Read this Guide Before You Rush Off to Buy Snow Equipment
By Ryan Pfeifer
Choosing the right or wrong snow equipment can be the difference between a business that rages with success or one that fails miserably.
That’s because with the right equipment, your employees don’t have to put in extra effort for long-hours as they would with the wrong equipment.
But how can you choose the right equipment?
That’s what we are here to discuss today. In this comprehensive guide, I will talk in-depth about the equipment required to run a snow removal business.
I will mention everything you need to know about each equipment — from its purpose-of-use to who should buy it to how to train your staff to use it properly — to help you make an informed decision.
Are you ready? Let’s dive right in.
By definition, a snow plow is a device that is mounted on a vehicle, typically a truck, for plowing or removing snow and ice from outdoor surfaces.
Snow plows are ideal for clearing large areas quickly because they can push or carry huge piles of snow — more than any other snow removal equipment — thanks to their sturdy design.
Another great thing about plows is that they have relatively fewer moving parts than other snow removal equipment, which also makes them the most reliable tool for plowing snow.
The only downside to plows is that you need a truck to use them. Combine the cost of a plow and a truck, and you may not like the sum you get.
However, even though plows are among the most expensive snow removal tools, they are the best investment of snow companies that target commercial areas.
Without a snow plow, you cannot land commercial clients. In case you didn’t already know, commercial clients are the ones who pay the most and sign the longest contracts.
Should You Buy a Plow?
Yes, you should because every snow company needs a plow. But which one? That depends on the area you’re targeting to sell your services.
There are three types of plows and they are suitable for three types of snow companies:
- Light plows: If you’re planning to plow driveways, then you will need a light plow.
- Heavy plows: If you have big parking lots or other commercial areas to handle, then you will need a heavy plow.
- Medium plows: If you have a mixed clientele (commercial and noncommercial), then you should get medium plows that are not ideal, but good enough for small driveways and big parking lots.
Light plows are only 6 to 7 feet wide and are made from plastic or other light metals. Whereas, heavy plows are available up to 10 feet wide and are made from heavier metals.
Medium plows are the ones that range between 7 to 8 feet wide and are made from heavier material than light plows, but lighter than heavy plows.
Have you decided which plow (light, medium, or heavy) your company needs? If you have, then check out my recommendations for each one.
Width: 90 inch
- Height: 22 inch
- Duty Rating: Light
Why I Recommend the 90-Inch Meyer HomePlow 26500
Here are 3 reasons why the 90-inch Meyer HomePlow 26500 is the cream of the crop among the light snow plows:
- It has full hydraulic control (up/down/left/right).
- It has dura slick paint that ensures snow doesn’t stick.
- It has a quick link mounting system, which makes getting it on and off your vehicle a breeze.
Width: 5 inch
- Height: 17 inch
- Duty Rating: Medium
Why I Recommend the Husqvarna 588181302
I recommend the Husqvarna 588181302 as the best medium duty snow plow because even though it costs significantly less than other plows, it is powerful, durable, and effective enough to get the job done!
Base Price: $6,739
- Blade Width: 10 inch
- Blade Height: 34 inch
- Duty Rating: Heavy
Why I Recommend the Western Pro Plus HD Straight Blade
Here are 3 reasons why I believe the Western Pro Plus HD Straight Blade is the best heavy plow:
- It has a 34″ tall, 10” wide, 11-gauge, powder-coated steel moldboard that is constructed to take on jobs like large parking lots and local streets.
- It has a fast, powerful, and durable hydraulics system.
- For trip protection, this plow has six heavy-duty coil springs that allow the whole blade to trip when striking obstacles.
How Plows Should Be Used
Here are 3 tips on how plows should be used:
- You should ensure that your team knows how to attach and detach the plow to and from the truck safely.
- You should keep your plows in safe storage when they aren’t being used.
- You should read this guide on snow plow maintenance.
For more info, check out the Meyer’s Owner’s Manual and User Guide.
If you didn’t know already, any truck that can handle carrying a plow is considered a plow truck.
Should You Buy a Plow Truck?
According to market experts, every snow plow company should own at least two plow trucks (one for backup).
