10 Questions about Commercial Snow Blowers

1. What should a contractor look for when evaluating existing equipment and determining what new snow blowing equipment is needed?

Good planning is the leading best practice when it comes to evaluating existing snow removal equipment and avoiding unexpected equipment failures. With a well-established maintenance plan in place, equipment will be ready to roll when the first snowflakes of the season arrive. At the end of each winter, a complete review of each piece of equipment is recommended — and this is the best time to determine if service, repair or replacement is warranted. Decisions for replacement should be made based on number of years in operation, cost of needed repairs or need to upgrade products to better match customer load and other special needs. Extra attention to fuel issues is also critical — operators should always use a quality fuel stabilizer, keep the fuel tank full during the season and, if in storage for six months or longer, drain the fuel and replace with fresh fuel before attempting to start the engine.

2. What factors are important to consider when making the purchase of a new commercial snow blower?

There are four key factors for consideration: the cost of the new equipment as compared to the cost of continually repairing old equipment; the cost of operation, fuel use, durability, dependability, ease of transport and overall ease of use; selecting the right product mix for different sized jobs (smaller jobs/sidewalks; larger jobs/parking lots); and the plan for proper storage of the equipment when not in use.

3. When considering the kinds of surfaces being cleared, what types of commercial snow blowers work best for the following?

  • • Sidewalks — Smaller, single-stage units are easier to transport and well suited for clearing these walkways.
  • • Driveways — Two-stage units offer the ability to adjust clearing for gravel, unpaved or paved areas. If an operator is faced with steep inclines or needs to clear snow plow banks or other hard-packed areas, it’s best to consider a track-drive model that can adjust the auger to dig into the packed heavy accumulations (as well as provide additional traction for steeper slopes).
  • • Parking lots — Snow plows or loaders that can quickly clear large areas are most efficient. High-quality, two-stage snow blowers are good choices for clearing snow banks or areas where larger plows or loaders cannot access.
  • • Small, hard-to-reach places, such as the side entrances of some buildings — Single-stage or two-stage snow blowers can easily clear these areas.

4. How do commercial snow blowers react to different surfaces, and why is this important?

Essentially, the rule of thumb is that single-stage snow blowers work to clear smaller, paved areas very effectively. Two-stage models — those with adjustable skid shoes — are better for clearing gravel, unpaved or grassy areas. Operators of track-drive models can easily adjust the auger position of the snow blower to adapt to different conditions.

5. When it comes to the types and amounts of snow being cleared, what types of commercial snow blowers work best?

When selecting a commercial snow blower, two factors are essential for consideration: the size of the engine and clearing width. In most cases, a smaller unit is the better choice for standard driveway and sidewalk clearing. To offer some perspective, a 24-in. wide unit will clear a standard 42-in. walk in one round trip; choosing a 28- or 32-in. wide unit for the same job does not provide any extra advantage. Generally speaking, operators should choose a larger unit for clearing larger driveways and common areas. For clearing hard packed snow (like snow plow banks), track-drive models are particularly effective in that they provide the ability to lock down the head to easily chew into hard-packed snow. Further, track-drive units featuring serrated, ice-breaking augers and hydrostatic transmissions (providing single-lever variable speed control when operating in forward or reverse) offer the ability to easily adjust speed and direction.

6. What features of a commercial snow blower play into the placement of removed snow?

Operators of commercial snow blowers should evaluate the chute controls that allow for snow to be easily directed to desired locations. Other features and quality components that will stand the test of time in the harshest of conditions also are essential for ease of use and a job well done. These include: sealed cables (sealed so as to prevent cables from freezing and limiting control of distance and direction); bearing-supported shafts; and high-quality, commercially designed engines that provide years of trouble-free operation when maintained and serviced per manufacturer recommendations.

Honda snow thrower

Good planning is the leading best practice when it comes to evaluating existing snow removal equipment and avoiding unexpected equipment failures.

7. How does the equipment react to objects hidden in the snow? Newspapers, large sticks, toys, metal objects?

Operators of commercial snow blowers should always be sure to have a supply of shear pins on hand to address hidden objects in the snow that can prove detrimental to snow removal equipment.

8. How important is the type of terrain (covered by snow) for evaluation, and how does the selection of tire or track equipment play into the equation?

Evaluating terrain and expanse of the area to be cleared are exceptionally important. For smaller, paved areas, a single-stage snow thrower with a 20-in. clearing width is ideal. For larger areas, a two-stage, wheel-drive model with self-propelled features and larger capacity clearing is the better choice for getting the job completed faster and easier; for steeper conditions, consider a track-drive model. If clearing flat commercial roofs is part of the snow removal plan, track-drive snow blower models prevent roofing damage because the auger can be adjusted so minimal contact with the roofing surface occurs.

9. What ease-of-use factors/features are important for consideration?

When it comes to snow blowers for commercial applications, electric start is always perceived as an advantage; however, common electric start is actually AC electric start requiring a wall outlet. Since most operators using snow blowers for commercial applications do not have access to electrical outlets on the jobsite, it is not practical for contractors to invest in this feature. By contrast, the new Honda HSS models offer DC electric start — allowing the electric start to be used anywhere. LED lighting is another feature for consideration when thinking about ease of use for the job at hand. Such lighting provides improved visibility to approaching traffic — both at nighttime and during the day. In addition, operators should evaluate and investigate the overall quality of the design, durability of the equipment and the design of the chute control.

10. How important is dealer/service support in deciding which brand to purchase?

Where a contractor purchases commercial snow equipment removal is an important consideration. Operators should consider a full-service dealer who will fully assemble, service and provide ongoing service and parts support. In addition, operators should investigate what types of commercial warranties are available for the inventory purchased.

Tom Pernice is a senior marketing strategist for Honda Power Equipment.

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