That familiar refrain of winter is back. Do you hear it?
Metal shovels scraping snow-covered driveways and sidewalks. The industrious whir of snow blowers. The grating sound of scrapers chiseling cars out from beneath layers of ice.
Snow and ice removal can be back-breaking work. But a host of new tools aims to take the backache out of what can be the bane of many home and car owners' existence each winter.
"We all get caught like this," says Home Depot spokesman Dan White. "We know it's coming, but we wait until the last minute to get ready. ... If you've already got some of these things installed, they're going to save you a lot of headaches."
Among the game-changing products in snow removal are cable kits that melt the white stuff off your roof, driveway or sidewalk.
EasyHeat Sno Melter cables can be clipped to your roof, or strung through rebar and layered under hard surfaces like cement and asphalt to maintain a constant temperature above freezing.
"There's no need to shovel, snow blow or spread chemicals," says EasyHeat product manager Romy Sheynis.
The roof cables provide an uninterrupted path for melting water to flow down into your gutters. Sidewalk kits cover areas up to 100 square feet with a single cable and must be installed by a professional contractor. A self-contained controller starts heating the surface whenever moisture is present and temperatures are below 38 degrees, according to EasyHeat.
Snow mats that melt snow as it falls on your steps and sidewalk are also becoming popular, using similar technology, White says.
HIGH-TECH SNOW BLOWERS
Cordless snow blowers are nothing new. But Snow Joe and Ryobi offer blowers that are both cordless and don't need gas — a more environmentally friendly way to clear your sidewalk or driveway.
The snow blowers are powered by a rechargeable lithium battery. After charging for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, they can run up to 40 minutes.
"Until now, homeowners faced a lot of intimidation with snow-removal equipment," says Joseph Cohen, Snow Joe's CEO. Battery-powered blowers, he says, "operate just as most electronics do today — with a simple charge."
Looking for something more traditional?
Milwaukee-based Briggs & Stratton has introduced a serrated auger on its single-stage snow blowers this season. Called the "SnowShredder," it combines 14 serrated steel teeth with the reinforced rubber paddles typically found in single-stage blowers to give users the power of a two-stage blower and the manoeuvrability of a smaller machine.
The new feature is available on the 922EXD and 1222EE models of Snapper, Simplicity and Briggs & Stratton single-stage snow blowers.
Scraping snow and ice from your car is unpleasant enough, but in the dark? It can be hard and even dangerous.
Enter the Icy Light, a snow scraper with a water-resistant flashlight in the handle. The brainchild of Washington state inventor Jeff Latham, Icy Light is powered by two AA batteries and comes in several colours.
Sharper Image carries a heated scraper that melts away stubborn ice and snow after charging for a couple minutes in your car's 12-volt outlet. A built-in rubber squeegee wipes away any excess water, leaving you with a clear view. It also contains a light.
Looking for something bigger? Snow Joe offers a snow broom with ice scraper that easily pushes heavy, wet snow off your car hood or roof without scraping the paint. The handle extends up to 49 inches.
And in something that looks straight out of the Middle Ages, Bare Ground has an ice- and snow-melting torch that lets you blast away frozen spots with a propane-powered flame. Bonus? According to the listing on Wayfair, it's also great for weed removal in the summer.
Home Depot: http://www.homedepot.com
Icy Light: http://www.icylight.com
Snow Joe: http://www.snowjoe.com