single stage electric walk behind snow thrower – corded and cordless models;
- The two-stage cordless electric walk behind snow blowers;
- The single stage gas powered walk behind snow thrower;
- The two-stage gas-powered walk behind snow blower; and
- The tractor/lawn tractor mounted snow blower.
You’ll note that a key distinction relates to whether the machine is single stage or two stage. In simple terms, two stage machines are larger and more powerful. We explain fully the technical differences further down in this article.
As with most outdoor power tools, whether an electric, or a gasoline-powered snow blower is a good fit for you, depends on your individual circumstances.
Small electric blowers are called power shovels and are not dissimilar to garden string trimmers. They are portable and light and do not require great strength to operate.
Corded electric snow blowers and throwers are available only as single stage machines and suitable for smaller areas and lighter conditions. Some machines propel forward when the auger comes into contact with snow or the ground and others require a push to move ahead.
There are larger corded electric walk-behind machines but they are for moderate snow conditions at best. The advantage of these is their ease of maintenance.
In recent years we’ve seen the development of more powerful cordless snowblowers, including some two stage models. But these are still less powerful than their gas-powered counterparts.
- Electric snow throwers are a cheap option and are environmentally friendly.
- Gasoline or diesel operated machines are more common, generally more powerful and come in a much wider range of choice.
Here we look more closely at the different types. But first:
Snow blower terminology: Is it a blower, a thrower or a shovel?
This is what Wikipedia will tell you about the difference between a snow blower and a snow thrower: “the term “snow thrower” is often used to encompass snow throwers and snow blowers, however, in proper usage a snow thrower is a machine that uses a single stage to remove or “throw” snow while a snowblower uses two stages to remove or “blow” snow” (emphases added).
In fact, most people use ‘snow blower’ as a general term to refer to the various snow blowing and throwing machines. On this site we generally follow the Wikipedia approach but also use the terminology that the manufacturers use or the phrases that we think people are using when searching for information.
A power shovel is small, lightweight and can be handled a bit like a shovel. You introduce it to the snow a bit like you would a hand shovel, but – and this is the whole point- the power shovel automatically throws the snow off in the direction you want it to go, without you doing the heaving.
If where you live receives light snowfall only and you have small and fairly level areas to clear, consider a power shovel. The Snow Joe power shovel pictured below is a good example.
These are lightweight units that you push along, are easy to handle and clear snow easily out of the way. These powered shovels work best with light snow conditions, with some models shooting snow up to 30 feet away. Power shovels are:
- For areas with light snowfall and small areas such as walkways, small drives and patios;
- Can cost $100 or less;
- Some models can be used as power brooms during summer months;
- Better suited to level surfaces;
- Will clear up to 6” snow depth.
Electric Snow Throwers
Suitable for small to medium use on larger areas than power shovels can deal with, electric snow throwers can handle moderate snowfall with ease.
They are more economical, lighter to operate and therefore more maneouverable than the heavier gas models of similar specification.
Limited by the length of its cable and extension cord, an electric snow blower is therefore more suitable for ‘closer to home’ applications.
Ensure that the machine you buy comes equipped with (or consider buying) a reinforced heavy-duty power cable both to reduce power drop over long distances and for safety. As with all outside electrical appliances, it is advisable to use an RCB (Residual circuit breaker).
- Electric blowers / throwers operate quietly;
- Good for medium sized driveways, yards and walkways;
- Require minimal maintenance;
- Work best on level surfaces;
- Will clear up to 10” snow depth.
Popular electric snow blowers include the WEN 5664, the Snow Joe SJ624E-ES and the 12oV Goplus (pictures below).
Single Stage and Two Stage Gas Snow Blowers and Throwers
Gas snow blowers tend to cost more than electric ones. They are heavier but can be used in more ‘remote’ situations, as there is no power cable to manage. They do require more maintenance and there is also the cost of gasoline to consider.
There are two types of gas powered snowblowers. Single stage snowblowers and two stage (or dual stage) snow blowers. We’ll cover this in more detail below, but here is a breakdown of the main differences.
|Factor||Single Stage Snowblower||Two Stage Snowblower|
|Snow volume handled||Lower||Higher|
|Propulsion||Self-propelled||Propelled by auger operation|
|Speed of Operation||As fast as walking pace||Slower than walking pace|
|Wear and tear||Paddles and scraper wear on contact with ground.||Skid shoes wear on contact with ground, but if adjusted properly protect other parts.|
Single stage snow blowers
With single stage snow blowers, snow is broken down by an auger or paddle, and is then lifted thrown out of the machine via the chute.
