Living in one of the cooler parts of the country means snow. Chances are you will wake up some morning in the near future to find the outdoors blanketed in white. And while those snowdrifts look beautiful from inside your house, sooner or later you will need to trek outside, dig out the car, and continue with your busy life. But there are lots of choices for how to remove the white stuff from your driveway and sidewalks. If you choose a snow removal method that doesn’t suit you or your property, you could be spending more time, money, or effort than you need to be. Even worse, ER physicians spend many hours every winter dealing with injuries or frostbite that result from incorrect snow removal. Keep reading to learn about 4 snow removal tools to help you decide which is right for you. With these tips, you’ll enjoy safe and (relatively) hassle-free snow removal this winter.
The Trusty Shovel
For simplicity and price, you can’t beat this old standby. Even if you use a snowblower or other snow removal method, you’ll probably need to keep a shovel around for small areas where larger equipment can’t reach. Shoveling snow can be pretty strenuous, though, especially for those of us who aren’t used to a hard workout. Here are a few pointers to make the job easier and maximize your shoveling efficiency:
- Pace yourself. This isn’t a race, so take a break every few minutes, or when you start to feel tired.
- Decide where you’re going to throw the snow before you start shoveling. If you just toss the snow in any direction, you could end up with a pile on top of a stoop or a walkway, which you will then have to shovel. Also, don’t pile the snow right at the edge of your driveway, because future snowstorms can leave you with an ever-taller snow stack that will keep shedding chunks back into your driveway.
- Keep your abdominal muscles tight to support your back. Keep good posture while you shovel, and make sure you aren’t lifting with your back. Let your arms, legs and shoulders do the work. Choose an ergonomic shovel to make the job easier, and don’t over-fill the shovel with heavy snow.
- Shovel a path to the car first. This way, you can start the car and let the defroster start working while you finish shoveling.
- If you have a health problem that makes shoveling hazardous for you, look into other options for snow removal. A clear driveway is not worth sacrificing your health.
Snowblowers take a lot of the work out of clearing large areas, and can be a real back-saver if you have a long driveway. There is a lot of variety both in price and function, though, so it’s important to choose wisely. Snowblowers fall into 2 main categories: single stage and double stage. The main difference between single stage and double stage snowblowers lies in the auger. The auger is the large, screw-shaped piece that pulls the snow into the snowblower.
Single stage snowblowers are available in gas or electric models. In a single stage snowblower, the augur has 2 jobs: it lifts the show off the pavement, and throws it out of the side of the snowblower. Because the augur does double-duty, single stage snowblowers are not capable of dealing with very deep snow or wet snow. This makes them less than ideal for areas with frequent heavy snowfall. Also, the augur of a single stage blower comes in contact with the pavement. While this allows the snowblower to clean flat pavement more closely than a double stage blower, it also makes single stage blowers a poor choice for gravel driveways or uneven pavement. Single stage snowblowers cost less than double stage blowers. This makes them an option to consider if you’re on a budget and live in an area with light or moderate snowfall.
In a double stage snowblower, the augur lifts the snow from the pavement and an impeller throws the snow. This makes double stage blowers able to handle wetter and deeper snow than single stage blowers. The augur does not come in contact with the pavement, so double stage blowers can be used on more surfaces. Double stage blowers also clear a wider area with each pass, making for faster work. They also usually have motorized wheels, which makes it easier to push the blower. Double stage blowers only come in gas models, though, and are considerably more expensive than single stage blowers.
Heated driveways, also called snow-melt systems, do for your driveway what your car’s defroster does for its rear window. In most heated driveways, a series of tubes circulates warm water mixed with antifreeze beneath your driveway’s surface, melting snow and ice. It’s easiest to install a snow-melt system at the same time as a new driveway, but some companies will also retro-fit an old driveway. Snow-melt systems are suited for concrete or asphalt driveways.
The best part of a heated driveway is that it takes the work out of snow removal. If your snow-melt system has manual controls, you only need to flip a switch to start melting the snow; if the system is automated, you don’t even need to do that. The biggest drawback to a snow-melt system is, of course, the price. An average manual-control system, which is less expensive than the automated, can cost about $10 to $15 per square foot to install. Additional features such as automated controls or a heating system separate from your home’s system will cost you more. You will also have to pay for the energy to run the system, which will vary depending on the weather and fuel costs.
A snow plow is a quick, relatively easy way to clear snow from large areas such as driveways. If you have a truck and a long driveway, you should look into investing in plowing equipment for your truck; you could even earn some money clearing snow for other people. If you don’t have a truck, you can contact a snow removal contractor to plow your driveway. If you choose to go this route, be sure to clarify the details of the job up-front. Make sure you and the contractor both know when he will come, which areas he will clear, and where he will pile the snow. Also make sure you understand the fees involved. For example, does he charge a flat rate based on the size of your driveway, or does the price vary depending on the amount of snowfall?
Whether or not you’re dreaming of a white Christmas, you’ll probably have to clear away plenty of the white stuff before spring returns. Picking the right snow removal method will help you get the work out of the way with a minimum of grief, and get you back indoors sipping hot chocolate with your family.