All-Electric Snow Removal That’s a Breeze

http://www.motherearthnews.com//green-homes/all-electric-snow-removal-zbcz1401.aspx

snowblowerClearing away snow has just gotten a charge from Snow Joe, the leading US supplier of over 140 products for snow removal and other seasonal needs.   I got my hands on their latest innovation, a cordless snow blower powered by a 40-volt lithium ion battery, and compared it to their top-selling cord-based electric snow thrower. Snow Joe is the first company to come out with a cordless unit – and it handled our latest carpet of snow perfectly.

We’re always exploring ways to avoid fossil fuels, trips to the gas station and pollution. The Snow Joe made a great addition to our cordless lawn mowers we use to maintain the farm in the summer. While Snow Joe products tend to be marketed to urban and suburban dwellers, our test this past week suggests that they might consider reaching out to rural folks, too.

While not designed to clear an entire farmstead and around outbuildings (that’s for tractors or skid-steer loaders), either unit could be an easy-to-use option to clear paths to buildings or, if your farmstead is small enough like ours, a less cumbersome and eco-friendly way to dig out after a storm and clear a small driveway. Both Snow Joe units were easy to assemble out of the box and both come with a two-year warranty. Impressive are their large metal rotors and thick rubber blades. While they work best on smooth cement or blacktop surfaces, we skimmed the surface of our gravel driveway and they did the job without spitting too many stones everywhere.

Finally, we can leave behind the temperamental and finicky starts resulting from gas-oil fuel mixture-based snow blowers and what to do with disposing of, responsibly, the leftover fuel at the end of the season. I have too many blisters after trying, unsuccessfully, to get our noisy, smoky and gas-powered units going – even when neighbors helped out one year by rebuilding the carburetors. There’s something about the combo of minus five degrees and gas-oil mixtures that seem to guarantee frustration.

Cordless Power

No gas. No cord. The first cordless single stage snow blower available in the US, the Snow Joe iON18SB with its Ecosharp 40-volt lithium-ion battery, served us well on our small homestead in southwestern Wisconsin. The unit is appropriately sized for our locale and needs, since we rarely get more than ten inches of snow at one time.

The iON18SB snow blower, with an 18-inch clearing width, cut through most of our 150-foot-plus-long driveway covered by about five inches of powder before needing to be recharged after about forty minutes of use. This unit threw the snow about twenty feet. We finished off the job with the Snow Joe SJ623E electric unit we tested out as well (see below). Of course, we could have opted for a back-up battery (for around $150) and just kept going.

The lithium ion battery is simply inserted into a covered slot on the handle of the blower to power the unit. Weighing in at only 31.5 pounds, there’s no straining to push it around (unlike the much heavier cordless lawn mowers on the market). There’s an LED light for illumination and a handy remote switch to pivot the snow chute without bending over.

The freedom that comes with the cordless feature does come at a price, starting at around $400. The EcoSharp charger recharged our battery in about three hours; it’s a “smart charger,” which means you can just leave it plugged in when not in use. However, all charging must take place inside your home or somewhere heated.

snowblowerPlug in and Blow the Snow Away

The 15-Amp Snow Joe SJ623E Ultra Electric Snow Thrower, with a swept area of 18-inches, provided plug-and-go simplicity in tackling the piles of snow at the end of our driveway and out our back door. This unit threw our powder about twenty-five feet.

There’s no messing around this unit, capable of throwing about 720 pounds of snow per minute. Since the unit is so light – weighing only 34 pounds -- it’s a breeze to move around. A halogen light on this unit helps you find your way through the snow in the dark and, importantly, stay clear of the cord.

In our trials, the only hassles are being mindful of the cord and having somewhere convenient to plug in. We added an outlet receptacle near the driveway that allowed us to cover our entire snow removal area with a hundred foot, heavy duty, outdoor 12-guage extension cord. This unit runs about $250.

We’re actually looking forward to our next snowstorm, with these two units on stand-by to clear away the snow. And because our homestead is completely powered by the wind and sun, we’ll not be adding any carbon dioxide (or other emissions) to the atmosphere when we do so.

Photos Courtesy of Snow Joe

John D. Ivanko, with his wife Lisa Kivirist, have co-authored Rural Renaissance, the award-winning ECOpreneuring and Farmstead Chef along with operating Inn Serendipity B&B and Farm, completely powered by the wind and sun. Both are regular speakers at the Mother Earth News Fairs. Ivanko writes and contributes photography to Mother Earth News, most recently, 9 Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living. They live on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin with their son Liam, millions of ladybugs and a 10 kW Bergey wind turbine.