February 7, 2015 9:00 am

Can a battery-operated snowblower handle a Canadian winter?

The Snow Joe iON18SB is of the most popular battery-operated snowblowers on the market.

Snow Joe
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TORONTO – Snow. It’s the bane of most Canadians’ existence. And if you own or rent a house, shovelling the nasty white stuff is not only a pain but can also be dangerous to your health. Considering it has snowed more than not over the last month in the Toronto-area, not to mention the dumping Atlantic Canada has received, it’s no surprise people are opting to add a snowblower to their winter arsenal.

Like lawnmowers, most snowblowers are big, gas-guzzling, environmentally-unfriendly machines. Sure, you can get an electric model, but trying to maneuver through snow with an extension cord attached to you is not ideal or safe (and if you plan to clear sidewalks as well as your driveway, you’re going to need one long extension cord). This is where battery-operated models come in.

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The two popular models of battery-operated snowblowers currently on the market are the Snow Joe iON18SB and the Ryobi RY40811. Both units run off 40-volt rechargeable lithium-ion batteries (the Ryobi requires two batteries to get a promoted 40-minute run time while the Snow Joe only requires one battery for a promoted 50-minute run time) and both units sport similar, maintenance-free features, such as push-button starting and oil-free motors. Both are also very light, with the Ryobi weighing 35 lbs and the Snow Joe coming in at 32 lbs, and both are very quiet.

The Snow Joe model, which I was able to test, has a clearing path of 18-inches wide by 8-inches deep and uses two rubber blades to plow through up to a promoted 500 lbs of snow per minute. It also has a 3W LED light for night use and features a 180º directional chute that can throw snow a maximum of 20 feet. The Snow Joe comes with a full 2-year warranty and retails for around $349.

Ryobi’s unit has a clearing width of 20-inches with a clearing depth of 10-inches. It uses a brushless motor to turn a 17-inch dual auger blade and can throw snow up to 25 feet using a 180º directional chute. It has two 1.4W LED lights for night use and a 5-year limited warranty. Ryobi’s unit retails for around $279, but the batteries and charger are sold separately.

Real world test

Snow Joe loaned me an iON18SB unit to test in December and January. Admittedly, it took longer than expected to assemble and the unit didn’t feel that solid out of the box. It’s a lot smaller and has more plastic on it than an average snowblower does and I was skeptical of its ability to do the job.

During my first use, I was shocked at how easy it moved snow and how clear it left the ground below. I was able to do my driveway and sidewalks before any indication the battery was draining. Because of the rubber blades, I was also able to clear my wooden deck without worrying about causing damage to it. The smaller size also turned out to be a blessing as I was able store the unit much easier when not in use.

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Most of the time I needed the Snow Joe it worked like a charm and did its job fine. The downside with it came when we had a big dumping that left a lot of impacted snow at the end of my driveway. Because of the rubber blades, the Snow Joe was unable to make a dent in it and I ended up wasting time and draining the battery before I had to get the shovel out to clear the way.

If you don’t have that large an area to keep clear and want a more eco-friendly choice (without a cord), a battery-operated snowblower is definitely worth checking out. If you have a larger footprint to clear or live in an area that gets a lot of heavy snow, you might want to stick with a standard gas-powered snowblower and wait for the next-gen battery models to hit the market.

SOUND OFF: Do you use a battery-operated snowblower? Share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

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