The only exception are companies targeting small driveways with small amounts of snow — these gigs (obviously) don’t pay well.
I don’t recommend starting without a snow plow truck because that will land you only small gigs that don’t pay well enough for your business to be worth it in the long run.
Now that’s cleared up, let’s talk about the three types of plow trucks you can buy:
- Light Trucks
Light trucks are ideal for noncommercial plowing, such as Toyota Tacoma, Chevy S-10 Blazer, or any other truck that can only carry plows weighing less than 300 pounds.
If you’re planning to target noncommercial areas, then light trucks can get the job done. There’s no need to buy midsize or heavy trucks that cost significantly more.
- Midsize Trucks
Midsize trucks, such as the Ram 1500 or Ford F-150, are ideal for light commercial plowing with midsize plows — no more than 8 feet wide.
These trucks can handle midsize plows (300 to 600 pounds) with ease. Another great thing about midsize trucks is that they are exceptionally durable — even more than some heavy-duty trucks.
If you have a mixed clientele (both commercial and noncommercial), then you should get medium size trucks that can work on small driveways as well as big parking lots.
If you want your crew to get the job done right in commercial areas, then you have to give them the right equipment.
By buying small trucks that are less expensive, but not designed to handle heavy snow, you end up wasting your workers’ time and efforts.
Plus, your trucks will wear out quicker because they’re not designed for plowing huge amounts of snow. So by buying a small truck, you don’t save any money either.
If you’re targeting big commercial areas, then heavy-duty trucks are for you because they can safely handle a heavy plow.
Heavy-duty trucks, such as the Ram 3500, Chevy Silverado 2500, Ford F-350, Silverado 4500, and Ram 5500, can handle the biggest plows.
One thing I wanted to mention before I give my recommendations:
When it comes to trucks and plows, finding the right balance is critical. A heavy plow on a light truck will cost you in repairs, while a light plow on a heavy truck will waste time.
So make sure that the truck and plow you buy are suited for each other. In other words, light plows work with light trucks and heavy plows with heavy trucks.
Now that we got that cleared up, here are my recommendations:
Base Price: $5,675
- Torque: 253 ft-lbs
- Torque rpm: 2,400
- Payload: 1,453 lbs
- Horsepower: 165 Hp
- Horsepower rpm: 4,000
- Base engine size:3 liters
- Base engine type: Gas
- Maximum towing capacity: 5,500 lbs
Why I Recommend the Chevy S-10 Blazer
If you’re looking for a low-cost truck that can handle light-duty for a long time, then Chevy S-10 Blazer is the one for you! It’s cheap, easy-to-drive, and highly durable.
Base Price: $28,745
- Torque: 510 ft-lbs
- Torque rpm: 3,500 rpm
- Payload: 1,200 lbs
- Horsepower: 450 Hp
- Horsepower rpm: 5,000
- Base engine size:5 liters
- Base engine type: Gas
- Maximum towing capacity: 8,000 lbs
Why I Recommend the Ford F-150
With a powerful engine, durable material, and a great fuel economy, Ford F-150 is the ideal midsize truck.
Base Price: $31,795
- Torque: 410 ft-lbs
- Torque rpm: 3,950
- Payload: 1,450 lbs
- Horsepower: 395 Hp
- Horsepower rpm: 5,600
- Base engine size:7 liters
- Base engine type: V-8
- Maximum towing capacity: 7,970 lbs
Why I Recommend the Dodge Ram
If you’re looking for some heavy-duty machinery, then Dodge Ram is one bad ass truck! With 395 horsepower, this truck can plow through huge piles of snow with ease.
How Plow Trucks Should Be Used
As the business owner, you want to ensure your employees know how to handle a plow truck. You should hire a truck expert to test their skills.
If they’re not skilled enough to plow snow safely in your target areas, such as driveways or parking lots, then you have two options from there on:
- You can pay for their training.
- Or fire them and hire new employees who know how to handle a truck.
Either way, here are some basic tips on how to use a truck to plow snow the right way:
- Lower the blade before you start plowing. Now, drive forward to plow, and then back to leave the snow where you piled it.
- For plowing a large parking area, start at the outermost edge from where you plan on piling the snow. Then, working from one side to the other, move the snow toward your pile.
- For plowing a long drive, start at the bottom of the drive and make your way up to the top of wherever you plan on piling your snow. Again, move the snow from one side to the other.
Those were only some basic tips. For more info, check out this beginner’s guide on plowing snow with heavy-duty trucks the right way.
I believe the best way to train your team is by hiring an expert truck driver with years of plowing experience.
Snow blowers are walk-behind units with motors that blow away snow as you move. They are easy to use and ideal for clearing sidewalks and driveways.
Generally, snow blowers are categorized into two main types:
- Electric Blowers:
Electric snow blowers are lightweight machines ideal for clearing sidewalks and small driveways because they can only blow light snow (less than 12 inches).
These machines are virtually maintenance free, as they don’t require any fill ups or oil changes.
- Gas Blowers:
As you can guess by the name, gas blowers are powered by gas. These machines are further divided into the following three types:
- Single-stage blowers are the smallest, lightest, and least expensive blowers powered by gas. They only throw the snow once with an auger that scoops it up and throws it out the chute.
- Two-stage blowers are superior to both electric and single-stage in every category. These powerful machines have a sturdier design that helps you tackle deep and heavy snow (upwards of 18+ inches) with ease.
- Three-stage blowers are the most powerful, efficient, and expensive blowers on the market. These heavy machines have all the accessories and features that make your time removing snow not only comfortable, but also easy.
Should You Buy a Blower?
If you plan to handle a lot of residential clients, then scrapes and shovels won’t do. You will need to own one or two snow blowers to help make the work easier for your team.
But which snow blower (electric, single-stage, two-stage, or three-stage) should you buy? Here are 3 questions to help you figure that out.
- How big is the area I want to clear?
Before you run off to the nearest shop to buy a snow blower, you need to first ask yourself, “how large an area am I targeting to clear?”
Single-stage machines are ideal for clearing small driveways. While, for driveways over 60 feet long, a two-stage or even a three-stage blower may be more suitable.
- How deep is the snow I intend to move?
If you want to move snow up to 8 inches, then a single-stage will do. You don’t need to spend extra on buying a two-stage or three-stage unit.
However, if the snow is any more than 8 inches, then it’s in your best interest to buy two-stage or three-stage blowers that can handle large amounts of snow with ease.
- Am I clearing light snow, heavy snow, or ice?
If you’re working on light snow, then single-stage units will work just fine. However, for clogging in ice or heavy snow, you will need two-stage or three-stage units.
Did those three questions help you figure out what type of snow blower you need? If they did, then here are my recommendations for each type:
- The Best Electric Snow Blower
Do you want to save yourself the hassle of maintaining your snow blower, then EGO 21 in. W Single-Stage Push-Button Start Battery is the perfect snow blower for you!
The EGO 21 is one of, if not the most powerful electric blower, as it throws snow up to 35 feet and even allows you to redirect the chute up to 180 degrees.
- The Best Single-Stage Snow Blower
After consulting several snow blower experts and reading hundreds of reviews online, I recommend the Toro Power Clear 21 Self-Propelled Gas as the best single-stage snow blower.
Powered by a 212cc engine, this blower can handle up to 9 inches of snow with ease. It’s easy-to-use, highly durable, and more powerful than any other blower in its price range.
- The Best Overall Snow Blower
Ariens Deluxe 28 in. 2-Stage Electric Start Gas Snow Blower is hands down the best overall snow blower. It’s powerful, durable, and most importantly affordable.
With a 254cc engine (roughly equal to 17 horsepower), this machine can cut a 28-inch wide path through even the heaviest, deepest, and wettest of snow!
How Blowers Should Be Used
I have mentioned this a lot of times already, but I’ll say it again because it’s a necessity for your success:
As a business owner, you want to ensure that your workers know how to handle their equipment. Otherwise, you will lose both time and money.
Here are three thorough guides that teach you how to operate a snow blower properly:
- Snow Blower Guide — by Consumer Reports.
- How to Use a Snow Blower — by Home Depot.
