Make sure you clear your sidewalks

There was a huge snow storm in the northeastern portion of the U.S. last week and it seems that Secretary of State John Kerry was fined $50 dollars because he didn’t clear his sidewalk.  He was at the funeral of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.  That apparently wasn’t a good enough excuse though, because it looks like he will still have to pay his fine.

A lot of people don’t realize that many cities have ordinances that require people to clear their sidewalks within a certain amount of time.  If you live in an apartment, the apartment owners should take care of that for you but if you own your own home, you are responsible.  Kerry, of course, doesn’t shovel his own sidewalks … he hires a company to do it for him.  But there was a miscommunication about this sidewalk, so the snow wasn’t removed from it.

Collapsible Snow Shovel for your Car

With the huge storms taking over the northeast United States and other areas of the country, I highly recommend packing a safety kit in the trunk of your car.  One essential item to include in that kit is a collapsible snow shovel for your car.

Emergency Car Kit

Every car you own should have an emergency car kit for winter driving in it.  If you ever get stuck in a snow storm or blizzard, your safety depends on it.  Triple A makes some very good kits, like this one.  A good winter car kit should include at the very least the following items:

  • Blanket
  • Candles
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Hat, gloves, and jacket
  • Hand warmer packets
  • A first aid kit
  • Ice Scraper and snow brush

The 66-Piece Severe Weather Road Kit that I mentioned above has all those items and more.  I bought 2 of these, one for the car I drive and one for the car that my wife drives.

Also, if the kit you buy for your car doesn’t include this next item, I highly recommend you buy one.

Snow Shovel for your Car

The number one thing that I recommend you include in your snow shovel for caremergency kit is a collapsible snow shovel that you can throw in your trunk.   This tool can save your butt in a way that none of the other things listed above can.  If you were to get stuck in your car somewhere, instead of just sitting around waiting for somebody to come rescue you, you can take your fate into your own hands and get yourself out of there.  The shovel shown here is a collapsible shovel from AAA that is made of red aluminum.  There are dozens of different options for emergency snow shovels for cars, though, so look around and find one that you like.

If you are looking for a more durable emergency car shovel, I would recommend the Voile Telepro Shovel.  It is a step above other car shovels that I’ve seen.  This is mainly due to its durable metal scoop.  Most other collapsible snow shovels for cars are made out of plastic and they just don’t seem as solid. Throw this one in your car and you won’t have to worry about it breaking when you need it most.

2016 Best Snow Shovel with Wheels

Updated Winter 2016

Shoveling snow doesn’t have to be synonymous with breaking your back.  One of the best inventions in the area of snow removal is the snow shovel with wheels.  There are a lot of snow shovels available these days that really help reduce the strain on your back and arms and make shoveling snow almost enjoyable.  Almost.  Wheeled snow shovels almost always fall into the category of “pusher shovels.”  These rolling snow pushers are great for moving large amounts of snow and in general put less strain and stress on your body.

Dakota SnoBlade

While I haven’t used it dakota snow blademyself, I’ve heard a lot of good things about the Dakota SnoBlade.  Like most snow shovels that have wheels, it is a pusher shovel, meaning you don’t scoop the snow and throw it.  Rather you push the snow off to the side.

The Dakota SnoBlade has a wide 36″ blade and is bi-directional.  This means that the shovel is slanted to push snow off to one side.  when you push snow one way, once you get to the end you lift up on the handle and the wheels and blade flip over and you are ready to start pushing snow in the other direction.   This way, all the snow gets pushed to one side. This is one of the coolest features of the SnoBlade.

Wheeled Shovel by Kotula

This shovel is a great little shovel that works very well.  snow shovel with wheels kotulaYou wouldn’t want to use this shovel for snow that is too heavy or too deep but it works perfectly for 3-4 inches of snow.  The wheeled shovel by Kotula will let you clear your driveway very quickly.

 

Flip It Snow Shovel with Wheels

You will have zero strain on your back after clearing your driveway with this shovel.  The handle extends to a very tall height so you won’t have to bend over at all while shoveling.  With the Flip It by Power Dynamics, you will be able to push a lot of snow in record times.

The Wovel

I’ve written about the Wovel before.  I don’t have much more to say about it other than what I wrote there, but I include it in this list snow wolf wovelbecause it’s a pretty popular shovel.  The Wovel is also sometimes called the Snow Wolf.  That’s right, the Sno Wolf.  So that’s a bonus, too.  It is one of the more expensive shovels in this list but it can also handle deeper, thicker snow.  It is regularly placed at the top of the list of best snow shovels made.  I still plan on getting one of these some day so I can write a proper review.  But until then, head over and check out the reviews on Amazon.

Also, if you regularly have to deal with ice on your driveway or sidewalk, I’d also look at the following accessories for the Wovel.  First, the Chipper Plate accessory.  This attaches to the bottom of the Snow Wolf and makes it easy to chip away ice and hard-packed snow.  The second accessory is the Snap On Wear Strip.  This one protects the blade on your shovel.

Snowcaster 30SNC

Finally, the Snowcaster 30SNC is one of my favorite snow shovel with wheels that snow-shovel-with-wheels-snowcasterI’ve used.  It has an extremely wide blade at 36 inches and that means it can push a lot of snow.  This one, like the Wheeled Shovel by Kotula can only handle a few inches of snow but you’ll be amazed at how quickly you clear your driveway.

 

 

Pusher Snow Shovels with Wheels

A final word about using shovels like these.  As I’ve mentioned above, these types of shovels are best for a few inches of snow or less.  I wouldn’t suggest using them in more than 4″ of snow.  So when it snows a foot or more, you’re going to want to use something else.  (Hint: a snow blower)  However, I’ve found that to stay on top of things, you can go out while it is still snowing and clear the driveway a few times during heavy snow fall.  It sounds like a lot of work and you might feel stupid shoveling your driveway while it is still snowing, but with how well these pusher shovels work, it actually isn’t that bad.

Removing snow from solar panels

One issue that I occasionally runremoving snow from snow panels across here in Minnesota is the problem of snow build-up on solar panels.  The question I get asked most often is whether removing snow from solar panels will hurt the panels.  After I give my long answer to that question the inevitable follow-up question is “What is the best way to go about removing snow from solar panels?”  But first things first.

Safety First

I always stress safety when people ask me about removing snow from their solar panels.  If they are thinking about climbing up on their roof, I always tell them that it isn’t worth the safety risk.  I don’t own solar panels but based on conversations with friends, they tell me that their solar panels save them $2 to $5 per day, depending on the amount of sun shining that day and how big their solar system is.  Going up on an icy, snowy roof to help save a few dollars a day just isn’t worth it.  Once we get that warning out of the way, I make sure to tell them that there are better ways of removing snow from solar panels.

Will Removing Snow from Solar Panels Cause damage to them?

There are safe ways to remove snow from solar panels but there are also bad ways.  You never want to use any thing to remove snow from solar panels that could scratch them.  So, for example, a metal snow shovel is out of the question.  But that’s okay because I already told you that you can’t go up on the roof anyway.  A soft bristle broom might be acceptable, but again, you aren’t going up on the roof because you don’t want to fall off and die.

avalanche roof rake snow, removing snow from solar panelsSo what can you do?   There are two tools that I suggest to people.   The first is the Avalanche Roof Rake which you can see just to the left.  I wrote a review of the Avalanche Roof Rake a few weeks ago.

The second tool I highly recommend is the Snow Joe with Telescoping Handle. It can extend up to 21 ft and the blade is made of plastic so it is safe to use to remove snow from your solar panels.

Buying a tool like the Snow Joe or the Avalanche can more than make up for themselves after just a few snow falls. Assuming your solar panel system saves you $5 per day, the Snow Joe will be paid for in less than a week and the Avalanche will be paid for in less than a month.

The last option is, of course, to just let the snow melt. This won’t let you take full advantage of your solar panels but it is safe and involves the least amount of effort on your part.

In any case, there are options for removing snow from solar panels.

Toro Power Shovel

Power shovels like the Toro power shovel shown to the right below are a good choice for some homeowners who are sick of shoveling snow by hand but don’t quite want to take the plunge into buying a snow blower.

What is a power shovel?

A power shovel is basically a small, electric snow blower.toro power shovel snow   Power shovels are some called electric snow shovels or powered shovels or even snow throwers.  They are used to remove snow from smaller areas that you wouldn’t use a snow blower for, like a deck, a patio or a small sidewalk. Common widths of power shovels range from 12″ to 18″.

Why Use a Power Shovel instead of a Snow Blower?

Power shovels have a few advantages over snow blowers.  First, they are cheaper than snow blowers.  While snow blowers will cost you a few hundred dollars minimum, you can get a good power shovel for much less.  For example, this Toro power shovel costs just over $100 at the time I’m writing this.

Second, power shovels are much smaller and lighter than snow blowers. Because of this it is much easier to maneuver and to use in smaller areas.

Third, power shovels are usually powered by electric so they don’t require any gasoline. This helps save on not only costs but also maintenance. You don’t have to worry about mixing oil with fuel or having separate gas cans for your snow blower and your lawn mower. Nor do you have to worry about gas sitting in the carberator too long and causing issues. You literally just plug it in and go.

Anyway, Toro power shovels are not the only power shovels on the market. There are other ones that work just as well like the Snow Joe 324E and the Greenworks 26022. Go read up on a few of them and see if a power shovel might work for your home.

Avalanche Roof Rake – A Snow Rake for the Roof

One of the best avalanche roof rake snowinvestments I’ve made for my snow removal business was the Avalanche Roof Rake.  It makes the removal of snow and ice off of roofs incredibly easy.  The roof rakes I’ve used in the past are basically just a blade with a long handle.  This means you need to pull the snow down.  The Avalanche Roof Rake, however, allows you to push the rake up to dislodge the snow and ice from the roof and then it just slides right down the plastic slide.  (See the video at the end of this post to see how it works.)  Having a roof rake with a plastic slide makes it much, much easier to use than the previous roof rakes that I’ve bought.  And it is much easier on my back and arms.

avalanche roof rake with slide

I can’t stress how much having a roof rake with wheels and a plastic slide helps.  The wheels cause the roof rake to just glide right over the shingles and the plastic slide allows the snow to fall off the roof.

The cheapest place I’ve found the Avalanche Roof Rake is at Amazon right here.  I highly recommend it.  It will save you a ton of time and will help you protect your roof.  The other great thing about this roof rake is that it requires no tools to assemble.  I was literally using the thing 5 minutes after I took it out of the box.  The base of the roof rake has wheels on it so that it slides easily over the shingles without hurting them.

Removing snow and ice from your roof can actually be very beneficial.  Very often what will happen is a build-up of ice will form in and around your houses gutters.  This ice is called an ice dam.  The ice dam prevents water from melting snow from draining away so it sits there on the roof and has the potential to seep in under the shingles and into the building.  This could cause you issues with insulation or ceilings.  By removing snow and ice from the roof, you also help prevent injuries to family, friends and visitors by avoiding falling snow and ice.

How many calories are burned shoveling snow?

Anybody who has ever shoveled snow knows that it can be hard work.  Depending on how heavy the snow is, how long it takes you to shovel, how full you fill your shovel during each scoop and how quickly you shovel, it can be considered anywhere between a moderate or vigorous form of exercise.  Because of this the number of calories burned shoveling snow varies from person to person.

Calories Burned Shoveling Snow

The number of calories burned shoveling snow depends on your age, weight, how long you shovel and the intensity of your shoveling.  I checked a few online calorie calculators and found that I burn about 400 calories per hour shoveling snow.  I also checked this against my heart rate monitor the last time I shoveled snow.  According to the monitor, I burned 210 calories in 35 minutes, which works out 360 calories per hour.   See the links to the calorie calculators at the end of this post to calculate it for your own age, weight and time.