The name is name is derived from this single action of drawing in the snow and then dispersing or throwing it out. These are smaller than the two-stage variant and are properly called ‘snow throwers’.
Single stage blowers are useful for smaller, shallower amounts of snow. Two stage machines are better for deeper snow.
Single stage snow blowers are easier to use where snow is only a few inches deep. They typically work more quickly than two stage machines because you can propel them as fast as you can walk.
Two stage machines have fixed speeds that tend to be slower than the speeds you can go at with a single stage machine.
A popular single stage machine is the Craftsman 21″ Single Stage Snow Thrower with Push-Button Start (pictured below).
Check out these single stage models we feature:
Two stage snow blowers
In two stage snow blowers, the first stage of the operation breaks up the snow and draws it into the machine by way of its auger(s). The snow is then moved to the impeller, which blows the snow out through the discharge chute.
Because these machines have a blowing action, they are the true ‘snow blowers’.
Some two stage machines can cut a swathe approaching 3ft wide and can handle rougher terrain and unpaved areas. Since the auger does not come into contact with the ground they can be used on gravel driveways and other areas where there is loose material.
Two stage snow blowers are good for heavy-duty use and can break up / remove ice. They have wide augers and an extended throw range through the impeller.
Most two-stage blowers have at least four forward speeds, which is useful in preventing clogging. Larger gas powered two stage models typically have electric start, variable speed controls and drive to both wheels, which aids traction. Most include individual trigger release, which allows you to control each wheel.
- Wide range of clearing widths available;
- Available in 2 stroke engines (requiring a gas / oil mix but no oil change necessary);
- Available in 4 stroke engines (gas only, but require oil changes as per manufacturers’ instructions);
- The single stage gas model will clear a depth of up to a foot of snow;
- The two stage gas model will clear up to a depth of 20 inches or more.
One the most popular and impressive of these kinds of snow blowers is the Ariens ST28DLE 28″ model pictured below.
Check out our features on these two stage gas models:
Cordless snow blowers
Cordless or battery powered snow blowers are becoming more and more popular as they get closer in performance to similar sized gas powered models.
The great advantages of cordless snow blowers are that :
- they need no gasoline or oil;
- they need very little maintenance;
- there are no awkward cables to manage;
- They start at the push of a button;
- They are quiet and easy to handle; and
- They can be cheaper than gas powered models.
However, the big drawback is that they are generally less powerful that gas powered models. There are some two stage models these days, but they still can’t compete on power.
Cordless models like the popular below are therefore best for situations where snow is not very deep and does not get too frozen or compacted.
Check out our features on these cordless models:
Tractor Mounted Snow Blowers
These are typically larger that the walk-behind machines and can have a clearing width up to 57 inches or more (nearly five feet).
They are usually fitted to the front of the tractor or lawn tractor, utilizing an available power take off (PTO), and basically work in the same way as the two stage machines referred to above.
Tractor mounted snow blowers, like those from John Deere are for large areas or for quick snow removal.
Snow blower parts
The auger is a helix shaped component (think corkscrew or drill bit) which is moves the snow through the snow thrower by its high speed spinning action. Have a look at the picture below. That is the auger from a commercial grade snow blower.
The impeller is a propeller-like component that spins at high speed forcing the snow through the impeller housing and, effectively, blowing it out of the machine.
Larger snow blowers have wheels powered the engine to drive the machine forward. Sometimes the wheels are fitted with snow chains. Some models have tracks instead of wheels. On smaller models, the auger engages the ground and provides some forward propulsion.
Believe it or not, this is the chute from which the snow is discharged :).
These need to be able to rotate easily so that the snow can be directed where you want it to go. They also need to stay in place once you’ve positioned it. The bigger and better snow blowers have controls on or around the dashboard for positioning the chute so that you can move it as you continue blowing snow.
The deflector is the fitting at the end of the snowblower chute. You raise or lower it to direct snow closer to you or further from you. The picture below shows a chute and deflector detail. The deflector is the section with the handle.
A plastic probe used for clearing the auger area, impeller housing or discharge chute of clogged snow.
Adjustable feet, usually at the bottom of the bottom of the auger housing on two stage snow blowers. These allow you to raise the height of the base of the intake. This is what allows two stage machines to operate on loose or gravel surfaces, because the skid shoes raise the intake about the loose material.
Different types of snowblowers: models in focus
Check out our feature articles on these snowblower models: