Shopping for a snow blower, maybe.....

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We are two retirees, 50' long double driveway (concrete). Shoveled a lot of snow last year, but getting older and lazier. I would like recommendations for a snow blower if there is one that isn't a monster to handle, doesn't throw snow into neighbor's yard, and won't break the bank. We can have it plowed, but that still leaves enough snow that it refreezes and gets icy; neither of us want to navigate ice to get to the mailbox or have visitors fall on the ice. Any recommendations for a reliable, manageable machine?
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On Friday, January 9, 2015 at 7:20:26 AM UTC-5, NorMinn wrote:

I've had a Craftaman for 20 years and am happy with it. It's 5hp, about 24", two stage, I think. Cost about $800 back then. The only problem I've had with it is that when I've forgotten to drain the gas at the end of the season, sometimes the carb gets fouled in just a few months. But even that was a quick fix with a $10 rebuild kit on Ebay. Of course what Sears and others sell today may be very different.
One thing I would definitely get is electric start. It's worth it to not have to pull start. And you want two stage. Another possible feature is some of the more expensive ones have tread type drives instead of tires. I never used one of those, but it might be a good thing if you have a grade to deal with. You can also put chains on the tire ones. I've been fine here with just the tires. I have a little grade at the end of the driveway and no problem getting the blower to go up it.
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On 1/9/2015 7:54 AM, trader_4 wrote:

located. I used a Craftsman electric (made by the old Sunbeam on the west side of Chicago) for many years and it was ok. A little getting used to the cord thing. When it finally bit the dust, I gave it to a cousin that had worked for Sunbeam and had one himself ... he now had lots of parts). I bought a single stage, 2 cycle, with an electric (120VAC) start. You had to push it as it wasn't self propelled. This unit was a whole lot better. Out of the cold garage it always started (AC) and if it would die along the sidewalk because I hit a hard chunk of ice from the street snow plow, the pull starter was there to get it going pretty easily, because it was nicely warmed up. When we moved to western NC 6 years ago, I gave it to my son. He had a similar unit, but no electric start. In a way, I wish I would have brought it with. We do have some snow here and it might be nice. That all said, I have seen commercials for the new Lithium Ion battery units (36 volts or something like that) ... looks pretty slick, especially for smaller areas ... probably pricey.
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On 1/9/2015 7:20 AM, Norminn wrote:

Mine's a two stage 24 inch Troy Bilt with electric start. It will handle a couple of feet or more of snow. Only trouble I had with it was time I did not run it dry and ethanol containing stabilized gas clogged it.
Neighbor has one exactly like it and no problems, except, maybe last year when he accidentally ran into his newspaper buried in the snow.
I'm 75 and have no trouble handling it.
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On Friday, January 9, 2015 at 8:37:13 AM UTC-5, Frank wrote:

Funny, I had both those experiences. Leaving gas in it fouling the carb and the newspapers. Newspaper thing is really bad. You can check the driveway before a storm, then go out the next morning and not even think that the delivery guy chucked it somewhere and it's now buried. Have extra shear bolts for sure....
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On 1/9/2015 4:12 PM, trader_4 wrote:

When neighbor hit the paper, it was a mess. He came over to look my unit over to make sure he got his back in its original condition thinking he bent the blades.
Gas problem was either ethanol attacking the seals as their is a caution in the manual not to use it. That's all that is available around here. Newer units may not have this problem.
I'm told there is also the potential for gas to evaporate from the carburetor gumming it up.
PITA with all small engines with long inactive periods in keeping them clear. Best to run these engines dry.
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On Saturday, January 10, 2015 at 10:31:04 PM UTC-5, Frank wrote:

Good luck with that. IDK where you can find gas without alcohol in it around here, NJ.
That's all that is available around here.

Yes, IDK how much better newer ones are. I don't think it's just alcohol attacking the seals. You would think there are suitable gasket, seal, etc materials that alcohol would not affect. I think the other part of the problem is the alcohol attracts water and that in turn creates gunk, corrosion, etc.

