Category: Product Review

REVIEW: My Toro Snowmaster 724 QXE

The 2015-2016 winter was our first winter in our house, and I fully intended on surviving with only a shovel. I changed my mind, after 8+ inches of heavy wet snow, and almost 2 hours to shovel our driveway. Having already done some research, I seized my chance…I drove to Home Depot and bought a Toro Snowmaster.

I’ve been using my Snowmaster 724 QXE since last year and I was a little apprehensive at first, since it was a new model. After using it a few times, that apprehension is gone.

The Design

Photo credit: Toro

Yes, it is technically a single stage with a different auger design. They call it “inline two stage” because the sides of the auger pull snow toward the center, and the center paddle (much smaller and more scoop-like than a standard single-stage) throws the snow out the chute. The bucket and chute design are shallower in their tapering to maximize throwing distance. It may not throw as far as a two stage, since it lacks an impeller, but if you keep it moving and full of snow, it can throw snow 20-30 feet. The lack of impeller lets Toro use more power in the auger, which spins very fast (“10 times faster than a 2-stage”). This also allows the blower to be a lot lighter, needing much smaller tires (this isn’t a disadvantage).

The lack of weight on this blower means it moves around more like a lawnmower, than a typical two stage blower. Toro even put their personal pace system from their mowers on it. This means that the controls are very minimal:

  • one lever to engage the auger
  • Toro’s “quick chute” joystick (which is awesome)
  • personal pace bar to push the blower and engage the drive-train.

All this means that I can clear my driveway and sidewalk in much less time than my neighbors.

Performance

End of driveway (EOD) snow is the one question mark for most people, since single-stage blowers typically suck here. My Snowmaster 724 has been able to handle EOD snow without fail. I do need to slow down a bit, because the hard-packed EOD snow slows down the auger, but as long as you listen to the engine, you’ll be fine. EOD is the one place that the extra ~$100 for the more powerful 824 might be nice. The 824 would handle it a little faster. though my 724 hasn’t failed me yet, even when EOD snow is 2-6 inches higher than the bucket.

Finally, the other nice thing about the fact it is a single-stage and Toro has a well-designed compression scraper bar. It works in a couple inches of snow as well as a foot of snow…meaning you don’t need two machines.

Final Thoughts

Whether you buy a Snowmaster is up to you and your personal situation. This is a excellent machine that I can recommend (and apparently The Sweethome recommends it now too).

The Best Laundry Basket

The incorrect basket

I read most of The Sweethome’s reviews. They are usually great, in-depth, and well-researched. They impress me with their testing and I’ve had great luck with their picks.  Sometimes, the picks don’t live up to my expectations.  Their laundry basket pick is one of them.  They picked the Sterilite Stacking basket from the Container Store.

I looked these at a local Container Store. Ultimately they felt junky, were too small, and were unimpressive.

The Container Store also vastly disappointing.  The selection was poor and it felt like walking into a OCD nightmare.  The store felt unorganized, but it was a store of organization containers….

The correct laundry basket

The good one

Back to the point…the best laundry basket is the 2 bushel Sterilite basket from Walmart: Sterilite Ultra (the good one)

Note that there are two different versions of the “Sterilite Ultra” basket.  Walmart stocks the better one, with the triangle shaped holes and the non-arching handles with a bulge on the bottom. These handles are thicker and more sturdy compared to the ones with oval holes and simple arching handles, which break easily. The basket itself is also made out of heavier plastic.

We have three of these baskets and they’ve held up well to regular laundry tasks, but also to my kids messing around in them (which is what broke our old baskets).  They’ve even survived being thrown down the stairs…more than once by Alyssa.

Check it out!

REVIEW: High Sierra 1.5 GPM High Efficiency Low Flow Shower Head

I know, I know…I’m reviewing a shower head.  The only reason I’m reviewing this is because it is a great shower head for not that much money ($40).

Most low flow shower heads are terrible.  My parents have gone through a few of them, and all the ones they had were cheap, plastic, and had poor water pressure.  It took twice as long to wash my hair, which defeats some of the purpose of the 40% water savings.

If you know me, you know I like to do a lot of product research before I buy.  My shower head research started on The Sweethome.  They do a lot of research and testing, which helps me to understand how a product works and what to look for.  I almost pulled the trigger on one of their picks last year, but an Amazon recommendation stopped me.  The High Sierra shower head is a well reviewed, metal shower head, that was also 1.5 GPM low flow. It had to have fake/paid/incentivized reviews.  Nope.

Continue reading

I like birds….and my bird feeder (REVIEW)

As I mentioned in my post about becoming a homeowner, I got into bird watching.  Sometimes I feel like I should be retired, because I remember my Grandma and Grandpa Pautz always watching the birds at the bird feeder by their camper.

When we first moved in, the previous owner of our house left her plastic tube feeder and the shepherd’s hook that held it.  Once it warmed up a little, I bought some cheap seed from Menard’s and decided to give it a go.  I was very fascinated by the birds that came, and impressed that such a cheap feeder could attract a variety of birds.  Unfortunately the feeder met its match at the less-than-perfect frisbee throwing ability of my younger brother Joe.  The frisbee hit it and it completely shattered.  It was an explosion of seed and plastic.

By this point I committed to the birds, so the next time I went to Menard’s I picked up the Wild Wings Cedar Bird Feeder. Nature's Way Bird Feeder

Design

Due to its hybrid design, this feeder attracts larger birds as well as smaller birds.  I noticed with the old tube feeder, that cardinals and blue jays and other larger birds only ate what fell, because the feeder wasn’t large enough for them to safely land.  The Nature’s Way feeder solves this by combining the feeding ports with a larger bird hopper style.   It attracts such a variety of birds, you really don’t need other feeders.

The other problem I had with the tube feeder was difficulty in cleaning it out.  The Nature’s Way feeder has removable acrylic windows and a removable grate on the bottom.  This makes it really easy to clean.  The grate is great because it keeps water from sitting in the seed after it rains, which prevents bacteria/mold.

Finally, this feeder looks nice. Much better than the cheap plastic tube feeder.  It also comes in a bamboo version, a wavy style, or a wavy style bamboo version on Amazon.  I can whole-heartedly recommend this feeder based on about 6 months of use.  (I’ll give future updates on how it does over time.)

Happy bird watching!


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