Our Green Snow Removal Tool Gets an Upgrade

Our trusty Toro Electric Snow Blower died during the first blizzard of 2015 that slammed us with 2 feet of snow. I originally thought I could repair it by replacing the broken blade, but unfortunately the motor had also reached the end of it’s usefulness. Fortunately, I was able to buy a new Snow Joe SJ621 Electric Snow Blower from a local hardware store before the next snow storm dumped a mere 15″ of snow.

I had originally expected to get 3-4 years out of our original snow blower and am very satisfied that it lasted 8 years. That said, the new one is awesome and has already been a life saver for 3 houses on our block.

SJ621 Electric Snow Blower in the snow

Snow Joe SJ621 Electric Snow Blower

When you get 94.4″ of snow in a 30 day period, and more after that, there are just so many places you can put the snow and you have to keep piling it higher. Throwing snow onto a pile above your head with a shovel is back breaking and literally impossible when the piles start to get over 8′ tall like ours are.

The Snow Joe 621 is compact (only 18″ wide) and light enough to carry, which can be essential when you have to carry it over a 3 foot drift of snow to get it out of your garage/carport. The features I really appreciate for the SJ621 include:

  • power – 13.5 A motor is really good at chewing up the snow and throwing it about 20′ (better than my old Toro)
  • metal blades with replaceable rubber attachments – they have handled the chunks of ice and hard packed snow in the plow piles and can be replaced if/when they break
  • head light – the halogen light helps extend the hours that you can safely move the snow

The only thing I haven’t been totally happy with is that the dead-man switch sometimes sticks after I let go of it.

Below are some pictures showing about 15 minutes worth of snow clearing with our new Snow Joe. What a back saver!

Happy Greening!

p.s.  Yes, that much snow is truly unusual for where we live. Climate change has been causing larger, more frequent snow storms in the Boston/Providence area this year. 

snowblower-1 snowblower-2snowblower-3

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Breaking Ice Dams with Lady’s Lingerie

ice dams on a roof

The beautiful large icicles are a sign that you may have ice dams

Do you have ice dams on your house?  While the long term solution to preventing ice dams is proper air-sealing and insulation under your roof, people with ice dams want to know what to do now, not next spring. A good way to deal with them in the middle of winter is using discarded pantyhose filled with Calcium Chloride. The stockings create a channel by melting through the ice dam allowing water to flow out as it melts behind the dam and on the roof.  While this does not necessarily get rid of the ice dams completely, it slows their formation and helps prevent ice and water from backing up under your roof shingles.

This might not be the sexiest use of lingerie, but it sure is practical!

How to reuse discarded pantyhose to break ice dams

  1. Save pantyhose when they get small runs throughout the year
  2. Fill a 1 foot section of the pantyhose with Calcium Chloride (CaCl)
    •  Watch out for large runs or holes as the CaCl can leak out.  You can fill it some and tie off sections with holes/runs with knots on either side and fill the remaining stocking
    • We found using an empty toilet paper tube with a rolled piece of cardstock makes a good funnel that holds the stocking open.
    •  We recommend CaCl because it is effective as an ice-melt down to -25°F
    • You probably want one CaCl filled sexy dam breaker every 4-6 feet.
  3. Tie a double knot about a foot higher in the pantyhose
  4. Cut the stocking above the knot
    • Tip from a reader – Tie a string to the end of the stocking so that you can adjust it or pull it down from the roof.
  5. Place the sexy ice dam breaker over the dam.
    stocking filled with CaCl over an ice dam

    Sexy Ice Dam Breaker

    •  You should use a roof rake if you have one to clear as much snow as you can reach.
    •  This can be challenging if you do not have enough snow piled up to reach the roof safely.
    •  If you have a roof rake or long broom, you can use that to carefully lift it up over the dam.
    •  Be careful using a ladder and be sure to have someone else holding the ladder if you do.
  6. The CaCl will melt a channel through the dam.  As snow and ice melts, it will be able to drain through that channel and off of your roof before it refreezes or works its way back into your home.

For more on why we recommend CaCl instead of Sodium Chloride (Rock Salt) or Potassium Chloride see our original post on ice dams.  Also check out our Green Snow Removal post.

Lower effective melting point makes Calcium Chloride the clear choice of ice-melt for breaking ice dams

Lower effective melting point makes Calcium Chloride the clear choice of ice-melt for breaking ice dams

Please share before and after pictures of using sexy ice dam breakers on our Facebook Page.

Happy Greening!

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2015-02-09 09.27.15

Our area has had over 60" of snow in the past 17 days.  That may not sound like a lot for some people, but on average we get 44" of snow a year and it has been so cold here that it has not been melting between the storms.  This morning … [Continue reading]

Adapting To Climate Change

Street flooding from intense rainfall, Medford, MA, summer 2014

I spent two days in December meeting with Sustainability Directors from around New England. While we met, pounding rain drenched late arrivals, and rain and snow storms to our north waylaid some of our colleagues. Three to four inches … [Continue reading]

Turn down your water heater to save energy


Many water homes have their water heaters turned up too high. Many health codes used to call for hotter temperatures for home water, to ensure that dishes and clothes got clean enough. However, science has taught us that in most cases, it is the act … [Continue reading]

Gearing Up Green for the Super Bowl

DIY Patriots Cloth Napkins

I am very excited for the New England Patriots to be in Super Bowl XLIX and almost as excited to see that LEDs will be lighting the University of Phoenix Stadium for the big game. As Katherine Tweed notes in her article LEDs Will Shine on Super … [Continue reading]

Climate Change is Causing More Intense Storms

Figure: Observed Change in Very Heavy Precipitation Caption: The map shows percent increases in the amount of precipitation falling in very heavy events (defined as the heaviest 1% of all daily events) from 1958 to 2012 for each region of the continental United States. These trends are larger than natural variations for the Northeast, Midwest, Puerto Rico, Southeast, Great Plains, and Alaska. The trends are not larger than natural variations for the Southwest, Hawai‘i, and the Northwest. The changes shown in this figure are calculated from the beginning and end points of the trends for 1958 to 2012. (Figure source: updated from Karl et al. 20091).

As we were re-scheduling projects and meetings because of the incoming blizzard, a co-worker from another department asked me: Are we seeing more frequent and more intense storms because of climate change? Yes, we are. Even my … [Continue reading]

Not Running Against the Wind Anymore

Wind Turbine at Energy Festival

When Jon and I first started writing Green Lifestyle Changes over 5 years ago, we felt that we had to write it. Very few people were talking about climate change or green living. We had become aware of the issue, and we were very concerned about … [Continue reading]

Is Your Body Wash Killing Fish?


Is your shampoo, body wash, or toothpaste killing fish? Not with some crazy new chemical, but something very simple: tiny microbeads of plastic. At some point the companies that make personal care products realized that they could put tiny … [Continue reading]

Review of Eco-Renovation Strategies Book

Greening Your Home Cover

We were contacted by Self-Counsel Press and asked if we would review some or all of the books in their new Green Series. We are always interested in finding good books that we can refer people to, so we agreed to review them if they sent us copies of … [Continue reading]