Yes, that;s probably the best. If you can remember. I forgot again with my snowblower. But tested it a couple weeks ago and it started right up, runs OK. Guess I got lucky. Not sure why. It didn't have stabilizer in it either. As I said, other times, in just a few months, when I realized I hadn't taken care of it, it was already fouled.
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On 1/12/2015 2:31 PM, trader_4 wrote:

I think gas at marine areas is alcohol free otherwise only places around here I've seen were in MD 100 miles from me.
My lawn mower and generator have shut off valves from gas tank and they are easy to run dry. With snow thrower I have to siphon and then it still takes several minutes to run dry.
Guy I know that used to have a service gas station and now deals with lawn service knows engines and said it depends on type of carburetor that might have evaporation problem.
I store stabilized gas for generator and recycle in 2 years in car if not used. I was using some stabilized gas in a can for my weed wacker with 2 cycle oil and it lasted over 5 years before going bad.
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On Monday, January 12, 2015 at 7:09:15 PM UTC-5, Frank wrote:

I used to have a boat, sold it a few years ago, never paid any attention as to how the pump was marked.
I found this site that lists places alcohol free is available by state. For NJ, only one place listed and in the details it's from someone who drove by, didn't stop to try to actually buy it and it was $10 a gallon.
http://pure-gas.org/index.jsp?stateprov=NJ

You would think that since there is generally agreement that the best practice is to run it dry that they would provide a drain so you could easily empty the tank. I always try to manage the gas when using it so that little is left, then just run it dry at the end of the season. If I remember.....

I've also kept mixed 2 stroke gas for long periods, left it in weed wackers, etc with no problems.
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On 1/12/2015 2:31 PM, trader_4 wrote:

A local equipment dealer here in CT carries it in 5 gallon cans. It was at a high price, but not outrageous.
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No snow thrower can clear ice. Ice requires: -- for individuals, studded boots to inhibit falling; -- ice can be cleared only by a vehicle (1) heavy enough to break ice into pieces, (2) capable of lifting and throwing the pieces. The cheapest alternative is to distribute a sand/salt mix atop the ice, renewed daily as needed.
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On 1/9/2015 8:55 AM, Don Phillipson wrote:

No, I don't intend the blower to clear ice...I want to remove the snow before it packs down and turns to ice :o)
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On 1/9/2015 8:55 AM, Don Phillipson wrote:

Sounded like the ice was because of incomplete snow plowing. Many snow throwers cut close to the surface.
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On Friday, January 9, 2015 at 6:20:26 AM UTC-6, NorMinn wrote:

Ariens, Cub Cadet, Troy-Bilt. CC and TB are made by MTD so I would ask a dealer if TB was just a re-labelled Yard Machine or a Cub Cadet? (Maybe you could look at them side-by-side). John Deere's larger blowers were made by Ariens.
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bob_villa:
+111111 - Ariens!
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I would try something like this http://www.homedepot.com/p/Ryobi-20-in-12-Amp-Electric-Snow-Blower-RYAC802/205438860?N=5yc1vZbxc5Z1z0r2r1Z1z0r453
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On Friday, January 9, 2015 at 6:20:26 AM UTC-6, NorMinn wrote:

Some reviews:http://movingsnow.com/the-best-snow-blowers-and-snow-throwers-for-2013-2014/
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Based on personal experience, I offer the following comments:
- Snowblowers are just that. They do not throw slush or ice. That means if you do not get outside to use them as soon as the snow falls, you are not going to see good results. Attempting to throw slush or snow that has melted near the ground results in the blower packing up. That means you have to turn it off and clean it out. Rinse, repeat. The only thing that will break up ice on the ground is a blade on a pickup.
- The little electric brushes are toys and shouldn't be considered.
- I have a self propelled Sears (really MTD) with a 9HP gas motor. Use it to do a 250ft driveway up the side of a mountain. Electric start is an absolute must. Trying to use a pull starter on a gas motor in the winter is nuts. It's two stage, which means it has an auger and a blower. The blower is adjustable, so there is some control on where and how far the snow gets thrown.
- It is self propelled, but that doesn't mean you sit in a rocker chair behind it. There is some physical effort in managing it.
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Per Norminn:

No recommendation, but I would concur with the idea of getting a snow blower instead of shoveling. Shoveling is pretty strenuous activity and if somebody only does it a few times per year I would think they are placing themselves at risk - more risk the older they get.
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On 1/9/2015 7:20 AM, Norminn wrote:

First you have to determine your real needs. If snow is a twice a year thing with 4", you can get away with a little single stage machine.
If you get 6" or more at a time and you get it a couple of times a month, you need a decent two stage machine. You want something that can trow the snow.
Look at features. I set out to buy a 24" as it would easily do my driveway. After looking at different models, the 28" had a better system to change the discharge, had a headlight and was slightly wider for a few bucks more.
I did not see any big differences in brands at a given price point. I bought mine early in the season at $100 off.
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