Save your back - and your fingers - with these tips

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An early start to this winter has Berkshire and Southern Vermont homeowners boning up on their snow removal sooner than they were a year ago.

Since late November, area retailers have seen a surge in consumers buying snowblowers, snow shovels and roof rakes, but buyers may need a refresher course on their use given the virtually snowless winter of 2016.

Snowblowers

Whether a novice or veteran operator of a snowblower, make sure the machine is the right size for your property and one you can handle.

Sizes range in width from 18 to 30 inches. The wider the front, the less time to remove the snow.

Bruce Gaspardi, owner of Southside Sales & Service in North Adams, Mass., says pick a snowblower that you can easily handle and that can clear your driveway efficiently.

"You want to fit the person to the unit as a lot of models now have more nose weight, so it won't climb over the snow," he said. "Too much weight up front, and some people won't be able to move it."

When using or maintaining your snowblower:

First, always turn OFF the engine before dislodging snow in the shut or auger — the blades that chew up and shoot out the snow.

Remove the snow with an old wooden broom handle or the plastic tool that often comes with the snowblower. Avoid using your hands as there is still some pressure and the blades could turn once you free the stuck snow and ice.

Clean the snowblower after every use to minimize rust and moisture seeping into the engine

Keep gas stabilizer in the snowblower tank or mix directly into the gas can. The machine will run better and start easier, especially if it sits idle for a long period of time, like the summer months.

"We probably had 30 snowblowers in for repairs because they didn't start without gas stabilizer," said Bob Piccolo, manager of Meadow Farm Equipment in Lee, Mass.

Snow shoveling

For many, shoveling but can prove hazardous no matter your health.

"We had someone [recently at BMC] in great shape, good health and had a heart attack because he wasn't used to shoveling snow," noted Dr. Ron Hayden, emergency medicine physician at Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, Mass.

Properly done, shoveling snow can be good for the heart, too.

"You can make a cardio-vascular activity out of it, but take your time," he added.



Once shovel is in hand:


Push or sweep the snow to minimize lifting, according to Hayden.

If scooping up and throwing the white stuff into the yard, bend and lift with your legs, not your back.

Pace yourself by moving small quantities of snow and take breaks, especially when shoveling heavy, wet snow.

Wear winter boots or shoes with good treads for traction and layer your clothing according to the temperature.

Roof raking

Should Old Man Winter continuously pound the region until spring, the snow piling up will weigh on your roof, as well as your psyche.

When removing snow atop your house:

Never get on your roof, call a professional to remove the snow from the top down, says roofer Steve Bartini of Lee, Mass.

Instead, Bartini highly recommends a roof rake from the ground to remove as much snow as possible.

Clear snow from around roof vents, when possible, and from above the gutters to prevent ice build that can cause roof damage.

"If you get a lot of ice, it's usually an insulation problem," Bartini said.


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