If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around does it make a noise? I am going to say, yes.
If a snow blower blows in the snow does it make a noise? Yes!! Definitely.
Snow blowers are not quiet bits of machinery. In fact, they are louder than their summer counterparts – lawn mowers.
But why are snow blowers so loud?
We take a closer look at snow blower noise levels in this post.
Why Are Snow Blowers So Loud?
The priority for manufacturers when designing a snow blower is price, performance and maneuverability. The lack of proper mufflers and the light and compact engines with thin castings that vibrate are the main reasons for the noise levels. These could be rectified, but doing so would undoubtedly push the price of the blower up and the sales of it down!
Reason #1: It Is Because of the Mufflers
The main purpose of the muffler on a snow blower is very different from the main purpose of a muffler on a car.
With cars, the muffler is there specifically to dampen the engine’s sound.
On a snow blower, the muffler’s job is to be a spark arrestor for the exhaust first of all and then reduce the sound of the machine second.
I know this sounds counter-intuitive as a snow blower is used in the winter, so why do you need to worry about a stray spark with so much snow around, but it all comes back to health and safety legislation.
That said, certain manufacturers have done a better job of reducing the sound from their snow blowers than others, so it definitely is possible to make a snow blower quieter.
For instance, Honda has developed a reputation for making some of the quietest power tools going.
That is because they use a larger style, multi-baffle muffler, which is much quieter than the old-style mufflers used by certain other manufacturers.
Reason #2: The Air Intake Box Plays A Part
It wasn’t until the mid-1980s that snow blower manufacturers began putting air intake boxes into their machines.
They draw in air from a duct close to the engine, or use heat from the engine, to warm the outside of the carburetor and to stop the engine from icing up in the cold conditions
The air intake boxes have a considerable effect on the efficient running of snow blowers in very cold conditions, and also play a role in noise suppression.
Certain manufacturers pay more attention than others to the design and location of the air intake box.
Again using Honda as an example, they use noise-alleviating plastic and have obviously put quite a lot of time and effort into the location of their air intake boxes to make sure they reduce noise as much as possible.
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Reason #3: It Comes Down to What We Prioritise
When it comes to designing a snow blower, I would suggest that sound levels are at the lower end of the spectrum in terms of priorities for a manufacturer and a buyer.
More important concerns are cost, maneuverability, efficiency and reliability.
I am sure most of us are prepared to put up with a more noisy snow blower if it ticks all of the boxes above.
That is why the engines used in snow blowers are relatively light and compact, with thin castings and minimal sound insulation.
So the main noise you hear when using a snow blower comes from vibrating metal.
Reason #4: It Would Be Expensive to Make Them Quieter
If snow blower manufacturers really wanted to make a very quiet snow blower I am sure they could.
But it would be at the expense of main of the concerns listed above: cost, maneuverability, efficiency and reliability.
It would most likely take a lot of time and research, and possibly make a snow blower more unwieldy to use and probably more expensive.
And if that happens, we would all probably avoid buying the ultra-expensive but quiet snow blower and stick with our much cheaper but noisier snow blowers.
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Reason #5: It is the Winter!
By virtue of their name, snow blowers are used in the winter.
This is when pretty much everyone has their thick, double-glazed windows shut.
On top of that, the snow muffles the sound of the blower as well.
It isn’t like mowing your lawn in the summer when windows and doors are open.
Snow blowers can be louder as there is less chance of disturbing people in the winter months.
So How Noisy Are Snow Blowers?
Snow blowers range from around 80 decibels, for the smaller electric machines, up to 105 decibels, for the larger gas-powered units. The one in the video above is even louder than that!
To put the decibel level of a snow blower into some context, this is how they compare to lawn mowers:
- 55db: Push Reel Lawn Mower
- 75db: Electric Lawn Mower
- 95db: Gas Lawn Mower
- 100db: Riding Lawn Mower
And this is how they compare to other commonly used items:
- 60db: Normal Conversation
- 70db: Car
- 80db: Vacuum Cleaner
- 90db: Hair Dryer
- 100db: Handheld Drill
- 110db: Power Saw
- 120db: Police Siren
As mentioned particular brands do emit more noise than others and noise level isn’t always an indicator of the snow-moving power of a snow blower unfortunately!
A four-stroke engine also tends to be quieter than a two-stroke engine.
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So can using a snow blower cause permanent hearing damage?
Well the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), say that exposure to noise levels in excess of 85db for more than eight hours a day, or 95db for more than four hours a day, can cause permanent hearing damage.
By the time that level gets to 110db, just 15 minutes of exposure a day can have long-lasting effects.
Even the most basic ear muffs or ear plugs will reduce noise by up to 10db, whilst high-quality ear muffs or ear plugs can reduce noise levels by up to 25db to 30db.
Even better, ear muffs will keep your ears warm in the cold as well!
If you want to quickly find out how loud your snow blower is, search for sound meter apps on the app store of whatever type of phone you have.
They are a surprisingly accurate way of measuring sound levels.
Hopefully, we’ve given you some idea of why snow blowers are so loud in this article and in the infographic above.
At the end of the day, I suppose we can say it all comes down to two main factors: design and cost.
Manufacturers probably could make snow blowers quieter, but the cost of finding that design solution would be passed on to the consumer at the point of sale.
And most of us are happy to pay less and put up with noisy snow blowers!
In terms of decibel level, a snow blower tends to come in somewhere between 80 decibels and 105 decibels.
The more powerful gas snow blowers are particularly noisy, so ear muffs are always a good idea, protecting your ears both from the noise and the cold!