Little Wonder blowers are also designed to take commercial-type punishment. They come with a five-year warranty made possible in part by features like a continuously welded, heavy-gauge steel blower housing.
Giant-Vac offers 10 wheel blower models, three of which are very popular among pavement contractors — an 8- and 13-hp Kohler-powered model and a 10-hp Briggs & Stratton unit. Each is equipped with "no flat" tires and like Little Wonder has 360 degree swivel kit standard on the Kohler models and optional on the Briggs unit.
Giant-Vac's blowers also feature handles adjustable to four positions, something Sales Manager Al Pacunas says is becoming more important as the demographics of the workforce — such as more women entering the construction industry — change.
"Maneuverability, weight, and the ability of machines to adapt to different-sized people all become increasingly important features," Pacunas says.
Wheel versus backpack
Boston-based TK Asphalt uses a variety of wheel blowers, including Little Wonder, Billy Goat, and Giant-Vac models. In the pavement maintenance business 17 years, the company employs more than 100 people during the busy season on three sealcoating crews, five paving crews, and two striping crews.
"We probably have 14 or 15 wheel blowers in all, from 8-hp models all the way to the big 16-hp machines," says Tony Heffernan, company president. "Crews also carry backpack blowers, which are easier to store and handle than wheel blowers, but they don't clean as well. When it comes to sealcoating especially, you have to get the pavement clean."
Heffernan's company recently made a move away from the bigger horsepower blowers to smaller 11- and 13-hp models. The reason? They are lighter and easier to load and unload, and they perform nearly as well, he notes, giving an example where weight truly makes a difference.
"We have one three-person crew. If we equip that crew with a 16-hp blower, we cannot send the lone person out to the next job ahead of time to clean the drive while the rest of the crew is finishing up," Heffernan says. "It takes two people to unload the large blower. With a smaller blower that one person can handle, an individual can have the drive cleaned by the time the rest of the crew shows up."
It may seem like a small detail, but little things like that add up, says Heffernan, especially with so many crews in the field. TK's blowers run high and hard all day long. Maintenance on them is minimal, the owner notes. Just routine service on the engine, and the blowers are relatively maintenance free. In fact, Heffernan says that having a blower last six or seven years in not unusual. "When an engine wears out, we will simply install a short block for around $200."
Purchasing a wheel blower may seem like a "weighty" issue, and it can be, depending on the application. As Heffernan points out, nothing cleans better than a large 16-hp unit. Yet, the smaller 13-hp blowers come close in terms of performance and they are easier to handle and maneuver.
Features such as adjustable handle-bars, specially designed exhaust chutes, swivel wheels, welded chassis, and lightweight fans help distinguish one brand from another, but all commercial-quality wheel blowers share a common trait. They are designed to be a durable part of your cleanup team for a long time.
Based in Neenah, WI, Rod Dickens is a freelance writer specializing in the construction industry.