From nightclubs and family homes to ski resorts and movie locations, snow machines increase scant coverage of natural snow, provide spectacular special effects, and, sometimes, act as the sole producer of the cold, white substance. Before creating snow with a machine, consider certain factors when deciding which type of snow machine to purchase. These factors include geographic location, the type of venue needing snow, the amount of snow coverage desired, and the preferred type of snow.
The Natural Formation of Snow
Keeping to a simple explanation, the water vapor that forms clouds also carries miniscule bits of bacteria, dirt, and other natural substances. These tiny bits are nucleators that attract water molecules, which collect and build upon each other and reduce the water molecules' heat energy. This effectively turns the molecules into an ice crystal with a nucleator as the center, or nucleus, of the crystal. As the crystal moves through the cloud, it gathers more water molecules and eventually turns into a snowflake that falls to the ground.
Unfortunately, people can control neither the quantity nor the timing of nature's snowfalls. Real and artificial snow machines compensate for this lack of control by allowing people to create snow when and where they want.
How Snow Machines Work
Snow machines work by either imitating the actions of nature or by creating imitation snow from a mixed solution. The two types of snow making machines work in different ways and produce different results.
Real Snow Machines
Mimicking the natural formation of snow, the machines that use pressure washers or hoses, an air compressor, and, sometimes, seed material that acts as a nucleator, create snow identical to the substance that falls from the sky. No difference exists between the two types of snow except for the form of the creating force: the force of nature or the force of machine.
Machines that make real snow come in three variations.
Compressed air, water, and seeds, if used, mix together within an internal chamber of the machine, and the mixture shoots out of the machine as snow. This type of snow machine was once made only as a low-standing ground unit, but newer units now also come in tower form. Tower units require less energy than ground units because the manufactured snow hangs longer in the air; longer hang time requires less compressed air, which means reduced use of an air compressor. By increasing or decreasing the amount of water in the mixture, internal mix machines can create different types of snow.
These snow machines have one drawback. Water sometimes backs out of the mixing chamber and into the line that supplies air. Watch for the occurrence of water backing into the air supply as this can cause irreparable damage to the machine.
Instead of an internal chamber, external mix guns use two separate nozzles placed outside of the machine's body to spray air and water. Using high water pressure, one nozzle sprays seeded or unseeded water into the air and the other nozzle uses air to blast the water into tiny particles, blow the tiny droplets into the surrounding air, and draw heat energy away from the drops of water. This transforms the minute water droplets into snow.
Fan or Airless Snow Gun
Instead of compressed air, this type of snow gun uses a powerful fan. A nozzle atomizes, or breaks into small particles, the water by spraying it as a mist, and a fan blows the mist into the air.
Although manufacturers are increasing the energy efficiency of the units, creating real snow with a machine requires high amounts of energy and water; however, the ingredients of the snow itself, water, air, and natural nucleators, do not leave behind residue, chemicals, or other ingredients that may negatively affect the environment.
Artificial Snow Machines
Generally, machines that create artificial snow agitate a solution through a water pump and spray it through mesh to create flakes. The solution comes in two forms: a ready-to-use premixed solution or a concentrated solution that requires the addition of water. The snowfall from artificial snow machines consists of foam flakes formed by infinitesimal bubbles.
Artificial snow evaporates rapidly and often disintegrates before the foam flakes touch the ground. Often, by the time the snow finishes floating down, it is nothing more than an empty shell that disintegrates upon contact with any surface. This results in the appearance of snow falling but prevents accumulation on the ground.
Because nightclubs, theme parks, photo shoots, and special events that feature artificial snowfall need to ensure the guests' or patrons' safety, many solutions used in artificial snow machines do not result in slippery surfaces or contain harsh, toxic ingredients. Verify that the solution does not pose a potential slipping hazard before purchase.
Which Snow Machine to Use
Geographic location factors largely in choosing the right snow machine. Outdoor temperature affects the output of machines that make real snow, so freezing outdoor temperature, at least during the night, or strict, indoor temperature control, are imperative. Otherwise, these machines do nothing more than spray water.
Likewise, artificial snow machines only work in warm temperatures that fall between 40 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The machines are not made for frigid temperatures, and the water in the tank can freeze or turn slushy during the off intervals of timed units, which will damage the machine.
Choose a real snow machine to build any accumulation of snow. People choose this type of machine to enhance outdoor Christmas decor, to create snow parks suitable for snowboarding, and to make sledding hills in the backyard. If the snow machine must provide the look of falling snow without accumulation, choose an artificial snow machine.
Selling Features of Snow Machines
The following features are some to consider when deciding on the machine that best suits the buyer's requirements. These features vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and model to model, so comparison shop to find a model with the features considered mandatory for individual purchasers.
Timers give the snow machine user the ability to control how long the duration of snow lasts and the length of the interval between snow output blasts. Most timers can also be set for a constant snowfall.
Shooting Distance and Path Width
If a large area needs snow coverage, compare the shooting distance and path width of various snow machines. Some machines shoot snow only 15 feet; others shoot snow as far as 50 feet. The width of the snow path ranges from five to 18 feet. Shooting distance and width may not affect the coverage of small areas, but models with a short range may prove inefficient at covering large areas.
Tank capacity varies according to manufacturers and models of snow machines. It makes sense that tanks with a larger capacity will operate longer and generate more snow than tanks with less capacity. This may not be an issue for small venues such as homes with an average yard size or photo shoots, but this may influence the purchase decision for machines that will operate at a larger event or location. Most tanks hold between one and five liters of fluid.
If the fluid level in the tank becomes too low, damage to the snow machine's pump can occur. Look for a snow machine with a feature that automatically turns the machine off before the fluid level dissipates and the machine runs dry.
Variety of Snow
Real and artificial snow machines both may include the ability to adjust the size of snowflakes. Operators can choose from tiny, soft snowflakes to large flakes the size of a palm and many sizes in between. A few models offer the ability to replicate blizzard conditions.
Warm Up Time
Most modern snow-making machines feature no waiting time, but if speedy snow creation factors into a purchase decision, verify that the models under consideration include this particular feature.
Finding Snow Machines on eBay
To find snow machines on eBay, type any variation of snow machine or snow maker into the eBay search engine. Alternatively, shop the available selection at the Home & Garden store. From eBay's home page, choose Home & Garden from the navigation bar on the left. On the new navigation bar at the Home & Garden store, select Holiday, Cards & Party Supply, then choose Party Supplies and click Other.
Use a snow machine to jazz up a party, add a festive ambience to a celebration, provide a winter playground for children, or add snow to a ski run. A snow machine gives a person control over nature when it does not provide the right quantity of snow at the right time or does not drop snow on the area in which a person lives.