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Tip of the Day: Use a gas leaf blower to clear light snow

Consumer Reports News: January 28, 2009 12:09 AM

Over the last couple of weeks, at least three coatings of light, powdery snow fell on my house in the New York City suburbs.

For such scant accumulations, pulling out my spanking new 24-inch snow blower—which I bought based on our preliminary testing—would have been overkill. So I put another new toy to work: a gas-powered leaf blower that replaced an electric model I'd used for more than 13 years.

Within 15 minutes each time, I was able to clear two cars (including my elderly neighbors') and my walk, deck, and driveway all the way down to the stone and asphalt. Plus, the leaf blower cleared what a big snow blower can't—the front steps. (Leaf blowers are best suited to light-snow accumulations of an inch or so.)

Using a leaf blower this way isn't always appropriate. When the temperature starts climbing toward and above 32°F after it snows, everything gets wetter, and a blower won't be as effective. There are also some precautions to take. The manufacturer of my new machine notes that when you clear snow with a gas blower vac, you need to inspect the air filter for snow and ice buildup and the air-intake grid to keep it clear of ice and snow.

What's more, "There could be instances of ice forming inside the carburetor venturi that would cause future running problems after prolonged running with high humidity or blowing wet snow," says a Stihl spokesperson. Stihl also advises against using an electric blower even for dry, powdery snow. If you do use an electric model—as I occasionally used to, given the right snow—for safety's sake, be sure to plug into an outlet with a ground-fault circuit interrupter.

One lesson I did learn the hard way is that my new gas leaf blower runs hotter than my old electric. One day when I lifted the blower to clear off the deck rails, I grabbed its engine instead of the blower tube. Let's just say my pinkie fared better than the glove.—Ed Perratore

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