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If you’re in the market for a snowblower, you may be wondering what type to choose. Just as for lawn mowers, snowblowers come in both gas and electric varieties and you should choose the type that makes the most sense for your particular situation.

The first thing to understand about electric snowblowers is that the vast majority require aSnowblower cord rather than being battery powered, so unless you’re able to find one of these rare snowblowers, make sure you have a nearby standard (120V, 60Hz) electrical outlet nearby and a durable extension cord. There isn’t much need to worry about running over the cord or getting it tangled, since most models feature a hook or clamp that keeps it out of the way.

Once the above requirements are met, an electric snowblower may make sense if you just need to clear light, fluffy snow up to about 4 inches high. They can also be much less expensive than gas-powered snowblowers. However, keep in mind that unless you hook it up to a home generator, you won’t be able to plow during a power outage, which is a distinct possibility during a snowstorm. Still, many owners find their electric snowblowers quite handy for clearing patios, porches, steps, and decks where larger gas-powered snowblowers would be difficult to maneuver or overkill for the job.

If you are concerned about the limitations of electric snowblowers, including their tethered operation, vulnerability to power outages, ability to clear snowfall of only several inches or less, and generally less power to suck up and discharge snow, then you probably should choose a gas snowblower. Gas-powered models will require the occasional oil chance and gasoline fill-up, but can provide much more power and clear both taller and wider snowdrifts than electric models.

Gas snowblowers can feature one, two, or three stages. In general, the more stages, the more snow clearing ability. Single-stage snowblowers are usually between 19 and 22 inches wide and 6 inches high. They work by means of a spinning auger that scoops up the snow and flings it out through the chute (which can usually be adjusted depending on which direction you want to discharge the snow). These more basic snowblowers are best used on paved or flat surfaces (i.e. non-gravel) since the auger contacts the ground and will pick up small rocks as well as snow.

Dual-stage snowblowers feature a high-speed impeller in addition to the auger that expels the auger-gathered snow out the discharge chute. Besides being more powerful, these two-stage snowblowers can be much wider (approximately 22 to 36 inches) and handle snowdrifts consisting of wet and/or heavy snow up to 18 inches high. Furthermore, since the auger on these models does not make contact with the ground, they can be used on both rocky and paved surfaces. All in all, these snowblowers provide great snow clearing performance, are highly durable, and provide the flexibility and power required for most household snow clearing needs.

SnowblowerAlthough single or dual stage snowblowers will suffice for a large majority of people, there are three-stage snowblowers available for those who required even more capacity and power. These beasts can handle almost two feet of snowfall and can clear paths between 26 and 30 inches wide. If you have the need to move frozen or compacted snow, these snowblowers are your best bet to get the job done. They incorporate not just one, but two metal augers to scoop up snow and ice and pass it toward the center of the scoop, where it is broken up by an accelerator before being pushed toward the impeller for discharge through the chute. Like the dual-stage snowblowers, the three-stage variety can also be used on either rocky or paved surfaces.

Your choice of an electric or gas snowblower should be based primarily on how much and the type of snow you will usually need to clear, the type of surfaces (paved or unpaved) you plan on clearing, and whether power outages pose a concern. There are several other issues to consider as well, but these take a back seat to those above. If in doubt, a gas-powered model will generally provide more flexibility, power, and peace of mind, although it may cost a bit more and require some maintenance. If you do choose a gas snowblower, make sure that it has a sufficient number of stages, clearing width, and clearing height to meet your needs. It should also be suited for the types of surfaces you plan on clearing.