Electric Snowblower Does The Job With 240 Volts

In parts of the world where it snows a lot and there are requirements for homeowners to keep sidewalks clear, a personal snowblower is it seems an essential piece of equipment. They have traditionally used internal combustion engines, but electric models are also available.

[Joel Clemens] is not impressed by the commercial electric blowers available to him as an American, because their 120 V mains supply just can’t deliver the power to make an effective two-stage design. So he’s built his own using a formerly gasoline-powered blower from a garage sale, and a 240 V industrial motor.

The blower is an impressive piece of equipment even if his running it close to its own cord does look rather hazardous. But the video is also of interest for its examination of the state of access to 240 V outlets for Americans. [Joel] has one for his electric vehicles, and has made a splitter box to give him the required American-style 240 V industrial connector. He makes the point that this is becoming more common as the take-up of electric vehicles gathers pace.

This seems to be the first electric blower we’ve shown you, but we have featured a more traditional machine made remote-controlled.

 

87 thoughts on “Electric Snowblower Does The Job With 240 Volts

    1. Most Electrical codes minimally require a GFI breaker for plugs near hot-tubs/pools/sinks, and this guys metal-framed widow-maker doesn’t look like it has one.
      There are extension cords with GFI built in, but for those power levels the GFI breaker is the way to go (the hot tub install should already have had one installed). These are so cheap now, there is no excuse not to use a GFI breaker with his weather-proof plug monstrosity.

      Stay safe kids, as line level mistakes usually don’t give second chances to learn.

    1. Edison wanted easy math for his light bulbs, which were the main application when electrification got started. Using a nominal 100 volts, with a little extra to cover transmission losses, would let him make 100 ohm light bulbs that draw 100 watts.

      However, practically all American residential wiring these days is set up for both 240 and 120 volts.

      1. Do you mean all American homes have 240V line supply, because typically we only have 240V plugs in 2 places: Washer-dryer closet and/or electric range in kitchen. All the rest of the wiring around the house will be 120V

        You might also have a 240V hot tub or pool pump or an electric water heater, but those would be hard-wired, not connected by a plug…

        1. The majority of modern homes have 240VAC available, provided by 2 lines which are 180* out of phase. The third line coming into the home is a neutral line, grounded to a 0V potential. Either of the “hot” lines to neutral will give you 120V.
          Inside the breaker box, the 2 hot lines are alternately connected to the breakers. Breaker slot 1 (and the other odd numbered slots) will be connected to the first line and slot 2 (and other even slots) will be connected to line #2, slot

          A 120V breaker connects to either an odd slot or an even slot. The circuit going to your desk lamp or whatever consists of the one power line and a neutral line.
          A 240V breaker is actually 2 separate 120V breakers hooked up to both the even and odd slots. The circuit going to the major appliance has the 2 power lines which are 180* out of phase plus the neutral line. Having the neutral line allows 120V items to be incorporated in the appliance- typically any lighting or control circuits.

          1. So in the home that would surely mean that two given 120V outlets might be 180deg out of phase ?
            Is there a standard in place that would look to stop that happening in the same room ?
            Or do you have upstairs on one phase and downstairs on another ?
            Do out of phase cables have to be run in teh dry wall sperated from each other ?

            Assuming that the aim is to split the 120V load over both phases ?

        2. the 120V outlets are on a split circuit over 240V mains in 99.99% of American homes (and maybe 95% of Canadian homes). So everyone effectively has access to 240V.
          But every 240V circuit in your breaker box costs you money to wire up, and brings you closer to the limit of your service amperage. You can upgrade but it costs money.
          You can have four 15A 120V circuits in place of one 30A 240V circuit. Four circuits would run many of the lights and outlets in a small house.
          My box has 240V for dryer, spa, air conditioner and oven. (but I’m not using the oven one, my new oven is all gas).

