14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Great for most situations
, January 23, 2011
After shoveling out from the Christmas storm here in the Boston area, I spent several days checking out Consumer Reports and online reviews before choosing this snow blower (price, sturdiness, and warranty were the deciding factors for me), and was more than a little apprehensive given the mixed reviews and that CR didn't include this in their most recent testing. Now that I've used it a few times, I thought I'd provide my experiences so far.
I was realistic and had braced for the fact that this wouldn't be a power horse, so when the first chance to use it came with 18" of heavy, wet snow, I was accepting of the fact that the snow blower wasn't really helpful in that situation. It did help a little. As others have noted, you can sort of chew away at pieces at a time, but I really can't say that I was able to snow blow "in layers" because the blower itself is heavy. It's not just going to glide along at 10" above the ground (I really don't understand what people mean when they say they did layers). At best, I could push the machine into the snow repeatedly until I made a little headway, or I could sort-of shovel off the top and then try to blow the rest, but doing all this was probably as exhausting as shoveling would have been - my arms and back were really feeling tremendous strain trying to get the blower to make any forward progress, and it was taking *forever*. I ended up only using the snow blower for about half of my 80' driveway and shoveling the rest. I wasn't sure I was going to keep it after that.
The next two storms have more than made up for the investment, and I'm positive I'll be keeping this machine. There was a 5" snow storm which ended in rain, leaving a heavy, soggy, horrible mess. I didn't think the blower would handle it, but it did with ease. I was able to quickly do my entire driveway in about 20 minutes, just leaving some stuff to clean up on the edges and some places the blower couldn't get to. The weight/wetness of the snow didn't seem to cause it any problems... there was no straining or any difficulty. Pushing the machine was easy, and I liked that the blower could clear all the way down to pavement.
Then a few days later there was another 8" of light, fluffy snow, and that was a total piece of cake. The driveway was again cleared in about 20 minutes of easy work, and I'm getting better at knowing how to use it and what "paths" to use for best efficiency and minimizing having to walk back and forth to move the cord around. Because the snow was light, I got a little over-enthusiastic and tried chewing through some of the mountain of ice and crud at the end of the driveway (courtesy of the plows). The blower could basically handle it OK, but I didn't like the idea of throwing big ice chunks in the air, and the sounds the machine was making weren't giving me a good feeling. So, I decided not to risk damaging the machine (or myself) and shoveled that stuff.
Bottom line is that the machine has limitations in some situations, but that would be true (I think) with any snow blower other than the huge $1,000+ two-stage monsters. I'm very happy with the heft and sturdiness of this machine, particularly the big wheels which were absolutely necessary in order to move the machine around in the 18" of heavy snow. I'm thrilled that I was able to spend only $200 for a machine that saves me time and effort, and I can continue to avoid having ANY gas-powered equipment in my garage (other than my car).
If you're on the fence between this and the other comparable electric machines (Toro and SnowJoe - both reviewed by CR) or maybe even some of the smaller gas models as I was, I can only weigh in that I don't regret my choice. I can't tell yet about longevity, but I'm optimistic that the 4-year warranty (compared to 2-year for the others) will help in the event that something goes wrong.
Oh, and it's true that the assembly instructions were incoherent and unhelpful, and often didn't match what was actually provided (e.g. what "rubber washer"?? and the hitch pin was totally different from the one in the diagram). The chute assembly diagram was too tiny to actually be informative. Use common sense, and do look at the photos of the assembled machine on the box. It's not that hard.
A couple of last complaints about the manual: I was surprised that the instructions didn't explain that there's a hook to loop the extension cord through so that it won't get accidentally disconnected. This is a good feature. And, they didn't explain that the handle has three different length settings, which was important for me (being short).