HeatTrak in The New York Times: How to Put Away Winter’s Blanket

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To help them get started, several experts had advice, recommending equipment from the basic aluminum snow shovel that is many homeowners’ closest friend in winter to the latest high-tech gadgets, like electric heating mats and power shovels.

“To start off with, there are different types or styles of shovels,” said Ken Hellevang, an extension engineer at North Dakota State University in Fargo, a part of the country that is no stranger to winter’s wrath. “And people have different preferences.”

The shovel that most city dwellers use, he said, is a relatively flat tool made of aluminum or heavy-duty plastic, costing $20 to $30. The shoveler pushes snow along the driveway or sidewalk, then tosses it to the side.

“That works fine if you only have an inch or two,” Mr. Hellevang said. But more snow might require a steel or heavy-duty aluminum curved shovel strong enough to push snow to the side without tossing. Such shovels are occasionally angled to the right or left; some even have wheels.

Another weapon is the electric power shovel. Christine Cheng, the marketing manager of the Toro Company in Bloomington, Ind., said that the company makes models 12 inches and 18 inches wide. “These are usually good for someone in the city or someone who has a deck or patio,” she said. The machine, which operates with an electric cord, looks like a small blower without the wheels and has flat blades that rotate to push the snow out in front. Prices at toro.com are $99 for the 12-inch unit and $299 for the 18-inch.

From there, snow machines basically become beefier, louder, more efficient and, of course, more expensive.

One example is the gasoline-powered snow blower, which Peter Sawchuk, the program leader for home improvement at Consumer Reports in Yonkers, N.Y., said comes in two basic types: single- and two-stage. A single-stage machine, which costs $300 to $400 at hardware stores and home centers like the Home Depot, uses an auger blade to move the snow up and out the chute. They work well on small driveways and are semi-self-propelled, he said, explaining that the auger helps pull the machine along. The two-stage blower, starting at about $400, is self-propelled and moves more snow farther.

Gasoline-powered blowers, whether single- or two-stage, are 21 to 30 inches wide. Most newer ones have electric starters.

Mr. Sawchuk said that homeowners should never use gasoline that has been sitting in the blower from the previous winter unless it has been treated with stabilizer, which prevents gumming. In fact, he said, stabilizer should be used whenever the blower is filled with gas. “That way,” he said, “when spring comes, you can put it in your garage and just walk away from it.”

Edward Toriello, an orthopedist in Queens Village and a spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, said that the biggest mistake people make when trying to remove snow is not realizing that shoveling is exercise. As such, he said, people should warm up by stretching, and should not eat a large meal just before shoveling.

“And never put your hand in the blade chamber to unstick the blade,” he said. Even if the machine is off, built-up recoil tension could move the blade when the stuck object is removed.

For those who can’t be bothered to shovel, one product can prevent snow from accumulating in the first place: the heat mat. Hillel Glazer, the president of HeatTrak of Paterson, N.J., said that his company, at heattrak.com, makes mats in various sizes and prices that run on regular household current. For example, a 120-volt, 11-by-48-inch stair mat costs $189; a 2-by-10-foot walkway mat, about $656; and a 2-by-3-foot doormat, about $100.

If money is an object, though, remember: the kid next door is just a phone call away.


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