          1. Your math is fuzzy. You can have two 120V circuits in place of one 240V circuit because the 240V circuit needs two breaker slots. The current rating of each is irrelevant, each breaker is sized to protect the wiring downstream, not the breaker box itself. There will be a main breaker in the main panel that does that – or in the case of a sub-panel a breaker in the main panel that protects the sub-panel and its feeder wire. There is a requirement for each panel to be sized appropriately for its expected load, but the calculation for this isn’t simply adding up breaker ratings, but takes into account the type of load and expected usage. A reactive load such as an electric motor has a heavy inrush current at startup and circuits are sized and protected taking that current into account. The typical free-running current is usually significantly lower, and if that motor only runs a few hours a week to spin the laundry then its effect in load calculations could be much less than its breaker rating might suggest.

            You could also have two 120V circuits and one 240V circuit, or four 120V circuits, or even two 240V circuits in that two slot space. You can get tandem breakers that effectively double a slots capacity. You need busbar capacity for ground and also for any 120V neutrals (it against code to put two wires into one hole on a busbar), and you still have to have to abide by NEC’s requirements for total box fill and load capacity, but it can be done. Local code allowing, of course – you’re into some strange juju now and not all inspectors like to see that. One or two in a full panel will often fly, but beyond that they’d rather see a sub-panel.

            tldr; The NEC is a strange beast, panel capacity is not simply the sum of breaker capacities.

      1. My electric kettle works like a champ, and it’s only 120V. of course I can’t make toast or microwave something at the same time because the kitchen is all one circuit. But tea has to steep so I serialize my tea making tasks.
        (my family moved to the US from Scotland and England about 100 years ago, and they still are habitual tea drinkers)

          1. That is likely true. with the same gauge wires it can pull the same current through its cord, but it would have twice the power (heat) output.

            Fastest thing for my kettle is to only put enough water to make the amount of tea I want. I fill the teapot and then dump it into the kettle. I’m probably boiling 2.5 cups of water at a time. if I fill my kettle to the max 6 cups of water, it takes a really long time to boil. And at that point I might as well use my gas range to boil the water, it’s take the same amount of time except gas is way cheaper for me.

          2. jonmayo: Of course I fill only so much water into my kettle as needed. And it has 2kW, which is less than 10A at 230V. So that’s quite fast. But sometimes you can get 3,3kW kettles here also.

        1. I would do it if I am a regular tea drinker and had only low voltage in the kitchen but here we have 230V regular and if you have an electric stove you normally have 400V 3 phase power in the kitchen. Up to 11kW, if you need it. :-)

        1. Safe…mostly. Approved by building codes, probably not.

          You can install a 240V outlet just like a typical stove or dryer outlet. And you can get the British socket for it. Probably have to import the electrical box as well to make sure it fits properly.

          Problem you’ll have is the 50/60Hz difference. Some devices won’t care. A regular kettle that’s just a resistive wire will work fine. But anything with a motor will have issues if it wasn’t designed to accept 60Hz, possibly to the point of overheating and breaking.

          1. Why? That’s completely unnecessary.

            A European device is designed to have 220V to 240V potential to ground from either wire, the British plugs are polarized, but not all European plugs are. So nobody knows which wire is hot and which is neutral. So it is no issue to have 120V to ground on each side. This is in fact less stress on the isolation then it’s intended use in Europy. The only issue can be frequency with motorized devices. For transformers 60Hz are no problem, the opposite, a 60Hz transformer at 50Hz could be overloaded.

        2. Things might misbehave, as a US 240V socket is 2-phase, whereas a UK socket is single phase…the UK one will see 240V against ground and/or neutral, but the US one will never see 240V against the ground (120V in 2 phases, 180° shifted) and it doesn’t have a neutral lead. Resistive loads with switches or mechanical relays will not give a flying f**** about that, but I would be be very careful with anything electronic.

          1. No such beast as two phase. Residential us wiring is single phase 220v. The center tapped pole transformer effectively splits that phase into two half phases 180 degrees out from each other, but it’s still considered single phase.

    2. What’s more bizarre is why they chose basically the worst possible electrical plug design imaginable. Then standardized it.

      Yes, let’s make the plug still electrically hot immediately when you plug it in even while the exposed metal parts are right next to the operator. No, we don’t need any fuses at all! Sure it’s slightly cheaper to produce but it’s just a bad design.

      1. Poorly designed, cheap to produce, but surprisingly expensive for the consumer (at least in Canada). A standard NEMA 5-15P plug might cost $9 or more, and something like a NEMA 6-15P (250V, 15A) might be ~$15. By comparison, a well-designed 13A fused UK plug might be GBP1.50.

