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Snow blower vs. shovel: Can we declare a winner?

How the tools compare on price, pollution, and chance they’ll land you in the ER.

The snowiest week in Boston history — an incredible 40.2 inches in the seven days ending February 2 — gave us plenty of time to practice our snow-removal technique and reflect on our choice of tools. As we await the next inevitable blizzard, let’s compare machine power with manpower.


> Suggested retail price: $549.99 (for Craftsman 21-inch single-stage model, pictured)

> Operating costs: Expect to spend $110 per year for gas and maintenance

> Environmental pollution: Sometimes held to less strict emissions standards than some other gas engines, says the EPA

> Sound pollution: Some have been known to reach 106 decibels, which is louder than a passing motorcycle


> Health benefits: A 185-pound operator will burn 200 calories in 30 minutes of work

> Risk of injury: The cause of about 5,700 injuries a year that lead to ER visits (don’t stick your hand in the chute!)

> Risk of fate worse than injury: 11 deaths between 1999 and 2012 from carbon monoxide exposure; avoid running a snow blower in a garage or other enclosed space

> The verdict: If you’re older or your ticker is compromised, fire up a snow blower with a clear conscience.


> Suggested retail price: $34.99 (for Craftsman 24-inch shovel, pictured)

> Operating costs: None

> Environmental pollution: None

> Sound pollution: It depends. Are you prone to frequent outbursts of cursing?

> Health benefits: A 185-pound shoveler will burn 266 calories in 30 minutes

> Risk of injury: The cause of about 11,500 injuries and emergencies a year that lead to ER visits (lift with your legs!)

> Risk of fate worse than injury: Approximately 100 deaths a year — often cardiac-related; the American College of Emergency Physicians says don’t shovel if you’ve had a heart attack

> The verdict: Young and in good health? Grab a shovel and get out there to earn your hot cocoa.


Sources: Sears; US Environmental Protection Agency; Consumer Reports; American Speech-Language-Hearing Association; Harvard School of Public Health; US Consumer Product Safety Commission; Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital