Single Stage vs Two Stage Snow Blower? What’s the difference? What’s the best snow blower for wet snow? How does a 3-stage snow blower work? We answer all of these questions and more. Before you buy your next snow blower, you’re more likely to make the right decision as to which model you’ll buy once you know what your options are.
This informative article was written to help you understand snow blowers on a more technical level.
Single Stage vs Two Stage Snow Blower
If you’re thinking about a snow blower for the first time, you probably have a lot of questions. Foremost on your mind, may be the question: What’s the difference between a single stage and two stage snow blower? You won’t be alone in this, it’s probably the most frequently answered question with regard to snow blowers. People also want to know what difference is between a snow blower and a snow thrower. Here’s where you’re going to find the answers to these questions and many more.
There are many facts that you should take into account before deciding which is going to be the best snow blower for your needs. The depth of the snow that you experience is going to play an important role and choosing between a single and two stage snow blower is very important in this regard. Wet snow also requires a snow blower that can contend with this, so you may want to know which is the best snow blower for wet snow.
Is a gas, electric or battery-powered snow blower going to be your best option? You have your budget to consider, storage space for your snow blower and, perhaps, a whole lot of other stuff that you haven’t even thought of yet. This article is going to cover everything you need to know about snow blowers. From how a snow blower works to your most cost-effective options for the type of snow blower that you need. There’s a lot cover, so let’s get cracking.
VIDEO | 1-Stage vs 2-Stage Snow Blower — Side-by-Side
Types of Snow Blowers
There are basically three types of snow blowers to choose from. A single stage snow blower, which includes snow shovels, are the most basic and therefore the cheapest. Next up the list will be two-stage snow blowers, which are generally larger, more powerful and usually more expensive than single stage snow blowers. Finally, the biggest of all the snow blower types is a 3-stage snow blower. Since 3-stage snow blowers aren’t the most common, they’re usually used for commercial, municipal, and framing purposes, I’m going to focus mainly on the first two types – single stage vs two stage snow blowers.
Single Stage Snow Blowers
I’ll start by answering the question: what’s the difference between a snow blower and a snow thrower, because a single stage snow blower is actually a snow thrower. Although many people refer to snow throwers as snow blowers, there is a difference and the name says it all.
All snow blowers / throwers use an auger to remove snow and ice from the ground. A single stage snow blower also uses the auger to expel the ice and snow through a chute. So it doesn’t actually blow the snow away, the snow is thrown by the rotating auger. This has a two-fold effect on how you use a single stage snow blower, or more correctly, a snow thrower.
Because the auger has to lift the snow from the surface and fling (or throw) it a reasonable distance from the machine, the auger design is slightly compromised. It won’t remove as much snow, nor will it cut as deep into the snow. It also won’t throw the snow as far from the snow blower. For these reasons, single stage snow blowers aren’t suitable for heavy snow or for clearing larger areas, like long driveways. Typically, you can expect a single stage snow blower to handle up to around 6 – 8 inches of snow.
Single-Stage Snow Blowers are Suitable for Clearing under 8″ of Snow
Another factor that may affect your decision, if you’re looking at a single stage snow blower, is that the auger makes direct contact with the ground. This means they are very effective at clearing paved areas down to the surface. A single stage snow blower won’t leave a layer of ice or snow behind. However, they can’t clear a gravel surface, or any ground that has loose debris.
While the auger offers some assistance to the user, in moving the machine forward, a single stage snow blower doesn’t really have much power assistance. These machines will move slower than the other types and don’t fare well on an incline.
There are benefits to using a single stage snow blower, if you don’t need anything too big and powerful. First of all, a single stage snow blower is the cheapest option. You may see an overlap in the pricing. So some of the larger, high-end single stage snow blowers could cost more than entry level 2-stage machines. Though the cheapest machines will always be single stage. Single stage snow blowers (especially the smaller models) are lighter and more compact than 2-stage (or 3-stage) models. This makes them easier to move around the yard and they need less storage space.
Two Stage Snow Blower
The main difference between a single stage and two stage snow blower, is about how the snow is expelled from the chute. Instead of using the auger to throw the snow, a two stage snow blower has a powerful impeller that forces the snow and ice upward, out of the auger and into the chute. So the snow is literally blown away from the machine.