        1. A single 6-15P is around $8 CAD here in Canada. So around 3x the GBP1.50 you mentioned. Cheaper if you are buying in bulk.

          But yeah, the UK plug design is far superior to what we have in North America, with one tiny exception: at least we aren’t likely to impale ourselves on the plugs if left on the floor.

          1. Where are you shopping? I’ve found the likes of Home Depot and Rona (in Alberta at least) to be surprisingly expensive for these sort of things. I found a bunch of reasonably-priced 5-15Ps on sale at Princess Auto a while ago so stocked up on those.

      2. Briefly shocking your fingers with 120VAC usually isn’t a big deal. and the US plugs are way cheaper to manufacture and not nearly as bulky as UK plugs. I don’t like that US sockets are too attractive for children to stick forks and butter knives into.

        British people are weirdly paranoid about electricity, to the point of not having proper light switches in old bathrooms. It might be the 240V that makes it more serious for them.
        Fuses are required on most US appliances, but it’s not normally built into the plug. Probably because cords are often removable.

        I think we should standardize internationally on a DC socket for most things in the home (not USB, which gets re-designed every 5-8 years). Low voltage DC for Lamps (which are now mostly LED based and low power), shavers, etc. Having a 24V DC in the bath for your shaver is way safer than 240V or even 120V (aka 115V). Cordless is even safer, with a DC powered charging station when not in use. And elimination of ugly wall transformers or at least moving those transformers as part of every wall receptacle would be very nice.

        I’m thinking a standard of up to 24VDC @ 45A (1kW), even though that would mean 8 awg wire for an appliance that actually pulls a full load. A compact switched-mode power supply that can provide the full current would be costly, but I home owners could opt for something more like 6A at a significantly reduced cost, which is still plenty of power for many uses (and capable of charging your laptop.)

        and yes … https://xkcd.com/927/

        1. There are many standardized DC connectors readily available… USB 2.0 has proven to be more then adequate to charge small portable electronics, USB-C takes it even further by giving enough juice and voltage selection to actually power and charge normal sized laptop.

          For your envisioned 24V/1kW an Anderson powerpole (the high amperage versions) would be suitable…vary common to see an Anderson in forklifts and such, where the battery pack needs to be removable by the operator.

          However, if homes are ever to get low voltage, high-amperage as standard availability, it will most likely have to be in a form of some smart socket, that needs active negotiation before sending any substantial power.

        2. No, for home wiring 230V is really good. An extra 24V net would be possible, but not for 1kW. Of course your 24V 45A grid has a nice advantage: You do not need extra equipment for arc welding. Just plug the cables into the wall socket.

      3. oddly I wandered down the internet rabithole on this subject recently. from memory pre WW2 the main electrical outlets in the UK were light sockets and some round 3 pin plugs for major consumers. multi-way light socket adaptors were common.

        post ww2 a comittee was set up to come up with our current plugs, child proof, shutters over the power pins, fuzed, all that good stuff. the reason we have such a mature electrical system is ww2. 10 years later or so came the partially insulated connectors.

        the reason the US has the system it does, IMHO is they havnt been desimated and rebuilt thro a massive war.

      4. > Yes, let’s make the plug still electrically hot immediately when you plug it in even while the exposed metal parts are right next to the operator

        Aside from your incoherent grammar: I’m forty years old and have yet to electrocute myself. Grow up.

  1. I’m glad he was able to keep the reverse function.
    Maybe add a amp/watt meter to the dashboard.
    I suspect the headlight mounted on the scoop will get knocked off in a deep snow bank, probably mount it further back.
    Oh, yeah, add a small air compressor, one of my tires is always flat when I need to use it. B^)

  2. I’d look at building some kind of inverter and putting a bunch of lipos on it, not only would it make it heavier, but youd get better grip in the snow. This as it is looks too light to effectively go through more than a few inches of snow without slipping.

    1. For his particular motor, you’d probably want an inverter in the neighborhood of 3kW continuous… maybe more. A complete off-the-cuff guess puts the cost of an inverter at $500+. I’m not sure what sort of lipo packs you were thinking (3S, 4S, 5S, 6S, etc.), but a pack with enough capacity and current output may be prohibitively expensive. An inverter supplying that much power would pull a tremendous amount of current from the batteries, even from a 6S pack.

      Tire chains may be a reasonable way to get more traction for this application.

    2. If I want to convert this to battery operated, I would not use an induction motor with an inverter. They have huge start up currents. I would use a suitable brushless (aka synchronous) motor and the “inverter” would be called BLDC controller. In a battery powered design efficiency is of first priority.

  3. Nice job but IMO overkill for the task. I grew up using a 12 HP Gravely Tractor/Snowblower in the country but now in the suburbs my “crappy 120 V single stage” Toro 1800 SnowCurve has cleared a 20′ x 80′ driveway just fine for 20 years (Rochester, NY 84″ snow each year). It may take a bit longer but weighs only 26 lbs and can be stored overhead in the garage during the summer. FWIW

    1. I think the bad reputation of electric snowblowers comes from people buying poorly designed “discount” versions from big-box stores and then using small-gauge extension cords to power them (voltage drop, anyone?). That and not understanding that any snowblower has an upper limit to capacity and you have to slow down in the deep stuff (eg using 1/2 or 1/3 swath wide passes). With all of that, they’re still light duty (a 15 amp circuit limits you to about 1600W or ~2 hp) – this review of a good electric on Amazon is enlightening: http://amzn.to/2nUWF7s

          1. Well nice thing about this project is one can pull it out in ten years and tell our grand-kids, “This is a snowblower. It was used on white stuff that fell from the sky. No, not pollution, frozen water. Yup, cold enough to freeze. They had it good back then.”

          2. Yes, they do have horses in England, right?
            But, I was mistaken, the model “522” means it has a 5 HP engine with a 22 inch (~55 cm -Jenny) swath.

            And [Ostrich Cuss], this snowblower is already 40 years old, it may be around for another 40!
            B^)

  4. If you have 240 volt in your garage already, why would you go through the trouble and expense of building such a dodgy adapter? Just pull the 240 volt right from the panel. Also, what’s with not using waterproof connectors?

    It’s all fun and games until you end up electrocuted on your driveway.

    1. The electric car charger was directly wired to a panel box, with no outlet in between. It would be safer to hit a standard welder outlet or an L6-30 twist-lock through a GFCI breaker first. Then he can plug in whatever he wants with no janky homemade adapters.

      Chain link fence or some vertical steel grate welded across the front of the blower would help prevent it from eating the cord if you’re that worried about it.

  5. Well, it is impossible to get 240v to ground since each leg is 120v at 180 degrees phase, so it’d only be a 120v shock unless you somehow managed to touch both hots.

    No snow where I live, but you do have to mow the lawn year round, I did my grandmother’s lawn for years. Going to an electric was great, less weight, less noise, and no gas to have to keep dealing with. The cord management is no issue, just have to use a pattern.I’d never go back (but she has a gardener now anyway).

      1. Why would you let yourself be afraid of something like that? i guess if you grabbed the muffler you could get burned by why would you? Aside from that what danger is there that is unique to the petrol engines over the electric ones?

        1. Most electric mowers stop the blade automatically with an actual brake in less then 2 seconds once you let go of the switch – not happening in an ICE one…there’s also all the fun of having to handle gasoline and basic ICE maintenance, which a lot of owners apparently find too complicated for some reason.

          An electric mower is as simple as it gets, plug it in and mow…

          1. some (most? all?) newish ICE mowers have a deadman bail on the handle that kills the ignition and brakes the blade as well as soon as you let go of it. I don’t know how quick they stop, but I would guess my Honda mower stops close to 2 seconds.

            I agree that electric mowers are much simpler in principle, but winding the extension cord around all the trees to reach the whole yard just doesn’t justify it for me. When batteries improve a bit more, maybe then. My rechargeable string trimmer is great… I haven’t fired up my gas trimmer in a couple of years now.

        2. Petrol explosion. I can’t see that happening with an electric mower. You also cannot run over a non-existent electric power cord with a petrol mower, so choose your death wisely.

        3. As [AKA the A] says the nearly instant cut off was something I was glad of, neither of the petrol mowers had any kind of auto cut off, also the petrol ones were heavy and there were slopes in the gardens they could have run away still running if I had lost control (which never happened, but that’s not the nature of worry). Additionally: I was a child so back off!