- 12 Things to Know Before You Start Your Snow Blower — by DIY Network.
Deicing Material and Equipment
In the snow removal industry, every snow business owner agrees that deicing and anti-icing methods save you both time and money.
They also agree that the best time to start spreading the deicing or anti-icing material is as early as possible because the earlier you start, the more easily you can prevent the formation of ice.
Now before you start buying any material or equipment, first you must (at least) have a basic understanding of how deicing materials work.
There are several types of deicing and anti-icing materials. However, most of them are made up of one or a combination of the following 6 basic chemicals:
- Calcium chloride
- Carbonyl diamide
- Potassium chloride
- Magnesium chloride
- Calcium magnesium acetate (CMA)
- Sodium chloride (common rock salt)
When shopping for deicing material and equipment, you should ask the supplier for specific details to confirm that you’re buying the right product.
8 Crucial Factors to Consider Before Buying Deicing Material
Here are the 8 crucial factors you must consider before buying deicing material:
- Melting Temperature
The chemicals found in the deicing material determine its melting temperature — the lowest temperature at which a material can melt ice.
Melting temperatures of deicing materials vary greatly. For instance, calcium chloride can melt ice all the way down to -25° F, while sodium chloride only melts to 5° F.
So using a material with a melting temperature not hot enough for the current conditions is not only a waste of time, but also money.
That’s why you should check the melting temperature of a deicing material before you buy it.
You cannot make a decision on a product solely based on how hot the de-icer is. There are several other factors you need to consider.
One of them is how damaging the material could be to the environment.
For instance, some chemicals, such as rock salt, are way more damaging to grass. While, other chemicals, such as magnesium chloride, are gentler on grass than salt.
That’s why you should ask the supplier for a product that poses the least danger to the area you’re going to use the deicing material on.
Depending on where you live, some deicers may be more readily available than others. For instance, rock salt is readily available everywhere in the world, while CMA is not nearly as common.
Many deicers are composed of certain chemicals that aren’t always available at local stores. So you may have to travel out of town or go online to get them.
One last thing I want to mention is that while a deicer may be available nearby, it might not be available in the same amount as you need.
That’s why you need to ensure that the deicer you choose is readily available in the exact amount you need.
You may not know this, but different sized particles serve different purposes.
A large and heavy particle, as it melts, will sink down deep into the snow — all the way to the pavement.
On the other hand, a small and light particle will not go deep into the snow. However, it will cover a greater amount of surface area, which makes it great for big parking lots with little snow.
So before you take money out of your pocket, make sure that you’re getting a deicer with the right-sized particles.
Quality of ice melt is an important factor in deciding which deicer you should buy, especially if you can’t afford top-of-the-line equipment.
Let me explain why.
Many contractors often buy bulk rock salt, which is less expensive because it is only screened once. A single screening results in leftover fine and wet particles in the mixture.
The leftover fine and wet particles often get stuck in the spreader’s moving parts.
Now, higher grade equipment is built to handle these particles safely. But lower grade equipment? Not so much.
That is why those with low grade equipment should consider buying bagged rock salt that is screened 3 times making it dryer and more even — which makes it less demanding on the equipment.
- The Spreader System
If you didn’t know already, your spreader system is directly impacted by the type of de-icing material you use.
No matter which system you use — auger, paddle, or pintle chain — they all work differently with different materials based on the size and quality of the de-icer.
For instance, if you’re going with rock salt, then you need a fully sealed motor made up of stainless steel because salt, when wet, is a motor’s worst enemy.
Being fully sealed helps prevent internal damage, and the stainless steel resists corrosion.
So it’s important to choose a material that does not pose any danger to your spreader system.
One more thing I want to mention here is that the size of your spreader will help determine what deicing material you should buy.
As a rule of thumb, remember that large, high end spreaders work best with large deicing material, while small, low grade spreaders may be better off with small ice melts.
Before purchasing de-icing material, you should consider how much “dry” room you have to store it. Let me explain what I mean by dry room.
You may now know this, but deicing material is often hygroscopic, which means that it absorbs water. So you need to ensure that it is stored in a dry place away from liquids.
