My criteria while looking for a snow thrower were:
1. Maintainance - I wanted something that was going to require as little maintainance as possible
2. Cost I've been leaning more toward the electric than the gas models owing to my maintainance criteria. I'd rather manoeuvre around a power cord than have to deal with gas, oil, spark plugs, etc., and accept the lower throwing power that I know I would get from an electric.
Pretty much the only choices out there when I started looking were the Toro 1800 and the Snow Joe. Looking at the reviews, I wasn't too happy with either (even though the Toro is the highest rated electric thrower out there, I think that has more to do with the fact that it's only competition is the Snow Joe). So I was thinking I might have to spring for a gas unit after all when along came Walmart with the Snow Devil.
What caught my attention was the price point - at sub $200, and with Walmarts no questions asked return policy, I felt it was worth a test run. Also, the other selling point for me was when I went ahead and pulled up the website of the company that manufactures this unit (Airco Hong Kong), and saw that they build and sell power tools and equipment under different brand names for various other retailers, so they aren't exactly newbies at this, so I went ahead and bit the bullet and ordered it.
I got to test it out the very next day after it arrived. Wind and snow had left me with accumulations varying from 3 inches to 12 inches (in places) of wet snow. It handled 3" - 5" of the wet stuff with no problem, but the throwing distance obvioulsy suffered, and it threw maybe 5-6 feet. However, when I got to the areas where the snow had built up 9 - 12 inches, surprise surprise, it actually started throwing it 10-12 feet! Granted, I had to do a top layer, bottom layer approach to first clear a path then I started doing half track approaches where I was only letting half the unit attack the snow at a time, and this seemed to work best. The one drawback is that you need to really push this thrower as the auger does not have enough power to pull it along like the gas ones, so I did have slightly stiff forearms and wrists after all the removal, but I was using this machine in ways it wasn't intended to be used! I did have a problem with the extension cord popping out of the socket on the unit a couple of times; they could do with some sort of locking mechanism to keep it in place, and ofcoures, I had to figure out how to work around the cord but apart from that, I can't say I had any real problems. If this machine was going to throw a belt, I figure what I put it through, would definitly have done so by now. The suprising thing is, the unit itself performed well, even beyond what it was intended for!
My reccommendations?- If all you get 80-90% of the time is dry snow, this is all you'll need because with a little patience, you can work with it the rest of the time to get you through the wet snow too. If however you get wet snow half the time or more, or have to consistenly deal with 6" or more of packed powder, I would say, consider a gas single stage. You could still get by with this unit even in those conditions if you're willing to go out and clear the snow each time it builds upto 3-5 inches, but be prepared that it will not throw far, so you'll have to aim the chute judiciously and you will have to push it while clearing. I can't speak for reliabilty or longevity at this time since I've only just used it a couple of times, but so far, I can comfortably say that the Snow Devil performs and performs well, and is even cabaple of doing a little more than expected!
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