Bass on Bass

Monday, October 13, 2014

Small snow blowers: Be happy, Go cordless electric

Well, they’re here! Rather “they” are coming to stores near some of you later this month. “They” are cordless electric single stage small snow blowers. The only 2 single stage “chute equipped” cordless electrics “on the market” are the Snow Joe 18” Ion 40v and the Ryobi 20” 40v model. The snow Joe has been around ~ 1 year already and most reviews are strongly positive. This year’s production of them arrives at retailers for customer purchase ~the 20th of this month. The Ryobi is completely new to the marketplace this year and is slated to be available for customer purchase ~ the 18th of this month. Both use their own “flavor” of similarly “in use replaceable” 40v lithium ion battery packs.

Snow Joe 40v "Ion" 

In truth there’s been a cordless electric snow blower around for some years now. However it is, or was, a big 24” 2 stage machine with a totally not “in use replaceable”, very heavy 24v sealed lead acid battery pack. It was the Ariens Amp 24 prices between $1500 and $2100. It “was” because all indications are that Ariens has discontinued it.

I have been intermittently waging a sort of on-line campaign to get makers of various existing cordless electric yard equipment to bring to market the like of the “new” snow blowers this article is about for some time now. It is my very firm belief that the future of all power yard equipment for relatively small yard homeowners lies inevitably with cordless electric power. I think gasoline power will eventually, possible in as little as a few years, all but  disappear from that sub-market of yard equipment. The release of the Snow Joe Ion model last year raised hope that other cordless electric equipment makers might follow suit. I even received a reply some months ago from a maker which suggested likely release this winter season of one. Unfortunately, they have yet to do so. There is the Ryobi now though.

Well, on to the business of which has the better of which features (caveat herein is that neither I nor any prospective buyer I’m aware of has yet had hands on with both machines):

1)     The drive system:
A)They both use 40v brushless DC motors and belt drive of the augers, 180 degree chute rotation, vertical chute discharge angle adjustability and “bite” height of 10”.
B)They differ in bite width.  The Ryobi has a 20” swath scoop and “maybe” auger size and the Snow Joe’s 18”. I have to admit, not having hands on experience with either, I can’t know how the 2 size factors relate in either. My impression from photos is that their actual auger size may be somewhat closer to one another than 2”.
C)Their auger designs differ more dramatically, though. The overall auger shapes are not very different but the Ryobi appears to be of single plastic piece, probably secured to a steel central shaft. Whereas the Snow Joe’s is a steel structure onto which tire casing type material blades are bolt clamped. The Ryobi might be able to clear ~10% more ground per pass but my impression is that the actual auger of the Snow Joe is likely to be more durable and is certainly more easily repaired.
D)Their discharge chute rotation methods differ quite a bit. The Ryobi’s chute rotation mechanism is a very direct lever action shaft running from near the user grip zone of the handle into the body of the business end of the blower. The Snoe Joes is “joy stick” controlled electric, motor driven via a separate motor in the main body of the blower. It’s likely a simple momentary double throw toggle switch, switching the polarity of that motor’s power back and forth, but “joystick” is a better way to describe it for marketing. By a simple degree of complexity criteria, the Ryobi’s chute rotation mechanism would appear likely to be more reliable. If either a motor or wiring fault occurs with the Snow Joe’s rotation, it could be useless for some time. 

2)      The Battery systems:
Both use 4o volt Lithium Ion battery packs which "slide" into their respective holders on the machines via guide grooves and both have thumb operated spring loaded latches on the packs to lock them in place. Both battery systems incorporate dimple switch activated progressive LED charge state indicators on the ends of the battery packs. Both makers' battery packs attach to the separate chargers in essentially the same way they connect to the snow blowers, minus the fully enclosing chambers. 
A) The Snow Joe's battery pack is a 4AH (160WH) battery which reportedly goes from on battery indicated full discharge to fully charged via the provided charger in ~2 hours. Only one battery pack is included with the Snow Joe Ion snow blower purchase though spare or replacement packs are available for separate purchase. 

   B) The Ryobi comes with 2 each, 40 v 2.4 AH (96WH) battery packs which in serial use would provide a total of 192WH  of energy supply. Of course that requires swapping out one for the other in the middle of a use session. Ryobi's battery packs can reportedly charge from full 
discharge (indicator defined) to fully charged in 90 min. The separate charger supplied can only accommodate one battery pack at a time so purchase of a second charger may be advisable.
C)  The 2 snow blowers situate the in use battery compartment differently. The Ryobi's battery chamber is part of the main body assembly of the snow blower whereas the Snow Joe's battery chamber is located on a special bridge assembly on the handle close to the main body. Both employ a flip closed cover protecting the chamber and battery pack. 

   3) One other difference is in their respective means of fold up for storage or transport. Each one accommodates it but the Ryobi requires disconnect of the hitch pin secured link between the 2 pieces of it's manual chute rotation lever rod in order to fold down the handle. With the Snow Joe one simply releases the lever locks on either side of the middle of the handle assembly to enable fold over. Both have a convenient carry handle on the main body of the blower. 

    My personal preference is for the Snow Joe. That is based on more time on the market, the dramatically positive nature of all but a very few of many reviews and the assessment of a friend who has owned one for a year and loves it. Also the design of the auger just seems more robust than that of the Ryobi and Snow Joe has been making corded electric snow blowers for years.

  So, pitch that gas can, abandon all need for motor maintenance, forget ever coming in from snow removal smelling of gasoline, eliminate all pull starts and, if you've done all that by using a corded electric already, CUT THE CORD and get one of these cordless electrics for your small snow blower requirement!

 Where? Both are available at least from Home Depot (See links in para. 1) or direct from their makers on-line(Ryobi,,,Snow Joe). As to locally, I was only able to see preparations to market the Ryobi at  my local Home Depot. Neither this year's supply of Snow Joe's nor the Ryobi's are due to be available for purchase before the 18th -20th of this month(Oct.). I am not aware of any retailer source other  than Home depot for the Ryobi but the Snow Joe is available on-line through a couple of other retail outlets.