Last but not least, the price is perhaps the most important factor in deciding what to buy. You should go with the least costing material that gets the job done.
The price of deicing materials depends on their size, quality, and melting temperature. Deicers with higher quality, hotter melting temperature, and bigger size are more expensive.
Let’s do a quick recap of the 8 crucial factors to consider before buying deicing material:
- Melting temperature to ensure the material will work in the current conditions.
- Environment to ensure the material poses no threat to the target area.
- Availability to confirm whether enough of the material is available nearby or online.
- Size to check what type of material will work best for the service you’re offering.
- Quality to ensure the material does not damage your spreader system.
- Spreader system to confirm that it will work well with the selected material.
- Storage to ensure there’s enough room for the amount you intend to buy.
- Price to confirm the material will return profits.
Remember, there are numerous options available when purchasing ice-melt. So carefully consider each one until you find the perfect fit for your spreading system and the type of job you’re doing.
Consult the supplier of the deicing material, as they will most likely provide you with additional information to help you find the ideal product.
Should You Buy Deicing Material?
Since every expert in the snow removal industry agrees that the best way to handle ice is to prevent its formation, the answer is a resounding yes!
My Recommendations for Deicing Material
Before I give my recommendations, let’s first talk a bit more about the six chemicals I mentioned earlier:
- Rock salt is the most popular deicing chemical because it is the least expensive. However, it’s not the best choice because there are several downsides to it. The most important ones are that it doesn’t work in low temperature, causes damage to just about any surface, and harms pets if they ingest it.
- Calcium chloride is another popular option because it works quickly in temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the downside is that it can damage plants and grass if you use too much.
- Magnesium chloride is the most pet and environmentally friendly chemical. It also lowers water’s freezing point to -13 degrees Fahrenheit. But the downside is that it might damage your asphalt, concrete, or plants.
- Calcium magnesium acetate (CMA) is less corrosive than salts with chloride, but it’s not effective in temperatures below 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Potassium chloride is considered safe for pets, but bad for plants and grass. Also, it only works in 25+ degrees Fahrenheit.
- Carbonyl diamide, more commonly known as urea, is hands down the safest option for the environment. But it isn’t as effective as other deicers.
Now that you know more about the deicing chemicals, let’s move on to my recommendations:
As I mentioned earlier, the best deicing material for you depends on what is more important to you, the price, safety rating, or the effectiveness of the chemical?
That’s why I am recommending three ice melts:
- The Most Affordable Ice Melt
If you’re looking for the most affordable ice melt, then you should buy the Snow Joe Professional Strength Calcium Chloride Pellets.
Pros: Affordable, multi-purpose, and effective in temperatures as low as -25 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cons: Seals on bags are often ineffective.
Why I Recommend It:
I recommend the Snow Joe because it offers the best balance between affordability, versatility, and performance. You won’t find any ice melt that costs so low, yet performs so well.
- The Longest-Lasting Ice Melt
If you’re looking for the best ice melt for long-lasting coverage, then there is none that lasts as long as the Pellets of Fire Snow & Ice Melter.
Pros: Long lasting, works on many surface types, and prevents refreezing.
Cons: Can be harmful to pets.
Why I Recommend It:
I recommend the Pellets of Fire Snow because there’s no ice melt that lasts as long, works as well, and prevents refreezing in its price range.
- The Most Environmentally Friendly Ice Melt
If you’re looking for a salt that goes easy on your concrete, asphalt, and vehicles, then Natural Rapport Pet and Kid Friendly Ice Melt is the one for you!
Pros: Arguably the most environmentally friendly product.
Cons: Quite expensive and doesn’t work well in extreme cold.
Why I Recommend It:
I recommend the Natural Rapport Pet and Kid Friendly Ice Melt because it is arguably the safest product for your pets and the environment.
If you’re looking for a balance of all three, then you should buy the Green Gobbler 96% Pure Calcium Chloride Snow & Ice Melt Pellets. It’s the best overall ice melt.
Pros: Acts quickly, melts ice in temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit, and can be used for a variety of alternate purposes.
Cons: May damage plants and grass if overused.
