There’s nothing more beautiful than waking up in the morning to freshly fallen, powdery snow. At the same time, there’s nothing more aggravating! You now have to scramble to somehow get your car out of the driveway and get to work on time or get the kids to school. All this before you’ve even had your first cup of coffee!
Here are some snow removal options and tips on figuring out what’s best for you the next time Mother Nature decides a winter wonderland is in order for Chicago!
1. Snow blowers: Expensive but fast and fun
Also called snow throwers, these machines aren’t cheap, but will make your life a lot easier.
We spoke with Mel Safstrom, a customer service associate at Lowe’s in Orland Park, who explained that there are two different types of snow blowers available: the single-stage and the two-stage. The difference between the two is that the single-stage has curved plastic paddles to move the snow and is light enough to be picked up, whereas the two-stage can handle deeper snow, and the front intake is twice as high.
Safstrom’s Tips when buying, using and maintaining a snow blower:
• Choose your snow blower based on the size of your driveway. If you have a long driveway, or a driveway that is two cars wide, you might want a two-stage.
• Be safe: If the snow blower gets clogged, always use the shovel that comes with it to get the snow out. Don’t ever use your hand. Even if the motor is off, it can still be very dangerous, because when you pull out the snow, the machine could start to run, and could injure your hand or fingers.
• Change the oil after the first season of using your snow blower, and then change it every two to three years.
• During summer months, store your snow blower in the garage or in a storage shed. Do not leave it outside for extended periods of time because snow blowers are not designed to get wet constantly.
• Have fun with it! If you have a really nice snow blower, you will pray for snow. “It becomes like a toy,” Safstrom said.
The snow blowers at Lowe’s start at $359 and go up to $1099 for the highest end model.
2. Snow removal services: Convenient but can be costly
Most landscaping companies offer snow removal services. In other words, when there is a fresh snowfall, someone will show up at your home and remove the snow either with shovels and snow blowers, or with a snowplow.
Higher end landscapers charge by the season, meaning you get unlimited visits when there is one inch or more of snowfall. They typically charge $400-600 for the season, depending on the size of the home, driveway, front walkway and stairs.
Services that use snowplows usually charge $30-35 per visit and many companies have a minimum commitment of six visits, where clients pay upfront. Others will come on an as needed basis.
3. High school kids: cheap but not always reliable
Help Squad made a few inquiries and asked high school kids in the Northern and Western suburbs how much they charge to shovel snow. The going rate seems to be anywhere from $20-$25 for a typical snowfall, with a tip for salting!
4. Do it yourself: the least expensive but be careful!
Grabbing a shovel and doing it yourself is definitely the cheapest form of snow removal. An average snow shovel is $15-20. Plus, you are getting exercise, fresh air, and a sense of accomplishment.
But be careful, according to researchers at Queen’s University, snow shoveling does increase the risk of a heart attack.
Additionally, there is research that there are tens of thousands of snow shoveling-related injuries that result in emergency room visits every winter.