Why 2-Stage Snow Blowers?
1-Stage vs. 2-Stage Snow Blowers
If you're in the market for a Snow Blower (or is it a Snow Thrower?), a perfect starting point is to understand Snow Blower vs. Snow Thrower terminology. The truth is that most of the world treats these terms interchangeably. Whether you are "blowing" or "throwing" snow is much less important than the fact that you're getting it out of your way, so either term gets that idea across.
Nevertheless, there is a mechanical distinction that matters! A Snow Thrower is a one-stage machine, meaning it uses an auger (its only "stage") to both gather snow and expel it out the discharge chute. In contrast, a Snow Blower is a two-stage machine: it too has an auger but is also equipped with an impeller (the second "stage") to expel snow more forcibly than a one-stage machine can. So, one practical difference is that a Snow Blower gives you much better control over where the snow ends up once you've gotten it off your driveway or sidewalk.
Snow Throwers tend to be narrower than Snow Blowers, typically clearing a swath anywhere from 12" to 22" wide. This is logical since the wider the swath, the more snow is gathered, and the more likely it is that the weight of that snow will be too much for a single-stage machine to lift and throw. After a heavy snowfall, a single-stage thrower may not be able to get the snow out of its chute (particularly if it's wet snow). Or—just as frustrating for the user—it may push the snow out only to plop it down right next to the machine. When a Snow Thrower no longer "throws" it just isn't very useful!
A Snow Blower is typically a wider, self-propelled machine (up to 34" wide) that uses a bigger engine (typically 6-14 HP) to power its two-stage design and transmission. These machines almost always have adjustable skid shoes too, which allow you to raise the auger up so that it can ride over gravel and stones. The two-stage design lets you throw snow a long way from the collection point...how far will vary with the type of snowfall and the humidity, but it can be as much as 50 feet away and, even in the most challenging conditions, you can depend on a 2-stage Snow Blower to get the snow out of your way.
Performance-wise, there is really no debate: a 2-stage Snow Blower is going to do a better and faster job and create a more satisfying user experience. Self-propulsion will be the deciding factor for many users, especially when it is complemented with a one-handed drive/auger control. This leaves the other hand free for making chute adjustments (direction and angle) without stopping the snow blower the way you need to with a snow thrower.
So, is there any place for a single-stage Snow Thrower? Yes, as with most entry level tools, they have their place. If you rarely experience heavy snow falls (say 8" or more), have a smaller property, and need to clear paved surfaces only, a one-stage solution may be all the machine you need. Snow Throwers are usually not self-propelled, so for smaller properties, where you won't need to run them for more than 15 minutes or so, pushing the machine around may be acceptable. The reason for confining a thrower to paved surfaces is that most Snow Throwers, unlike 2-stage blowers, have no adjustable skid shoes. This means that when you run it on a gravel driveway, it's going to throw gravel around and make a real racket.
Once you've settled on the type of machine, look for operator comfort features. DR Snow Blowers all include LED headlights for clearing in the dark, heated hand grips, and plug-in electric starting for first time starts, even after months of off-season storage. If you have the opportunity, be sure to try out the chute controls on any snow blower you consider. The should turn easily, quickly, and tautly (some low-end chute controls require you to crank furiously to get a 180° rotation) and have a solid, tight feel under your hand. This is one of the best quick and easy quality tests you can make...if the chute control feels loose and rickety, it probably is.
Check out our line of DR Snow Blowers (2-stage!) for a terrific feature set that will let you tackle the heaviest snowfalls with confidence and power!