Snow is a funny thing.
It ushers in feelings of happiness and holiday cheer, while causing mayhem on the roads and adding chores for you around your home. While children eagerly await the next chance to create forts and snowmen, adults dread the back-breaking task of shoveling the driveway. As we tackle the primary task of clearing driveways and sidewalks, many of us have ditched the shovel and made the investment in a snow blower.
As a Des Moines home builder who builds year-round, we've seen the harsh conditions that winters in Iowa can bring our way. Yes, a shovel will clear snow, but as a home owner in Iowa, we feel it's not IF you own a snow blower, it's WHEN. With this unfortunate truth now behind us, let's play in the snow with a few interesting snow blowing tips to help you clear this flying white monster.
Types of Snow Blowers
As you consider your options, the type of snow blower you select is an important first step. Whether you're purchasing your first snow blower or planning to replace an existing machine, let's take a glance at different types of snow blowers.
Electric snow blowers offer an inexpensive solution, but are limited in the amount and type of snow they can effectively clear. Single-Stage snow blowers are a step up and can handle heavier snow, while Two-Stage and Three-Stage snow blowers are even meaner snow-clearing machines. The Internet is full of detailed information on these different types of snow blowers. Instead of rebuilding the wheel, how about we just give it to you straight...
Snow Blowing Strategies
Yes, perhaps we're thinking too much into this topic, haha, but if you're going to venture out into the frozen tundra, let's keep things efficient! Most longtime home owners have their own methods of quickly clearing snow around their property, but in short, don't fight the wind. By pointing the chute of your snow blower in certain ways, you can maximize your efficiency. For driveways, you'll want to move up and down the drive and in extra strong cross winds, you may even want to start on the upwind side and work downwind. The path you take can also enhance your efforts. Here are a few methods you might want to try depending on the amount of wind...
A few other strategic ways of blowing snow faster and more effectively is to throw snow as far into your yard as possible and to keep up with the snowfall. Blowing snow farther into your yard will help to avoid large banks and reduce the amount of snow that will blow back onto your cleared area. By keeping up with a winter storm (yes, this means you may have to blow the snow more than once) you'll reduce the amount of work for you and your snow blower.
Lastly, if you can stay ahead of any traffic trampling the snow, you'll also reduce the ice build up and allow for quicker melting the next time the sun peeks out. Ice is perhaps the worst enemy of a snow blower. Along with clogging your machine, ice can damage the blades and reduce the life cycle of your snow blower. One common place you will run into dangerous amounts of ice is at the end of the driveway. City snowplows often shovel a variety of ice, rocks, and dirt when they pass your home. If you want to play it safe, you might want to manually shovel these hard hit areas.
Snow Blower Safety & Maintenance
Alright, if you've read this far, you're probably thinking we've gone crazy by going into so much depth on this topic. To further your suspicion, let's wrap things up with a few quick thoughts on snow blower safety and maintenance.
Owner manuals are a great place to find a full list of safety precaution but in realty, common sense will go along ways as you operate a snow blower. Don't stick your hand into the churning blades, avoid catching anything besides snow up into the snow blower, dress properly, don't allow children to play near a snow blower, and never run behind a snow blower. Pretty simple stuff there, so we'll leave it at that.
For snow blower maintenance, it's kind of like how you maintain your lawn mower. In the months you aren't using a snow blower, either drain the gas or stabilize it to ensure it works well when the snow flies. During the winter months, keep your snow blower running well by keeping the oil clean, gas full, and moving parts such as wheel/auger/impeller bearings are well lubricated. Along with these obvious tips, remember to change your air filter every season or two, and replace spark plugs every two years as well. Lastly and like your vehicle, be sure the air pressure is solid in the wheels of your snow blower.
Ice Melting Techniques
Along with clearing away the heavy stuff with your snow blower, ice melting products also help clear paths around your property. New home owners beware however, as many ice melting products can seriously damage freshly poured concrete. It is recommended that that NO ice melter should be used for concrete less than 12 months old. Concrete is porous and newly poured concrete needs time to cure and settle. The application of ice melter on concrete less that 12 months old may weaken the concrete structure making it more susceptible to damage in the future.
We will be showcasing a dedicated article on how to seal new concrete, but this can only be properly done when it gets warmer here in Iowa. Look for that around here soon and we also plan to mention this detailed article in The Building Buzz next Spring, so make sure you're subscribed to that quarterly publication as well.
In the meantime, if you're living in a new home, we strongly suggest you avoid using anything besides simple sand or gravel to provide added traction around your property. This will eliminate the chance of concrete erosion from more corrosive, ice-melting materials such as calcium chloride and magnesium. More specifically, here are ice-melting chemicals to avoid: Aluminum Chloride Ammonium Nitrate Ammonium Sulfate Ammonium Chloride Calcium Sulfate Magnesium Sulfate Magnesium Chloride Sodium Cyanide.
There you have it! More snow blowing tips and tricks than you ever wanted. We hope you were able to learn something helpful and if you've enjoyed this article, but need a new driveway to clear snow from, check out our new homes for sale in Des Moines. Until next time...stay safe, stay warm, stay awesome.