The Environmental Impact of Snow Blowers
It’s that time of year again, when the temperature comes down and the shovels come out. But they aren’t the only tool getting ready to make their yearly mark. It’s time to make sure that the snow blower, the most overlooked out-of-season item in your storage, is dusted off and ready for action. But how much does this time saver hurt the environment? Let’s take a look.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the average snowblower creates about one pound of carbon monoxide emissions per hour. It’s the equivalent of driving a car for 70 miles. In fact, 25% of mobile sources hydrocarbon emissions are created by small machines, which includes snowblowers.
That doesn't mean that the use of a snowblower is causing you to be the green menace of the neighborhood. Remembering that this fact includes all small machines, including generators, lawn mowers, etc., that we utilize more annually than we do the humble snow blower, it's really just a small percentage across the board.
If you really want to lower your carbon footprint, you can do it without resorting to the tested, tried and true, backbreaking, time-consuming shovel. You can do your bit by purchasing a newer model that passes the emissions tests set by the EPA.
The Death of the Two-Stroke
If you are in love with your older, smaller model of snowblower, you may be surprised to find out that it puts out more emissions than the larger, newer models today. In fact, you may be having trouble finding a two-stroke to purchase.
That's because the four-stroke engine only produces 1/10th the pollutants of it's smaller cousin and can cut the workload to half the time. Most industries are favoring the four-stroke because it is the most eco-friendly version to mass produce and can pass most emissions tests, which a two-stroke cannot, making them unsuitable for most communities.
According to ASHA, you can safely listen to a level of 95 dBa for two hours. Most snowblowers, like lawn mowers, come in at a whopping 106 dBa, which falls into the category of extremely loud and can cause damage after a prolonged period.
Just like particulate matter, the amount of noise pollution depends on the age, make and model of the snowblower. Because two-strokes are louder and take longer to perform, the noise pollution should be a concern, especially for the elderly and those with small children who might be taking greater risks with exposure.
A New Era Dawns
These days, you can really put that environmental guilt to rest by environmentally-friendly electric versions. Although they tend to be less costly than the traditional four-stroke gas snow blowers, they are generally not as powerful as gas blowers (with some exceptions).
These green versions are either mains- or battery-powered, and though they do require electricity, which usually results in emissions somewhere, they do not have the emissions output of their gassy predecessors.
With more emphasis being placed on the environment and more research being poured into the area, expect cordless and corded electrical blowers to become more capable and competitive over the next few years. Click here for more about the differences between gas and electric snow blowers.
Maintaining the Machine
Despite all efforts to have a clean walkway and cut the environmental impact of your tools, the most important aspect is one most overlooked, maintenance. Now that many manufacturers have switched to an over-head valve in lieu of the L-head, and with modern fuels, there is less carbon build-up inside the engine.
However, servicing the machine every year will not only ensure that your snowblower lasts season after season, it greatly cuts down on emissions. Carburetors need to be cleaned and re-jetted, if necessary, before being put into use after a long storage.
Also, make sure that any fuel has been properly kept. Adding a fuel stabilizer to your gas can is an excellent way to ensure the fuel is ready for use, even after sitting in the container for months.
The good news is that you don't need to take your blower into a shop, you can perform this maintenance yourself. Check out this video for an easy "how to" when it comes to doing it yourself: