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How to Use a Snow Blower Safely

12/12/2019 6:00:00 AM

The bes​t sn​​ow blower safety practices in 2019​

​As a family-owned brand, Ariens® values the importance of our family members, which is why we understand your importance to your family members. That's why we want you to always follow safe practices when operating a snow blower or lawn mower.

The safety practices outlined in this post have some crossover application between both lawn mowers and snow blowers, but this post will focus strictly on snow blower safety. Though the content in this post isn't a substitute for the detailed list of safety rules outlined in the front of your Ariens owner's manual, it highlights the safety practices that should remain top of mind before using your outdoor power equipment.

Ariens reminds all its users to carefully read, understand and practice the safety instructions listed in the front pages of the operator's manual for your unit before operating your snow thrower.

Learning to use a snow blower

Not everyone is a pro right out of the gate. If you've never operated a snow blower before, first read the operator's manual for your unit from cover to cover to understand the characteristics and functions of all controls. With the unit turned off, learn how the operation of the clutch levers (on the handlebars) feels, as well as the discharge chute functions. Push down on the handlebars slightly to feel the weight of the machine and practice turning the machine from left to right.

When you feel ready, start the unit's engine according to the directions in the manual while in an open and clear area. Then, try driving the unit around without engaging the augers and the impeller. If you have more questions on how to operate your unit, stop by your nearest Ariens dealer and ask them for additional assistance.​

How to clear snow​​ from a dri​veway safely

Before the season starts, mark the perimeter of your driveway, sidewalks and other clearing areas with reflective, or highly visible stakes. This helps ensure you're clearing within the confines of a hard surface and not over any objects that could be ingested and thrown from your snow blower.

Additionally, consider anything that could be hidden beneath that blanket of snow that's now covering your driveway, sidewalk and other clearing surfaces. Did the kids play hockey in the driveway without picking up their equipment? Did fluffy leave a tennis ball outside? Or did the paperboy deliver this morning's issue before it started snowing?

Ice skates, hockey sticks, rocks, dog toys, frozen newspapers and other obstructions, if caught in your snow blower's auger and impeller, can both damage your unit and become dangerous projectiles when discharged.

In short, survey the entire clearing area carefully before clearing it with a snow blower.

Children and snow​​ b​​lowing

Children are intrigued by power equipment. They like seeing the activity up close, and some parents want to offer them that experience. However, having children outside while you're using a snow blower is unsafe, regardless if they're within or away from the clearing area.

As an operator, your attention is devoted to the chore, as it should be. That means it's not on those who wander into the clearing area, making it possible for pets and small children who enter the clearing area to be unseen, and unheard over the engine noise. That risk is even greater when blowing snow and nighttime operation greatly reduce your visibility.

Don’t allow anyone under the age of 18 operate outdoor power equipment and keep all children and pets away from all outdoor power equipment while operating.​ Children and pets are to always be kept indoors and under the watchful eye of a responsible adult when operating your snow blower.

What to wear​​ when blowing snow

Never operate a snow blower with any clothing articles that could be caught in moving parts. Always wear snug, tight-fitting clothing and tie back long hair. Additionally, wear clothing that's adequate for the season. There's no sense risking hypothermia or frostbite over a clean driveway – even if you have a snow blower with heated hand grips.

Ariens snow blower clothing

Quality winter boots with good traction, goggles and hearing protection are also required when operating winter outdoor power equipment. Though the Ariens engineers do their best to make quiet snow blowers, no outdoor power equipment with an internal combustion engine is quiet enough to skip earplugs or earmuffs. Prolonged exposure to noise as quiet as 85 decibels, which is the noise level of a vacuum cleaner, is enough to cause hearing loss.

Moral of the story is that though some machinery may seem quiet enough, it could still be loud enough to damage hearing over time. No matter how tough you think you are, nobody is immune to hearing loss risk factors, so always wear adequate hearing protection when operating a snow blower.

Always wear protective eyewear. Even simple plastic protective goggles can help prevent eye injury from a rogue ice chunk, stone or piece of asphalt that flies in the direction of the operator. Glasses don't cover your eyes completely, so if you have prescription lenses, use a pair with side shielding when snow blowing.

For the greatest amount of protection, comfort and visibility while throwing snow, consider a pair of ski goggles.

Throwing snow in a safe direction

There's no doubt there's a special satisfaction that comes from throwing a fresh snowfall up to 50 feet from where it landed. It's hard not to get caught up in the elation, but it's important to be mindful of where that discharge is directed.​

Snow blowing discharge

Besides light, fluffy snow, a snow blower ingests nearly anything in its path, including small rocks, ice chunks and other hazardous items that can turn to projectiles if they make their way into a snow blower impeller. That's why it's important to always aim the discharge chute in a safe direction away from people and property. Additionally, never throw snow higher than necessary.​

Practice situational a​wareness​

Pause occasionally to scan the clearing area while snow blowing. If you spot something concerning, such as a child or pet that came into view, an obstruction you didn't see before or the abominable snow beast, stop the engine, remove the key from the unit and wait for all moving parts to stop before leaving the operator's position and correcting the situation.

Staying alert is especially important when operating near a roadway, whether it's busy or not. We've all seen news stories of emergency and maintenance workers struck by distracted or impaired drivers when stopped on a roadway. And if a driver can't see flashing emergency lights during a dry summer day, there's little chance they'll see you in the roadway during a blizzard at nighttime, even if you have a bright orange snow blower with a headlight. Always operate with caution near roadways.

Never operate a sno​​w blower under the influence

Even after just one drink. Being under the influence of alcohol or drugs is never acceptable when operating machinery, including small outdoor power equipment. Full alertness is a requirement. The slightest feelings of impairment, even if caused by prescription drugs, affect your alertness in the work area. If you're not 100%, leave the snow blowing to someone who is.​​

​Clearing clogs from a snow bl​​ower

Wet and heavy snow conditions can create clogs in a snow blower discharge chute, requiring the need to clear that clog. The first rule when clearing a clog from your snow blower is to never use your hand to unclog a snow blower. Attempting to clear a snow blower clog with your hand can result in injury.

Though there are steps you can take to help prevent a snow blower discharge chute from clogging, like using Ariens Snow-Jet non-stick polymer coating, clogs happen. If your snow blower is clogged, follow these steps before going any further:

  1. STOP THE ENGINE.

  2. Remove the key from the ignition.

  3. Wait for all moving parts to stop.

After those three items are complete, and ONLY after those items are complete, remove the clean-out tool from the top of the auger housing and use the clean-out tool to clear the clog. If a clean-out tool is broken or absent, use another suitable device such as a broomstick to clear the clog. Just remember, that no matter what the case, Ariens reminds you to never use your hand to clear a clogged discharge chute, even after the engine is stopped.

After the clog is removed safely, return your clean-out tool to its holder, restart the engine and resume work.

 Ariens snow blower clean out tool

Follow your Ariens o​​​wner's manual

For a detailed list of s​afety instructions, review the snow blower safety information in your operator's manual. Ariens reminds you to review the safety section located in the front pages of your Sno-Thro® operator's manual often. A paper copy of the operator's and the engine manual is included with every unit, but if your manual was misplaced, you can click here for a free digital download of your operator's manual.​

Benefits of EFI Snow Blowers

12/4/2019 6:00:00 AM

 

EFI snow blower engine

​Decades ago, a revolution driven by rising gas prices and stricter pollution standards swept through the automobile industry. Carburetors were out and more efficient electronic fuel injection (EFI) technology w​​as in. Snow blowers are now experiencing that same changeover with EFI engines and offering a host of user benefits like increased power, reliability, efficiency, ease of use and more.​​

So what engines are in an Ariens snowblower? In addition to our traditional carbureted models, users now have the choice of EFI engines. Which is the best snow blo​wer? Tha​​t all depends on your application and if you think the benefits of EFI are a good fit for you.​

What is electronic fuel injection?

Certain conditions and a precise sequence of events are required for combustion to occur ins​​ide an engine. Among those are the correct mixtures of fuel and oxygen. For years, regulating that sensitive fuel-to-air ratio in snow blower engines was reliant on carburetors. But with advances in technology, that job is also accomplished with EFI technology.

The air and fuel mixture inside EFI engines are regulated by a small computer known as the engine control unit, or ECU, which is the brain of the EFI system. The ECU receives information from sensors throughout th​​e system to keep the engine running at a consistent power level with optimal efficiency, while also logging data that can be used in diagnosing problems quickly and accurately when service is needed.

EFI snow blower engines offer numerous benefits to consumers. We listed six of EFI’s top advantages an​d described them below:

 

​EFI engines are​ e​​asier to start

 

A major benefit of EFI systems is their cold- and hot-starting performance. When carbureted engines are cold, meaning they haven’t been run for about at least 30 minutes to one hour, they need to be choked​​ and primed. With no fuel left in the carburetor, this requires the user to choke the engine, which restricts airflow to the carburetor, and to push the primer bulb to add fuel to the carburetor manually. It’s not a difficult task, but it’s sometimes tricky knowing the right amount to choke and prime the engine for it to start. EFI systems remove this complexity completely. 

Due to the ECU’s ability to calculate the optimum air-to-fuel mixture for hot or cold starting, there’s no choking or priming with an Ariens EFI engine. That’s why it’s called EZ-Launch™, because it’s easy for the user. All you need to do is turn the key and pull the recoil starter handle or push the electric start button – no matter what temperature or altitude your engine is sitting at.

How to start an EFI snow blower

 

 

​​​EFI engines are ​​more po​werful

 

 

Electronic fuel injec​ted engines can provide more power and torque than their carbureted counterparts. As we already discussed, they optimize fuel and air ratios, and ignition timing while compensating for other factors to maintain continuous optimum performance. This makes EFI snow blowers some of the best snow blowers for wet snow.

EFI engines save fue​​l and have lower emissions

The snow blower engine ECU constantly monitors and adjusts the air-to-fuel ratio to maintain optimal combustion conditions and determines the precise amo​unt of fuel that the injector needs to deliver. In simple terms, it only uses as much gasoline as it needs. Fuel consumption varies from engine to engine, but fine tuning the delivery reduces fuel consumption of an EFI engine compared to a carbureted engine.

EFI engines work better in t​​he mountains

How carbureted engines work in high a​​ltitudes

Carbureted engines are naturally aspirated, meaning their oxygen intake is unassisted and controlled by atmospheric pressure, which changes at varying altitudes. This means that a carbureted engine’s air intake ability is entirely dependent on the oxygen content of the environment it’s working in. Atomic density, or the quantity of oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen and other gases in the Earth's atmosphere, decreases as elevation increases. In fact, air density drops by one-third every 10,000 feet above sea level. This makes a snow blower engine work harder to create combustion in places like Denver (elevation: 5,280 feet) than it would at Boston’s elevation of 141 feet.

Think of engines like humans. As a mountain climber ascends Mount Everest, they​​ breathe harder to compensate for the reduced amounts of oxygen pulled in with each breath. Carbureted engines work the same way. Engines compensate for less air by using more fuel to work harder, making them less efficient and causing them to run rich (use too much fuel) – bogging the engine down, causing it to stall or not start at all in higher elevations.

How EFI engines work in hig​​h altitudes

The ECU of an EFI engine knows the atmospheric pressure of its surroundings. When working in higher elevations like Appalachia, the Rockies, the Alps, the Sierra Nevada, e​​​tc., it adjusts its air intake to make the engine not only operate, but operate as efficiently as possible. This allows the engine to provide consistent power delivery and better fuel economy at varying altitudes with different oxygen densities.

 

​EFI engines are m​ore rel​​​iable

 

Carburetors can go ​​out of ​​adjustment

The possibility for random engine stops are greatly reduced in an EFI engine. If a traditional carbureted / non-EFI engine is primed too much before attempting a cold start, fuel can drip onto the spark plugs and foul them. ​​This is commonly referred to as “flooding.” When flooded, spark plugs become grounded and don’t fire, meaning they can’t create the spark to ignite the fuel in an engine.

Flooding a carbureted engine can also result from a carburetor that’s out of adjustment. Though carbureted engines are set from the factory and usually don’t go out of adjustment, there’s always the chance they can, causing them to run rich with too much fuel.

Because there is no carburetor in an EFI engine, the potential for this issue to occur in an EFI engine is zero, providing users with more reliability and more assurance their machine won’t require the time and expense of maintenance or adjustments.  It will help you answer the question of what is the most reliable snow blower brand.​

 

​EFI engines have le​​ss chance​​​​ for fuel issues

 

We highlight this​​​ with every seasonal change. Whether you go from mower to blower or vise versa, Ariens emphasizes the importance of storing the fuel in your tank and fuel system correctly. If that critical step is avoided, fuel can oxidize, turn to a gel-like substance, clog the fuel lines and cause your engine to not start. It’s a common issue that far too many of our users learn the hard way, but it’s an issue that typically only applies to carbureted engines. As discussed above, carburetors mix air and fuel. But that oxygen, though necessary, is what causes fuel to go bad over a relatively short period of time.

EFI systems are different. With the absence of a carburetor, EFI fuel systems are sealed, meaning air doesn’t get into the system. Without air, fuel doesn’t oxidize, and if it doesn’t oxidize, the fuel system doesn’t g​et clogged. Just be aware that this isn’t a guarantee that fuel in an EFI system can’t go bad, it just means it has much less chance of oxidizing, clogging your fuel lines and costing you time and money in repairs.

 

​EFI engines require le​​​ss mainte​​nance

 

Any combustion engine, carbureted or EFI, needs regular oil change​​s. That doesn’t change, but what does change is the amount of time spent preparing your unit for seasonal storage. As highlighted above, fuel in carbureted engines have a greater chance of deteriorating because oxygen gets into the fuel system. Users can help avoid fuel oxidation and clogging from happening in their carbureted engines by adding a quality fuel stabilizer to their fuel tank before storage, but it’s a careful process that takes time.

With EFI engines, there’s no need to take these precautions because EFI engines have sealed fuel systems. Air doesn’t get in, and if air doesn’t get in, fuel can’t oxidize and clog. Again, just remember that it’s not ​​guaranteed. It is, however, much less likely to occur, and that cuts down on the times you take your engine in for service to resolve those fuel clogs that have greater chances of happening in carbureted engines.

Tips for Mowing Your Lawn During the Winter

12/3/2019 6:00:00 AM

​​It's important to take care of your lawn during the winter months for a lush and healthy lawn come spring. Grass may grow slower or go completely dormant in colder temperatures, but lawn care doesn't completely disappear in the winter. In certain areas, the grass is still alive and absorbing nutrients that are stored and used in spring. Maintaining a healthy lawn during the winter will also make things easier by minimizing the onset of diseases or pests once things warm up. To ensure a healthy lawn year-round, you'll want to address the following steps.​

Mowing lawn in the winter

1.    How long should my grass be during the wint​​​er?

Grass height should vary based on the season as well as the type of grass. Warm season grasses are kept shorter compared to cold season grasses. During w​inter, a warm season grass length should be kept at 1.5 to 2 inches tall, where cold season grass lengths can be kept closer to 2.5 inches tall.

Winter lawn length

Do you know your grass type? Read our post from earlier this year that describes the growing areas, characteristics and care instructions for the most common grass types, some of which are listed below:

​​Warm Season Grasses

  • Bermuda Grass
  • Bahia Grass
  • St. Augustine Grass
  • Centipede Grass
  • Zoysia Grass
  • Carpet Grass
  • Buffalo Grass

Cold Season Grasses

  • Kentucky Blue Grass
  • Creeping Bent Grass
  • Perennial Ryegrass
  • Creeping Red Fescue Grass

​Why grass shouldn​'t be too tall in the winter

For whatever grass type grows in your yard, avoid letting that grass grow over three inches during cold months. If grass is too tall, it will wilt, restricting airflow and causing it to collect moisture which can lead to fungal diseases. Long grass can also attract mice and other unwanted critters looking for warm places to stay, and these unwelcome visitors can damage your yard.

Why grass shou​ldn't be too short in the winter

Cutting grass too short can also affect the health of your lawn. If grass is too short, it has a harder time absorbing sunlight and nutrients. This causes the grass to turn yellow or brown in appearance and will make it spend most of the spring trying to work its way back to a healthy green color.

It's important to never cut more than one-third of the grass blade at a time. This means that if your lawn is three inches tall, only one inch should be cut. If your lawn ends up getting longer than you'd like, cut it to the desired length gradually by mowing more frequently, while still remembering to cut off no more than a third with any one mowing.

​2.    How of​​​ten should I mow my lawn during the winter?

The good news is that winter lawn mowing is much less frequent than at peak times of the year. Instead of mowing your lawn once a week like you're used to during the summer, you can cut back to once every 3 to 4 weeks, depending on where you live. Since grass grows slower when temperatures drop to 50 or 40 degrees Fahrenheit, grass doesn't grow at the rate it does when there's ample warmth, water and sunshine, meaning there's no need to cut it every week. If the weather gets too cold, the grass may completely stop growing, eliminating your need to mow it altogether.

3.    Only Mow When the Grass is Dry

Mowing less is great for your spare time budget, but the tricky part is finding a good time to mow because the weather usually isn't on your side. Whenever you find time in-between messy weather, make sure the grass is dry before mowing. Cutting wet grass can damage the roots and the weight of the water can make the grass wilt, resulting in an uneven cut.

That's not just with rainy days, either. Pay attention to snow, ice and even morning frost. A few cold frosts will cause warm season grass to go dormant. However, cool season grass is more resilient and continues to grow (slowly), requiring the need for maintenance. Either way, avoid mowing too early i​n the morning when frost is still present from an overnight freeze, keeping both your lawn and your neighbors happy.

​​​4.    Avoid Walking on Frozen Grass

It's OK to walk on grass during the warm summer days since it's flexible and supple, but cold weather doesn't offer that same luxury. Grass becomes more brittle and fragile in colder temperatures, causing grass blades to be damaged more easily. The grass will eventually recover, but it takes time to heal. So, minimize foot traffic across your lawn by keeping sidewalks, walkways, and driveways clean. Having a clear path to and from your house encourages visitors to avoid walking on the grass.

Mowing lawn with frost

​​5.    Keep Your Lawn Clean

Keep your lawn clean by removing leaves, branches and other organic matter. Leaving organic matter on your lawn can lead to the growth of bacteria or fungus.

Lawn mower bagging leaves

If you are unable to rake the leaves before the first frost, use a leaf blower to avoid damaging your brittle grass with the rake. If the weather stays favorable, install a grass bagger or a mulching kit to your zero turn lawn mower or lawn tractor and mow over the leaves. Bagging saves you loads of time over raking, and mulching minces organic yard material and leaves into super-fine pieces that break down easily and return usable nutrients back to a lawn. Just don't bite off more than your yard can chew. If you have too many leaves covering your grass, bag instead of mulch. If you mulching them, you risk smothering your yard in mulched debris.

Click here to learn more about the benefits of mulching.

It's also important to remove summer toys or fall decorations from your lawn. These items can suffocate your grass by restricting its air supply, and they block sunlight.

​​6.    Take Care of Your Lawn Mower

The slower lawn mowing months are the best time to fine-tune, service and maintain your lawn mower for the more vigorous work that begins when it w​arms up. This involves changing the oil, sharpening the blades, cleaning debris off the mower and from under the deck, replacing the engine air filter and maybe even replacing the spark plugs. Lawn mowers need regular maintenance to work effectively and efficiently year after year.

When it comes time to store your lawn mower during the offseason, keep it indoors to protect it from the harsh weather. Make sure to keep it somewhere dry and where it doesn't get too cold. Click here to learn more important details on how to correctly store your lawn mower for the season.

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