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TIPS FOR PURCHASING A SNOW THROWER

A few things to know before you start throwing snow...

Snow shoveling can literally be a "pain in the back" for many and a more serious health hazard for some. Investing in a new snow thrower might be the best option for a stress-free snowy winter.

Snow throwers have proven their winter worth well over the years, but don't make a purchase based on the looks of the unit alone. You should know the differences in features and models so you can make an informed decision. Here's some knowledge to have when you're making a snow thrower purchase:

Two- or Four-Cycle -
Two-cycle engines require that you mix the gas and oil together (usually between a 30:1 and a 50:1 ratio, but you'll want to verify against the owner's manual to be certain). On the other hand, four-cycle engines have separate tanks for gas and oil. Both use a specific type of engine oil - 4-cycle models use SAE 30 and 2-cycles use a specific 2-cycle oil made for mixing.

"Snowflake" Lights -
Somewhat new to the decorating scene are shimmering snowflakes that stand alone or come as part of a longer strand. Sold typically as 10-packs, the individual snowflakes are strung together and can be placed in windows, trees and bushes or tacked onto shutters or lattice work for a "snowfall" effect. Longer strands of icicle lights are also available with snowflakes dangling from the bottom row.

Single- or Two-Stage -
Single-stage units clear the snow in one single action, drawing it up-and-out from the auger to the shoot. Two-stage throwers move snow first to the back of the unit, then out the shoot, making them a better choice for heavy, wet snow. Two-stage throwers can cut through more snow and ice than single-stage models. They'll usually reduce the number of passes you have to make over a single area, so it's a good investment choice.

Horsepower (HP) -
You don't need a snow thrower with more torque than the family minivan. For ample sized driveways, a five- or six-horsepower model will work wonders, and for smaller jobs, consider a three- or four-horsepower model.

Manual or Electric Start -
Snow throwers with manual starts have to be set in "choke" mode and primed by pushing the small bulb on the side of the motor. This brings in the necessary fuel to start up the thrower. Electric start snow throwers involve no rope pulling - merely set the mower to choke, plug it into any available wall outlet and press the ignition button - making them much more convenient, especially when it's super cold outside. The quicker they start, the quicker you can get down to business and get back inside the house.

Clearing a Path -
For most residential gas-powered snow throwers, the range to clear the snow is anywhere from 20 inches to about 33 inches. In contrast, electric models have clearing paths as small as 12 inches, designed specifically for walkways. If you're looking for a good all-around thrower, choose one with a clearing path anywhere from 20 to 24 inches.

If you read through this and decide you still need some help, don't despair - ask the helpful folks at your neighborhood Ace store! And remember, if you have home improvement questions and need a little advice, send me an email at asklou@acehardware.com - I'd be glad to help!

Get the task of snow removal out of the way faster than you can say "I hate shoveling!"

-Lou

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