Health Warning

According to this Harvard Medical School article, shoveling snow can be a trigger for heart attacks.  It has also been known to cause sore backs, shoulders, arms and legs.  This is the “weekend warrior” symptom, where people who otherwise rarely exercise suddenly decide to lift and move hundreds of pounds of snow.  The truth is that shoveling should be treated as any other form of exercise.  You should only do it if you are in good health and you should make sure you warm up before you start.  I would also recommend shoveling smaller loads more often rather than less big loads of snow.

If you do exercise regularly, then the health risks are not as great.  In fact, shoveling snow can be used as another exercise to fit into your exercise routine.  This can help you from getting bored with doing the same thing every day and can help you exercise different muscle groups.

Links to Calorie Calculators

Fitday

HealthStatus

SparkPeople

Is There A Salt Shortage?

rock salt shortage

There have been a number of news articles recently indicating that there is a rock salt shortage this winter.  Because of the harsh winter last year there was a very low supply of road salt coming into the 2014-2015 winter.

Rock salt is generally used to help melt ice during the winter and is used by individuals to help melt ice off of sidewalks and driveways while it is used by municipalities and contractors to help keep roads ice-free.  Rock salt shortages can cause prices to increase drastically.  For example, this 25 lb bag of Premium Ice Melting Rock Salt is about twice as expensive as it was 2 years ago.

Rock salt shortages can occur for a number of reasons but in general they occur due to weather-related phenomena.  On-going cold winters with repeated snow and ice storms causes demand to rise for extended periods of time.  Additionally each extreme weather event can cause consumers to go out and stock up on bags of salt, which can cause local salt shortages.

As a result prices are also high.  This has some public utilities and private companies worried because this winter is forecast to have harsh weather again.  The salt is used to melt ice on highways and roads and a rock salt shortage could cause unsafe driving conditions in areas that run out.  I’ve heard reports of some contractors having trouble getting enough salt.

Last year’s usage of salt was well above normal.  In fact, according to Snow Magazine, which is the official magazine of SIMA, the amount of salt used last year was about 400% more than previous typical years and more could have easily been used if the supply chain could have kept up.  Because of this, miners have had trouble keeping up with demand all year, which has caused the shortage and the high prices we are seeing this year.

It is also important to note that the rock salt shortage we are seeing doesn’t mean the world is running out of salt.  This is a supply problem, not a problem with “reserves.”

Wovel – The Best Snow Shovel?

I’ve been asked many times what my opinion is about the The Wovel and my response is usually that it looks like a cross between a unicycle and a teeter totter.  I have not personally used the Wovel but many, many people swear by it and say it is the best snow shovel or snow pusher that they’ve used.  Also known as the Snow Wolf, the Wovel has a 26″ blade and an adjustable handle.  The manufacturer claims you can clear snow 3 times faster than a standard snow shovel.  You can also push a lot more heavy, wet snow than with a standard pusher.  It was also named by Time magazine as one of the best inventions of 2006.

snow wolf the wovel

Because I haven’t used one, I can’t give a review of the Wovel.  However, I’m hoping to buy one in the next year for my business and if I do I will write a review.  There are a lot of reviews of it on Amazon and the general consensus seems to be that it works so well that you forget how silly it looks.  Amazon also seems to have the best price on these, especially if you take into account the free shipping.

the wovel sno wolf foldingAs I’ve been reading up on the wovel, I also discovered that it folds up to help save space when storing it.  For those of us who don’t have a lot of extra space in our garage, that’s a bonus to be able to store it against the wall as you see in the photo to the left.

One of the things that interests me the most about the wovel is it claims to be better for your back and therefore a more ergonomically correct way to shovel your snow.  Instead of bending over and lifting snow, with the wovel you push down in order to lift the snow up.

The Wovel Video

Below is a video of the Wovel in action.  I don’t recommend shoveling the snow in your shorts like the guy in the video.  Like I said above, I hope to write a proper review of the wovel in the future, possibly at the beginning of next winter.