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What Is the Difference Between a Snow Blower and a Leaf Blower?

Winter is coming, and with it, snow. Whether you’re a mere yard owner, or a professional landscaper, dealing with snowfall is something we all must face when keeping our property clean and accessible.

Leaf blowers for sure serve their purpose from spring to fall, keeping our yards neat and tidy, but what about the winter season? Will their power hold? Or is it better to buy a snow blower to get rid of blankets of snow?

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what snow blowers are, how they function, why they’re much more convenient than a mere shovel, how they differ from leaf blowers and whether they can be substituted by them.

What is a Snow Blower?

Definition

Sun Joe iON18SB Cordless Snow Blower

Sun Joe’s iON18SB (opens in a new tab) is a highly popular, cordless, single-stage snow blower

Snow blowers (opens in a new tab) are devices which precede leaf blowers by many years. In short, they are used to clear surfaces of snow, using some power source – either electricity, or gasoline. They are meant as a power tool alternative to a snow shovel. They can also be, to some extent, viewed as an alternative to snow plows. We leave the comparison of the two to the experts in these respective fields (opens in a new tab). However, unlike leaf blowers, snow blowers function quite differently from what one may expect if considering just their name.

Snow blowers technically aren’t blowers. They’re suckers and spitters (though that sounds much worse in comparison). Snow blowers use augers and impellers to propel encountered snow, or rather suck it in and spit out. This makes them quite versatile when it comes to the consistency of the snow that they can handle, including melted snow and ice. However, relying on mechanical parts to get rid of snow can also be a limiting factor – some snow is simply too deep for certain models.

Types

Russian snow blowers made from Mig-15 plane engines

Russian snow blowers, made out of Klimov VK-1 engines from Mig-15 planes

Not all snow blowers are alike. They come in many sizes, which range from jet-engine snow blowers (opens in a new tab), used in Russia to clear train tracks of snow, to household walk-behind snow blowers.

We’ll focus on the latter, given that these are most likely to be relevant to our readers.

Household snowblowers are typically classified by their construction as one, two or three stage:

  • One-stage snow blowers, sometimes also called snow throwers, simply use an auger to pick up and spit out snow.
  • In contrast (opens in a new tab), double stage snow blowers interface their auger with an impeller, which aids propelling the snow out of the device.
  • Three stage mechanisms can be found on the market as well, though they are few in number and differ in what is meant by their extra stages.

However, in general, the addition of more stages aims to improve their performance in deep and wet snow by expanding their working volume. It should also be noted that extra stages go hand in hand with extra weight, dimensions and power consumption.

Differences Between Leaf Blowers and Snow Blowers

Now that we’ve learned a bit about what snow blowers are, let’s get to the meat of the matter. Naturally, leaf blowers and snow blowers are designed differently, which is consistent with their respective purposes.

Leaf blower manufacturers simply do not take into account that somebody may choose to use their device to get rid of snow. However, that doesn’t rule them out entirely. Leaf blowers are versatile power tools, which can be used all year-round, including winter.

So, how do they compare to snow blowers? We’ll consider these three main different aspects:

Maneuverability

Leaf blowers, especially handheld units, are much smaller, lighter and easier to manipulate than snow blowers. It is also easier to aim whatever is being propelled by them into a single direction. This gives leaf blowers one huge advantage over snow blowers – their use is not limited to any particular surface.

In contrast, snow blowers must always be used on flat surfaces and even natural garden terrain can cause them some trouble. Patios, decks, staircases and cars are out of the question. In contrast, leaf blowers are perfect for clearing these areas of snow.

Operating Temperature

Leaf blowers are not designed for low temperatures. Though most blowers are designed to be pretty much water resistant, handling freezing temperatures is a very different issue. They may end up simply not starting, dying on you, or worse, they may undergo irreparable damage caused by internal freezing.

Therefore, leaf blowers should always be stored and used in the temperature intervals given by their user manual. The same goes for snow blowers, though naturally, snow blowers are designed to have a stronger tolerance to freezing temperatures.

Snow Type

Leaf blowers can only deal with dusty, shallow, well crystallized snow. After all, they only expel air and thus, have no way to refine the consistency of the snow. As with debris, you can expect a leaf blower to clear a decent number of particles, but it won’t move a rock. Melting, deep snow or worse yet, solid chunks of snow, are simply too heavy for poor old leaf blowers to handle.

In contrast, snow blowers are designed to mechanically devour entire chunks of snow and ice. Thus, in the end, one can’t simply substitute one with the other.

Using Leaf Blowers to Clear Snow

So, what are leaf blowers good for during the winter season? While they aren’t always the best option for clearing snow, you can use leaf blowers to tidy many elevated and hard-to-reach surfaces, given that you know what you are doing. Cleaning your car, patio, staircases, outdoors furniture, etc., can be a charmingly swift task (see videos below) if a leaf blower is applied correctly. To do so, we recommend reading our previous article which covers snow removal with a leaf blower.

In addition, it may be possible to use a leaf blower for other surfaces, such as your driveway or footpath as well, given that it’s powerful enough. The only real limiting factor is the consistency of the snow encountered and its depth.

Lastly, remember that especially during the last few years, winters aren’t exactly what they used to be anymore. In most of the US, you’ll spend most of the winter dealing with similar kinds of leaves and debris that you would during any other season. Therefore, unless you’re really sure that you’ll need a snow blower, you probably won’t. In contrast, you’ll find a good use for a leaf blower all year round!

Summary

In conclusion, snow blowers are great devices when it comes to clearing snow off pavements, lawns and other, flat surfaces. They operate well even when dealing with wet snow or ice. However, they are limited by their size and shape, and therefore, are no good for patios, decks, staircases, windshields, etc.

Leaf blowers will most likely not be enough to clear your driveway, nor your lawn, unless you are dealing with light, crispy snowfall. However, they can be great for clearing elevated, curved or otherwise hard-to-reach surfaces, given a reasonable amount and consistency of snow.

Do you use your leaf blower to clear snow? Or do you prefer using a snow blower? Let us know in the comments below!

Patrick

Patrick

Manager and editor of leafblowerguide.com. He worked over 10 years for a well-known global company manufacturing outdoor power equipment, before starting his own landscaping business.

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