This dual, 2-stage action has a number benefits. The forced air blowing action allows it to discharge larger volumes of snow and ice, and deposit them further away. Probably more beneficial is the auger action which is much more effective at removing larger volumes of ice and snow. It is also more competent in compact snow and ice. If you experience frequent snow storms, with snow and ice deeper than 8”, you probably need a two stage snow blower.
Two-Stage Snow Blowers Will Clear Wet & Deep Snow Easily
There are a few other areas where two-stage machines are more advantageous. Two stage snow blowers have power assistance. This can be achieved by driving the wheels or an auger that propels it forward with enough power to negotiate a reasonable incline. If you have slopes in your yard that need clearing, I’d strongly suggest a 2-stage snow blower. Two stage snow blowers can handle a depth ranging from around 20-inches, right up to 45-inches for really large gas-powered machines.
Unlike single stage snow blowers, two stage augers don’t make contact with the surface. This means that they can be used on irregular ground with gravel and debris. Of course, this means that the auger leaves a thin layer of snow or ice. For most models, this isn’t an issue, because they can have scrapers that remove the layer left by the auger. A two stage snow blower is going to be the best for wet snow. But there’s a bit more to consider if you live up north, where wet snow and ice are abundant, so I’ll be discussing the best snow blower for wet snow in more detail under its own heading.
For their many advantages, two stage snow blowers do have their pitfalls. They are going to cost more than most single stage machines. These are relatively large, heavy machines, so they’re not as convenient to store. They may also be less easy to maneuver around the yard, requiring a greater turning circle than a single stage snow blower.
Three Stage Snow Blowers
Homeowners with a particularly big yard may consider a 3 stage snow blower. But they are generally used by farmers and for commercial applications. A three stage snow blower makes clearing large volumes a snow much quicker. This is because they use an additional accelerator auger. They can be a fair bit larger than two-stage machines, but their main advantage is being able to work much faster. A 3-stage snow blower with the same clearing capacity as a larger 2-stage machine will accomplish a lot more in a shorter space of time. Three stage snow blower are the most expensive of the lot.
VIDEO / Single-Stage vs 2-Stage vs 3-Stage Snow Blower / Cub Cadet Blowers
Best Snow Blower for Wet Snow
I mentioned, when discussing 2 stage snow blowers, that these are the best for wet snow. Of course, this would also include 3-stage snow blowers as they are the most capable all around. Though, for most home owners, a powerful 2-stage snow blower should be more than adequate for wet snow.
What’s important to know about wet snow is the extra power that’s needed. Wet snow is heavier than fluffy white snow and it turns to ice quite easily. So you need the extra power to lift heavy wet snow and the serrated auger of a 2-stage machine is able cut through ice. Though, even with a more capable auger, smaller electric 2-stage augers won’t be too much good in wet snow. I recommend a powerful gas snow blower for wet snow. For these situations, my first choice would definitely be the Husqvarna ST224, 24”, 2 stage gas snow blower. For a cheaper (almost as good) alternative, you may want to consider the WEN SB24.
Choosing the Right Snow Blower
By now, you should have a pretty good idea of the various types of snow blowers and how they work. What we’ve established so far, is that single stage snow blowers are intended for light snow up to about 8-inches. For heavier snow and, more importantly, wet snow and ice, a two stage snow blower is the best, the largest of these can handle snow drifts up to 45-inches. Though when you’re choosing the right snow blower for your needs, your budget is going to play a role. You should also consider how often you use your snow blower. In an area where you only receive occasional snow, a light-duty machine will probably be okay and won’t cost as much as heavy-duty snow blowers.
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Cheap Snow Blowers
The word cheap doesn’t feature much in my vocabulary. I’m never one to buy a product because it’s the absolute cheapest. I prefer to look at value for money. So I’ll always look at the cheapest products that have a reasonable quality factor. These may not be the cheapest there is, but offer a good deal of quality at an affordable price. It’s very important to buy the correct snow blower for your needs. When reading customer reviews, I find that so many complaints are from people buying a product that doesn’t meet their expectations. If you’re buying a cheaper, light-duty snow blower and expect it to do the job of an expensive, heavy-duty machine, you’ll end up sorely disappointed. Without wasting your money on something that exceeds your needs, you need to ensure that the snow blower you’re buying is going to be up to the job that you intend doing with it.
