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  • Melanie Evans

Complete Guide to Snow and Snow Removal for Waterloo Region Homeowners



More than a little upkeep and labour are a part of the joy of Waterloo Region home ownership. And for many homeowners, clearing snow is one of the least enjoyable, frustrating, and even dangerous tasks. In our region though, it's pretty much guaranteed it's a task you'll be tackling a number of times every winter.


Snowfall provides a possible hazard for pedestrian surfaces near the home, whether it be a full driveway, a sidewalk, or even just the stairs leading up to a porch. There is no choice but to remove that snow.


Snow removal is crucial for many reasons, including opening your driveway so you can leave for work, opening a path for the mailman, and avoiding fines that may accrue in communities and HOAs that mandate you clear snow from areas you might not have even considered your responsibility.


But how should the snow be cleared? There are so many options on the market, including shovels of every size and shape, snow blowers of every horsepower and width, a dozen or more different snow melting products, and even snow clearing fancy attachments for vehicles, ATVs, and lawnmowers.


Homeowners must weigh the hazards associated with each of those options. Will my chosen melting agent damage my lawn? What is that salt going to do to my driveway? Will I use the snow blower frequently enough to make it worth the cost? If I decide to shovel the snow alone, could I suffer from major health issues? When is the best time to shovel snow anyway?


If you are new to all of this - because your landlord or parents have always taken care of such things - it can be a daunting challenge to wake up to all that white stuff that you know has to be cleared. Even if you have dealt with snow clearing before there may be challenges you've faced in the past that you'd like to try to overcome his year.


Here we are going to take a close look at the major issues Waterloo Region homeowners face when it comes to snow removal, to help you make a plan that will work better this year, and help ensure that your snow removal efforts are as efficient, speedy and safe as possible.


Snow Shovels




The simplest way to start removing all that snow is getting your snow shovel out. But what kind should you reach for? There seem to be tons of them at the home store, which should you invest in?


Standard


The standard snow shovel is composed of a loop or D-shaped grip, a straight aluminum handle, typically ribbed inside to provide strength to prevent bending or flexing, and a wide scoop for maximum coverage. The long handle lends itself easily to pushing through piles of snow, dry or wet.


They also typically have a steel or hardened plastic strip for scraping away compact snow, or getting under loosened ice, without damaging the surface. While this no-frills model is the most common and has the best general application, its wide scoop can be ill-suited for tight spaces, and it lacks any energy-saving or injury-prevention features.


Ergonomic


An ergonomic snow shovel serves to protect you from injuring your back while shoveling. It has a bent or curved handle, providing greater leverage to do more of the lifting work for you, while allowing you to spend less energy on the task.


They are typically made of lightweight aluminum and have a smaller scoop than other shovel types to ensure that each scoop of snow is lighter. One of the best features is that the shovel can eliminate the need to twist or bend, which lead to many back injuries during shoveling. Remember to keep your back as straight as possible while using this shovel type.


Telescoping Shovel


Designed with your car in mind, many companies produce telescoping snow shovels meant specifically to get you out of a tight spot. As the name implies, the shovel’s handle can collapse in itself or unscrew/reassemble quickly and easily to be used in emergency situations when your vehicle faces a snow obstacle.


Whether stranded on a hill road or spinning your tires in the parking lot as you are trying to get home from work, keeping a small telescoping snow shovel handy is something many in snowy regions swear by.


Snow Blowers: Should You Buy One?




A snow blower is a larger investment than a snow shovel, but they can not only make snow removal faster but safer too. Should you buy one? It's a personal decision. In terms of the weather, it would be the rare winter when we did not get at least a handful of 'major' snow events here in the Waterloo Region, so yes, you are likely to get the chance to use it!


The amount of snow you have to clear may influence your decision here too. If it's just a small driveway and a front path, and you are up for the strenuous exercise, a good snow shovel may be all you need.


However, if you have more to clear - especially if local rules state tat you are responsible for clearing areas outside your home within a certain time - or are concerned about the physical effort of snow shoveling then a snow blower is probably going to be a purchase that offers decent ROI.


If you have decided on investing in a snow blower for your situation, but you have discovered there are at least 10 brands that produce the exact thing you need, what then? You are not the first person who has faced this problem, which gives you a real advantage. Check the review sections of major retailers as you are doing your research. Once you know which model you need, let the experience of others guide your choice.


Salt and Ice Melt – Which Should I Use?




Many homeowners use salt and other ice melt items to keep their driveways clear of light snow or the more dangerous threat of ice.

Which is best, though?


This frequently depends on the local temperature, the size of the area you are avoiding, and your own possible environmental impact.


How Ice Melt and Rock Salt Work and the Risks


The chemical process by which rock salt and ice melt remove ice actually decreases the freezing point of water. However, there is a clear disadvantage to this: if the temperature drops too low, the ice will either refreeze or never melt.


This means that one of the key criteria in deciding which ice melt solution you should use is the average temperature in your location. Beyond this, there are further issues and factors to think about when using salt and ice melt products.


Although salt is less expensive than other solutions, it can harm plants, animals, and even vehicles by causing rust. Chemical substances known as "ice melt agents," which lower water's freezing point, are frequently harmful to people and may contaminate ground water.


What’s It All Mean?


At the end of the day, you will have to decide which ice melt product fits your situation. This decision will be made based on the balance of cost, temperature, and impact to the environment. Below are some of the many options available to you – including some organic ones.


Different Types of Ice Melt


Below are some of the various kinds of ice melt available in stores. These are chemical compounds with varying degrees of toxicity to humans and the environment. Some also may cause damage to your drive and pathways.


Careful consideration should be given prior to their use. Additionally, some of them can be quite costly. It is best to go with the least expensive option that will work for you based on the average temperature you expect to experience.


Potassium Chloride


Effective as low as 12 degrees Fahrenheit

Typically costs about twice as much as rock salt


Calcium Chloride


Effective as low as -24 degrees Fahrenheit

Typically costs about three times as much as rock salt


Potassium Acetate


Effective as low as -70 degrees Fahrenheit

Can be eight to 10 times costlier than rock salt


Healthy Snow Shoveling - What You Should Know


Many people are unaware of how critically dangerous shoveling snow can be, despite the fact that you may hear about it on the news and see examples online each winter. Snow shoveling puts as much physical strain on your body as a full workout.


There is proof that it can actually be just as taxing on your cardiovascular system as a stress test that your doctor might perform. Each year, more than 11,000 people are admitted to hospitals due to illnesses or injuries brought on by shoveling snow, including heart attacks, orthopedic injuries, slip and fall injuries, contusions, lacerations, and concussions. You need to be aware of the hazards before grabbing the shovel.


Here are some additional health related snow shoveling tips:




Warm Up: Not only should you dress in layers so that you stay warm while you work - as suggested in the infographic above - you should also warm yourself up before you get to work. Snow shoveling is strenuous exercise, so you should warm up and stretch just like you do when you are at the gym.


Stay Hydrated: Staying on the serious exercise theme, make sure you stay hydrated while you work. Opt for water or pop to do so though, as coffee and alchohol are both dehydrating.


Take Breaks: Even though you almost certainly want to get finished as quickly as possible, you should take breaks as you shovel, and if you feel unwell stop altogether.


Do Not Pile Snow In Front Of Your Yard


When you shovel snow, do not create piles in front of your yard or on the street because you will be fined for not clearing snow off the sidewalk in front of your property in most places. Instead, pile up the snow inside your property in a corner.


Basic Snow Removal Techniques


Snow removal has specific techniques that should be followed so that the process is safe and efficient. These techniques can be broadly categorized into three types – energy-saving, safety-focused and efficiency-focused snow removal techniques.