Why I Recommend It:
I recommend the Green Gobbler because it’s a perfectly balanced combination of safety, affordability, and effectiveness.
Should You Buy a Spreader System?
According to market experts, every snow removal company should own a spreader system because it not only saves you time, but also money in the long run.
Here are three benefits of owning a spreader system:
- Save Yourself the Trouble — And Some Money
Let’s face it, carrying heavy bags of salt to clear a terrain of snow is no pleasant task.
No one likes being out in the cold. And if you ever forget your gloves, your hands will go numb which makes manual spreading even more unpleasant.
On top of that, when you spread manually, you can’t be sure whether you are distributing too much or too little.
However, it doesn’t have to be that way as using a walk-behind spreader or mechanical solution to attach to your machine can eliminate these issues.
Also, the spreader system spreads the exact amount of material. So you don’t have to worry about spending extra money on excess salt bags.
- Save Time
Here are the extra actions you eliminate by using a spreader system:
- You don’t have to return to get a new salt bag.
- When using a spreader attached to a vehicle, you don’t have to cover the entire area on foot.
This way, you save a lot of time.
- More Applications
Spreader systems are more commonly known as salt spreaders — which is actually a poorly chosen name because they can spread more than just salt.
Salt spreaders can also spread dry sand and any other high-volume gritting material, which means you can use them for a variety of purposes.
Other than spreading ice melt, you can use a salt spreader:
- As a fertiliser
- As a seed spreader
- To feed your chicken
My Recommendations for Salt Spreaders
After talking with many salt spreader experts and reading tons of reviews online of nearly a hundred salt spreader, I recommend the following three:
People love the Earthway 2150 because it is a reliable machine that spreads evenly. Its two most impressive features are a 50-pound bucket capacity and 13-inch pneumatic tires.
What I love about the Agri-Fab 45-0462 is how durable it is. It’s made up of corrosion-resistant poly hopper and an enclosed gearbox that can survive years of all-weather use.
I am recommending the Scotts Turf for those who cannot afford to buy an expensive salt spreader. It’s hands down the best of the bunch among salt spreaders that cost less than $50.
6 Quick Tips to Help You Learn More About Deicing Materials
Here are six quick tips to help you learn more about deicing materials:
- Remove As Much Snow As Possible Before Applying the Material
No matter what type of ice melt you decide to use, you should remove as much snow as you can before applying the product to ensure maximum efficiency.
One more thing I want to mention is that ice melts are most effective when they’re applied on ice, rather than snow.
- Let the Sun Help
If the weather looks like it’s going to warm up in the upcoming days, then hold off on the ice melt.
- Never Substitute Chloride Based Salt With Fertilizer
You may have heard about substituting chloride-based salt products with fertilizers because they’re more environmentally friendly, but that’s not a good idea.
You see, fertilizers melt ice only when used in amounts so large that they damage plants. That’s why you should never use fertilizer as a substitute for chloride-based salt.
- Don’t Use too Much
No matter which deicing product you choose, you should ensure that you don’t use too much of it to melt the ice in the desired area.
If you’re wondering why, it’s because using an excessive amount of an ice melt can harm plants, animals, and concrete surfaces around your home.
So always use the right amount of ice melt, especially if it contains any toxic solutions such as sodium chloride or potassium chloride.
- Read Application Directions
Before you spread the deicing product, always read the application directions.
These directions will help you determine not only the right quantity to use, but also teach you how to use the product correctly.
For example, all calcium and magnesium chloride products mention a couple of precautions you must take to maximize safety.
- Don’t Let Ice Melt Enter Your Home
In case you didn’t already know, ice melt eventually harms wood floors by drying them out and also leads to splintering and dry rot issues on carpets and rugs.
The scary thing about tracked-in ice melt is that it is so unsightly that your chances of noticing it are slim to none.
So how can you stop ice melt from entering your home?
I’ve got a two-word answer for you: track mats. Place track mats both outside and inside all entrances and clean them with a mop or vacuum daily.
After reading this guide, I believe you can now make an informed decision on what equipment your snow company needs and which products you should buy.
I hope you got the answers you were looking for. But if you still have any questions regarding snow equipment, please leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you ASAP.
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