      1. Had 2 dogs over the years and neither of them ever bit the cable and neither even tried…because I made it very clear to them that they will not end up well if they do :P
        Wasn’t even all that hard to teach both to just sort of stay out of the way of the mower, probably because of the sound it made.

        You are the master, not the dog. If you’re the one feeding it, then it better obey…really don’t like people that are incompetent to properly train their dogs, with anything above 20kg/~44lb, they can be an actual danger to people, especially children.

  6. The point is not about going electric at all. The point is that when the neighbor(s) ask you to do their driveway, you say “Sorry my 240V cord isn’t long enough….” Then you softly chuckle to yourself… “Yea that’s right pal, ask someone else.”

    1. They often malfunction when you need them most. Carburetors, spark plugs, oil change. At the small generator somehow the choke does not give a rich enough mixture, you have to nearly close the intake holes with your fingers or use ether spray.

    2. Seriously. End of the season, change the oil and drain the gas tank, then run it until the fuel system is dry and it won’t even run with the choke on. Add fuel stabilizer to your jerry cans. Don’t store small engines unprotected outdoors. If there’s no gas in it, there’s nothing to go skunky and gum the carburetor up.

      They’re not that complicated, especially the old 3.5HP Briggs and Stratton engines you saw on mowers for decades. The only parts that went bad on those (and weren’t wear items you regularly replace anyway) were the rubber gasket/diaphragm sheets that went between the plastic carb and the steel gas tank. Once those dried out they didn’t pump gas up out of the tank anymore.

  7. I wonder what service factor this water pump motor has?
    It may not tolerate much grinding on ice chunks or anything that keeps it running under it’s intended rpm range.
    Enough repeated stalls may cook it
    down.
    ————-
    On the petrol powered equipment
    https://www.pure-gas.org/index.jsp
    Look around for non-ethanol blend fuel and you’ll be happier with all of your outdoor power equipment.
    E-gas just corrodes everything it touches and hardens any of the “rubber” parts of the fuel system.
    Check into a couple of forums for people using gasoline fueled equipment (mowers, saws, trimmers, etc) if you want to get a headache from reading all of the details.
    I make about an hour long, round trip (to a neighboring county), to buy the non ethanol fuel.
    Several years ago, I did the math of parts costs ( I do my own repairs) and making the trips for non E-gas was much cheaper than my upkeep cost with using ethanol fuels.

    1. Oh and you will VERY likely have to repair or replace the components of your equipment that has been used with ethanol blend fuels to see the improvement.
      Pure gas won’t cure ethanol damage.
      you have to start with undamaged things or the new fuel wont make any difference.
      I realize that sounds a bit involved and money related.
      But you’ll wonder why you ever touched that ethanol garbage once you’ve gotten things squared away! :^D

      1. Gotta admit. I honestly envy the ones of you who don’t have troubles with E-gas.
        It would swell the needle seats in “modern” B&S push mower engines in about one summer.
        When the needle seat swells, it lowers the float level and you end up with a lean miss-fire.
        Hmm, sort of countered by people who never change their air filter? Genuine B&S fuel cut offs would crack & leak within two seasons.
        Even the new, epa, vapor rated fuel lines would harden.
        Handheld stuff was a nightmare of stiffened fuel lines that wouldn’t move around in the tanks, fuel starving the engine. That or they cracked and sucked air into the line.
        Carburetor diaphragms so stiff and crinkled that they wouldn’t move properly and the wrinkled flaps wouldn’t seal in the pump sections.
        You should see some of the ashy looking crust in trimmer carbs.
        (I sometimes tend to a couple of neighbors equipment)
        I often wondered the city I live in has some extra nasty additives in the fuel????
        I used shutoffs & ran the carb/lines dry before putting equip away. Got somewhat better results, but still troublesome.
        Found the non E-gas locations and then rebuilt or replaced things once more….
        Been no trouble out things since.
        Kind of aggravating sometimes for the fuel trips, But wadda ya do when the other way ain’t cuttin’ it.
        Like I said, I honestly envy you guys who get along with the ethanol!

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