1. Energy Saving Snow Removal Techniques


Snow removal requires a lot of physical energy no matter which method we use. Shoveling snow requires energy to push the snow with a shovel or scoop the snow and throw it away. Using a snowblower requires energy to maneuver the equipment in the right way and at the right pace. Energy-saving snow removal techniques focus on reducing the amount of physical effort required to remove snow.


Creating Windbreaks


Windbreaks are barriers used to reduce the speed of wind around a property. These are mostly made of a line of trees in open country to reduce wind damage to the property. In terms of snow removal, windbreaks are created to reduce the amount of snow deposit on a property due to strong winds. 


This could be done by creating a solid fence of appropriate height around your property to block the wind and the snow that comes with it. If you have an already existing open fence, you can still create a windbreak by piling snow against it when you clear the snow. This will ensure that you will have less snow to clear the next time.


2. Safety Focused Snow Removal Techniques


Snow removal is a hazardous task that needs to be performed with care. Data shows that snow shoveling causes approximately 11,500 injuries in Canada and leads to around 30 deaths every year. These numbers prove a need for safety-focused snow removal tips that prioritize the health and safety of the individual doing the task. Below we will discuss three of these techniques.


Safe Snow Shoveling Techniques


These are the techniques that should be followed for safe snow shoveling:


  • Warm up before starting the shoveling process. This will keep your muscles loose and prevent injury.

  • Bend your knees and your legs a shoulder-length apart when lifting snow. Lift with your legs instead of your back to avoid strain.

  • Keep the blade close to your body when you lift the snow to avoid overstretching.

  • Do not wait for the snow to pile up more than 6 inches before shoveling. Shovel as often as you can because shoveling large amounts of snow at once will impact your heart.

Safe Snow Removal Techniques For Cars




The best way to protect your car from snow and ice is to park it in a garage but if that is not possible, here are some safety-focused techniques for snow removal on and around your car:


  • First, clear the snow enough to create a safe path to your car. This helps avoid any slip-and-fall accidents due to snow and ice.

  • Check if the tailpipe is blocked due to snow because a blocked tailpipe will cause carbon monoxide to build up in the car when you turn it on.

  • Once you have made sure the tailpipe is clear, turn on the front and rear defrosters. This will cause the snow on the windshield to melt and reduce your task.

  • Remove snow from your car from top to bottom. If you clear the windows before you clear the hood, all the snow from the hood will pile up on the windows again, requiring you to make double the effort.


Safety Tip About Snow Removal From Dryer Vent


When a dryer vent gets blocked by any kind of debris, it becomes a fire hazard. Therefore, to prevent your house from going up in flames, you should keep the following in mind:


  • Check your dryer vent every time snow falls to ensure the vent remains open. A blocked vent can overheat very quickly.

  • Use a shovel to remove snow from the area where the exhaust fumes come out to make sure the passage is not blocked.

  • Create a winter checklist and make sure the task of checking the dryer vent is added to it.


3. Efficiency Focused Snow Removal Techniques


Efficiency refers to how effective an operation is in terms of the factors invested into it – time, money, energy. Therefore, efficiency-focused snow removal techniques are those that give the best results for our time and energy.


Using A Snow Blower


Snowblowers are an efficient method of snow removal as they can clear your snow within a very short time compared to shoveling. They also consume less physical energy. Here are some snow removal tips for snowblowers.


  • Start your snow-blowing exercise with fresh fuel. Do not use old fuel as this will make your job harder.

  • If you run out of gas when blowing snow, do not refill immediately. Wait for your snowblower to cool down and then fill the gas.

  • Throw your snow far when blowing it. This will help prevent the second round of snow blowing where you remove the snow thrown in the first round.

  • Ensure your yard does not have any rocks, cables, newspapers, garden hoses, holiday light cords, etc., lying around before snow falls because it will get caught up in your blower.


Of course, you can avoid all of this by hiring a snow removal company. There rates vary, as will their availability in a big snow storm, so setting up service ahead of bad weather is the best idea.












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