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Snow blowers, also called "snowthrowers," resemble a lawn mower with a discharge chute mounted on top. Users simply walk behind them and let them do all the work of removing snow. There are single-stage and two-stage snow blowers.
Single-stage gas-powered snow blowers are intended for homeowners with relatively small, smooth-surface areas to clear. These blowers cannot be used on gravel surfaces. A single-stage snow blower has hardened rubber-faced auger blades that turn up the snow as they spin, cutting through to the surface, throwing the snow up and out the chute. This process provides some forward momentum but the snow blower will require some minimal coaxing from the user.
This type of snow blower can clear snow that's about 1 foot (30 cm) deep, but the going might get slow. The advantages of a single-stage snow blower are that it is less expensive than its two-stage counterpart, more lightweight, easier to store and simpler to use. It also cleans down to the surface, removing all snow. Depending on the model, these snow blowers can clear a 17 - 22 inch (43 cm - 56 cm) path and motors range from 3.0 - 5.5 horsepower.
Electric snow blowers are also single-stage blowers but are better suited for lighter jobs. They generally come in 6.6 - 12 amp models and are ideal for clearing patios or decks if you don't want to get out the big guns. Most electric snow blowers do not have a chute, but throw the snow from vanes. An electric snow blower can clean a 12 - 20 inch (30 cm - 51 cm) wide path.
Two-stage snow blowers are gas-powered, heavy duty, and have forward and reversible drives. These snow blowers feature steel auger blades. The first is serrated for breaking through ice and packed snow, followed by a smooth blade for throwing. The first stage of the two-stage snow blower is the blade action that turns up the ice or snow. In the second stage a hi-speed fan located directly behind the blades blasts the snow up and out of the chute. Chutes can be user-directional controlled by a joystick.
A two-stage snow blower will leave a small amount of snow because the steel blades cannot make contact with the surface they are cleaning. The amount of snow left will depend on how the snow blower is adjusted. Because these blowers do not contact the surface, they can be used on a gravel surface, by simply leaving a thin layer of snow on top of the gravel.
Low-end two-stage models will clear a 21 - 24-inch (53 cm - 61 cm) path and engines range from 5.0 - 6.5 horsepower. These are recommended for small to midsize driveways because they are still rather maneuverable. Midrange models go from 7.0 - 8.0 horses and clear paths from 22 - 26 inches (56 cm - 66 cm). The heavy-duty models feature 9.0 - 13.0 horsepower and clear paths from 26 - 33 inches (66 cm - 84 cm).
Two-stage blowers have larger tires than single-stage blowers and rarely need chains. Accessories are available depending on the model. Some two-stage models offer an optional snow bank buster.