Corded Electric Snow Blowers
If we’re talking about the cheapest snow blowers, these will always be single stage corded electric machines. You should be able to find a good quality light to medium duty, single stage electric snow blower for a little over a hundred dollars, expect to pay about double this for the same type of quality when buying a 2-stage machine. A pretty good snow shovel can cost you less than a hundred bucks. It’s important that you realize what you’re buying in this price range. I’d recommend the Snow Joe SJ627E as one of the best value for money electric, single stage snow blower. Other brands to consider are Powersmart and Greenworks.
Among these brands, you can find a decent single stage (15” – 18”) electric snow blower for not much more than $100. If you’re looking for the same type of machine with 2-stage capabilities from the same brands, expect to pay $200 – $250. The Toro 18”, 15A 1800 Power Curve looks like one of the best value for money 2-stage snow blowers – in my opinion.
Remember that snow blowers in this price range (single or two stage), are going to be light to medium duty machines. For home owners with a short driveway (up to 30’) these snow blowers will be great for seasonal use in an area that doesn’t receive heavy snow for most of the winter. So you’re looking at a Mid-West climate, rather than a far Northern climate.
Battery-Powered Snow Blowers
Although more expensive, battery snow blowers are very popular. Over the past 25-years, we’ve seen battery technology blossom in the power tool environment. Powerful lithium ion batteries can now match the power that we’d have once expected only from corded electric machines. If you’re going to be realistic, expect to pay around $100 more for a single stage battery snow blower, than you would for a corded equivalent. So you could end up paying double for the battery-powered option. Battery snow blowers are much more efficient than their 110V AC counterparts. So you will be saving a bit on your electricity bills. How much you’ll be saving is impossible to tell. But brushless DC electric motors can be up to 50% more efficient than AC motors.
At the moment, battery-powered snow blowers offer a limited choice. There are a lot more corded electric models available and there’s also a size limit for battery machines. For a good balance of affordability, quality and utility, the battery-powered Snow Joe Ion range is worth considering.
EGO POWER+ SNT2102 — 56V (Battery) One-Stage Snow Blower
Gas Snow Blowers
When looking at gas-powered equipment, of any kind, the concept of cheap should be the last thing on your mind. Cheap gas engines are a nightmare. Remember that a gas-powered snow blower has many more mechanical parts. This means there’s more to go wrong and you need to pay attention to your maintenance requirements.
If electric snow blowers don’t make the grade in terms of power or size, gas is going to be your best option. For large gardens, an electric cord can simply become impossible. There’s a limit to how long an extension cord can be, this becomes more important as you increase the power and, therefore, the amps of the machine.
After giving the matter all due consideration, you find that a gas snow blower is your best choice, be prepared to pay for it. Here brand becomes very important. Not only are unknown, cheap brands unreliable and problematic, it’s often impossible to find spare parts for these machines. You’re already paying considerably more for gas snow blower than you would for any electric machine. So trying to save fifty, or even a hundred bucks on a gas snow blower could easily come back to haunt you.
I’ve already mentioned Husqvarna as my personal favorite. Generally, when it comes to gas-powered garden equipment, this is my go-to brand. Troy-Bilt is another highly rated brand in this market. If you simply can’t afford this caliber of machine, Briggs & Stratton is often more affordable and their quality is of a decent standard. Yardmax is another favorite with homeowners looking at light to medium duty garden machinery. Though, personally, my first choice would be the more high-end brands for gas equipment. You’ll pay more initially, but these machines will prove their value many times over as the years go by.
A quality gas machine, from a reputable brand, is going to provide you with many years of reliable service (possibly a lifetime). A gas engine can be repaired almost indefinitely. You want a brand that is going to provide you with the service (and spares) that you require over the lifetime of the machine. Once you’re spending this kind of money, you don’t want to be doing it again in a hurry. So it’s important to make sure you get right first time around. Hence my opinion that cheap gas-powered machines are simply not worth considering.