Winter is coming
November 23, 2014 7:42 AM   Subscribe

Can a battery-powered snowblower handle the challenge of a Boston winter?

We recently bought a house in the Boston area. It's on a corner lot, and has approximately 150 feet of sidewalk frontage that my middle-aged back is not up to shoveling (and the neighbors are elderly, so it might be nice to help them out too). We bought a Ryobi cordless mower for our modest lawn, and it's been fine. Ryobi also makes a snowblower that uses the same battery, which would be convenient. I like that it's less polluting and seemingly lower-maintenance than a gas-powered snowblower, and I'd rather not have to keep a full gas can in our basement (we don't have a garage).

But it seems clear that a battery-powered snowblower is not going to be nearly as powerful, and might not be up to the task of serious snowfall. Boston isn't Buffalo, thank goodness, but I'd prefer not to have to go out into a snowstorm time and time again because it can't handle more than a couple inches at a time.

Anyone have experience with this or something similar? If you think it's not a good idea, other recommendations are welcome, and I've seen this earlier snowblower thread.
posted by Horace Rumpole to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
We have a corded electric blower that appears to be of comparable size and motor power, although it's a bit tough to compare specs with a cordless model. Been through a couple of snowstorms in Boston last year. Overall, much better than shoveling, but it will choke and quickly overheat on anything other than fluffy white snow. It's possible to deal with some degree of wet or compacted snow but you have to chip away at it slowly -- no way you can just drive into a huge pile and expect it to work.
posted by Behemoth at 8:07 AM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Sorry I didn't get to your openhouse/meetup so I can't report first hand but the guy next door with a long driveway upgraded from a gas model as it wouldn't handle wet snow. With some experience with an extension cord electric, if you have the space for a strong gas blower that's the way to go. The local shop on mass ave, http://minutemanrepair.net seem to have a lot of units lined up. Beware, allocate time when entering that shop, it's almost a museum, there's at least one Indian motorcycle on display. I'm on a short sidewalk section so go au natural, get the exercise, if it doesn't kill throw your back out, it makes you stronger. ;-)
posted by sammyo at 8:22 AM on November 23, 2014


I've got a corded electric snowblower that looks to be in about the same class as that.[1] Last winter, it ran like a champ and managed to tackle all the snow we had, even the big storms - sometimes it was slow as I had to hit a patch a few times to get all the snow in it, and I had to un-clog the blower a bunch of times when the snow was sort of wet. On the other hand, the plow was light enough I could tilt it up on one wheel then another and hit it against the ground hard enough to clear it much of the time. It was nearly always faster than my middle-aged shoveling and was always easier on my middle-aged back. If the weather is such that the snow is likely to crust up, I try to get out there and snowblow it before it does that.

The huge exception to all of this is, unsurprisingly, the plow berm left when the snowplows come by. That's still usually a job to be done by hand, often resorting to the heavy duty metal blade shovel rather than lighter plastic-with-metal-edge snow shovels.

When there was big snow, like the mondo storm we had last year, I'd end up sort of ramming the snow to break it up and then pull the blower back and hit the section a few more times to actually clear the snow. Buto even with a lot of accumulation, with some patience, it's do-able.

[1] I really wanted a snowblower but I really didn't want to take on the small engine repair that came with a gas blower. I had some constraints on blower size, too - I have a very narrow city driveway, and so I was limited to something that would fit between my truck and the house.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:30 AM on November 23, 2014


I have had an Ariens gas snowblower for 7 or 8 years. It was about $750, and it's great for my driveway here in Connecticut. It had to go to the shop for an adjustment to a belt, but that's the only maintenance (except for gas stabilizer). The biggest issue is storage. They take a lot of space.

My neighbor has a Toro which I think is a bit small, but it seems to do the job.

I really did not want another gas engine in my life, but it hasn't been an issue. (I use a corded blower for the leaves.)
posted by SemiSalt at 2:35 PM on November 23, 2014


I lived on a corner lot in Iowa and am middle aged. Respecting your desire to be keep gasoline out of your basement I would buy a corded snowblower with a high amp motor and which has a maw [guessing at the term] that is half as wide as your sidewalk so you can clear the sidewalk in two passes and blow the snow to one side with the first pass and the other side with the second pass.

Snow blowers are cheaper than human spines so don't go cheap.
posted by vapidave at 2:48 PM on November 23, 2014


That was my thread you linked to. Just as a quick followup: I kept the Craftsman after all. I decided instead to learn a bit about small engines so I could potentially fix it when it stops working. I overhauled the carburetor (goddamn just saying that makes my... nevermind) over the summer, changed the spark plug and the oil and bought a couple spare belts to have on hand. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

As to the topic of this thread, you don't say how big your driveway is, or even if you have one. That might change the answer a bit. 150 feet of sidewalk isn't trivial though.

My opinion, based on growing up around here and owning a snowblower for about 12 years now, as that that blower will be fine up to a few inches of light, powdery snow. When we get 8-12 inches (or worse) of wet New England snow, it's probably not going to cut it. Also, if you have a driveway, it's not going to deal with the crud at the end that the plow puts there. All that said, I have zero experience with electric snowblowers, corded or otherwise.

My mom had a small Toro gas powered blower and it was basically useless in anything but light powder. Even my big, 26" Craftsman occasionally runs into a storm it has trouble with, though that's rare.

I'd store the gas outside, not in my basement. Either get a shed or a small storage bin of some kind. As a homeowner you'll probably need something like that for other stuff.

My driveway is pretty enormous, with a wide area in back that takes hours to shovel by hand, so I have a need for a largish snowblower. It's true that nobody ever complained about having too much snowblower, though. If I did it all over again I think I'd splurge for a Honda or a Toro.

I think I'd get it and see how it works. If it sucks, you deal with it for the winter and then sell it and buy a bigger one. If it does the trick 90% of the time it might be worth it.
posted by bondcliff at 3:04 PM on November 23, 2014


I've lived in MA for forty years, and I can't imagine trying to get through anything but the mildest of winters with an electric blower. They might be okay for smaller jobs, but for driveways or, as mentioned above, snowplow berms, no way. I have a gas Craftsman that's been through two winters and still looks brand-new. It has electric start and heated handgrips, so I actually love using it.
posted by Camofrog at 3:07 PM on November 23, 2014


Have lived in MA for a good portion of my life - NO - get a good quality (whatever you afford snow blower) if you don't use it this year you will use it next year.
posted by alfanut at 7:13 PM on November 23, 2014


I live just outside of Boston. As noted, anything other than a few inches of relatively light snow may be too much for a battery-powered device.

Don't know how well you know your neighbors yet, but if the cost/maintenance/hassle of a larger snowblower is a concern, we ended up going in with 5 other households and bought a Craftsman similar to this one. Can't imagine winter without it - In addition to splitting the cost 6 ways on the purchase price, we do the same on gas and service (I have someone come out once a year to tune it up). It lives in my garage, and 3 or 4 of us usually take turns after a storm (two of my neighbors are elderly and we happily dig them out, the others are hopelessly un-mechanical and we don't trust them to run it).
posted by jalexei at 1:59 PM on November 24, 2014


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