How does Residential Snowmaking Work?
Here is the simple answer… for a more in-depth explanation visit our snowmaking science page.
When snow forms naturally, small water droplets in the atmosphere collide with microscopic dust particles. When a small water droplet collides with the dust particle, it’s able to freeze into a small ice crystal. As the ice crystal collides with other water droplets, they attach themselves onto the nucleus and freeze to form what we know as a “snowflake”. If there are no tiny dust particles to “nucleate” the water droplets, then the water will fall and form ice. So, you need a nucleation site in order to make snow. This is why spraying your garden hose in the air will make a sheet of ice and not snow.
Very simply, Our snowmaking systems replicate the process that happens naturally in the atmosphere on the ground if the conditions are right. We create the proper water droplets and create a nucleation site for the water droplets so they can freeze and form snow flakes.
What Temperature is Needed to Make Real Snow?
Simply put, the outside wet-bulb temperature must be 27°F (-3°C) or below to make snow. Just below this temperature, the snow can be water-heavy and dense. The optimal wet bulb temperature for snowmaking is 20°F (-7° C) and below. Wet-bulb temperature is calculated with air temperature and relative humidity. Visit our snowmaking weather chart to calculate wet-bulb temperature needed for making snow.
Along with temperature, the wind is a secondary consideration. If the wind is blowing continuously at 15+ mph, snowmaking may be difficult. Snow will be formed, but it will likely deposit somewhere other than your backyard. If the wind is blowing, facing the water spray plume with the wind direction gives the best results.
How Much Snow Can I Make?
The volume of snow produced from a snow-making machine is highly dependent on wet bulb temperature and the amount of water (gallons per minute) running through the system. With proper weather conditions, the amount of water running through the system will simply translate to more snow. A BYSS Forecaster system with a 1.2 GPM pressure washer will roughly make about 40 cubic feet of snow per hour. 2.4 GPM of water will make about 80 cubic feet, and so on. To put this in more perspective, our Forecaster snow guns have a throwing distance of approximately 25-35 feet from the snow gun and a spray width of approximately 8-12 feet. In an 8 hour run, with a 1.2 GPM pressure washer, the majority of snow will fill a space of 25’x12’ with 12 inches of snow. With a 2.4 GPM system, the snow volume will be approximately 25’x12’x2’.
The Little Cloud Snow Gun has a lower flow rate because no pressure washer is used. This snow gun has a fixed flow rate of 0.7 GPM and will produce approximately 0.7″ per hour covering an area of 5′ x 12′.
However, outside temperature will play a big role is how big the pile of snow will look. As a general rule, the colder the outside temperature, the larger the pile will look. The best way to get an idea of how much snow you can make is to check out our time-lapse videos on YouTube.
Residential vs Commercial Snowmaking...
A commercial snow gun typically runs between 50 to 100 GPM, which roughly equates to about 20 times the snow volume of a BYSS snow gun. The BYSS snow gun is designed with residential use in mind. A typical home garden water faucet will flow 7 – 10 GPM at 30 to 80 psi water pressure. To achieve water flow rates above 10 GPM, you need access to a reservoir, lake, or river with a high flow pump. The cost of resort snow-making systems is usually millions of dollars and include water reservoirs, high flow water pumps loops, underground water pipes, and commercial air compression.
Our goal is to help you make snow with common equipment and with budget in mind. Our system does not require any speciality made equipment. It is designed to be compatible with any pressure washer and air compressor on the market as long as they meet our capacity requirements.
What equipment is used with the Backyard Snowstorm system?
The Backyard Snowstorm snowmaking system has a few different components that are essential to make snow.
- Snow Gun – We offer the highest quality snowmakers on the market with customized components for optimal performance in proper snowmaking temperatures. We offer two snow gun choices- The Little Cloud Snow Gun and the Forecaster Snow Gun. The Little Cloud Snow Gun is a beginner snowmaker with low snow output. This snowmaker is limited in its snow output because it does not use a pressure washer in the system (just a garden hose). The Forecaster is our fully expandable snow gun made for medium to high snow output. This snow gun can be used with any pressure washer, or multiple pressure washers to maximize snow output.
- Pressure Washer(s) – A pressure washer or multiple pressure washers are used with our Forecaster Snow Gun to increase snow output. The Forecaster Snow Gun is fully expandable and can be used with any pressure washer. If you’re serious about snowmaking, we’ve got you covered with our “train” packages that allow safe combination of multiple pressure washers to increase snow output.
- Air Compressor – an air compressor is used in our systems to break water droplets in the snow gun into extremely small ice crystals. These ice crystals are used in the nucleation process and formation of real snowflakes.
- Hoses & Fittings – proper hoses and fittings are needed to ensure all equipment fits properly together
Difference between Forecaster Snow Gun & Little Cloud Snow Gun?
- Snow Output – The Little Cloud Snow Gun is designed to be used with NO pressure washer. This means the snow gun will produce less snow as the water flow is lower than the Forecaster Snow Gun. The Forecaster Snow Gun is designed to be used with a pressure washer or multiple pressure washers to increase snow output.
LITTLE CLOUD – Water Flow: 0.7 GPM. Snow Output: 0.7″ per hour in 5′ x 12′ Area.
FORECASTER – Water Flow: 1-8 GPM. Snow Output: 1″-8″ per hour (depending on flow rate of pressure washer) in 12′ x 30′ Area.
Gas vs Electric Pressure Washer?
As a general statement, gas pressure washers are more durable that their residential electric counter-parts. In the snow making world, durability is important, since most snow making sessions run over many continuous hours. Residential electric pressure washers are made for intermittent use. Over the years, we have experienced that residential pressure washers die after 1 to 2 seasons (or more specifically after about 100 hours of continuous use). Of course, some have died earlier, and a few hearty souls have lasted 3 – 4 years.
Gas pressure washers are usually much louder than an electric pressure washer. If you live on a farm, no big deal. If you live in a subdivision, and run your snow machine at night, noise should be a consideration.
Gas pressure washers need to be refilled with gas… If the pressure washer runs out of gas and the water keeps running through the system with no pressure, you’ll have a lovely ice pile.
Gas pressure washers must be run outdoors to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. An electric pressure washer can be run inside of the garage with the door down to cut down on noise.
Our overall recommendation is to invest in a commercial electric pressure washer like the AR 610. These units are made for industrial, continuous use. They should last for 5 – 10 snow making seasons with proper care and maintenance.
Can I use my own pressure washer or air compressor?
YES! You can use any air compressor rated for 4.5 CFM @90 PSI or greater, or any pressure washer rated at over 800 psi. If you use your own pressure washer, the connection on the pressure washer hose may be different than our pre-selected options so a different adapter may be needed. These adapters are usually available at a local hardware store.
What makes the Backyard Snowstorm system unique?
Engineered Snow Gun
With years of snowmaking experience, multiple engineering degrees, and an understanding of what works and what doesn’t, we’ve tried our best to give our customers the highest quality system at the most affordable price possible. Our snow guns are custom built with high-quality stainless steel nozzles, CNC machined aluminum head and body, and includes heavy-duty high pressure hoses designed for the cold.
The BYSS nucleating nozzle is a fully customized commercial grade air atomizing nozzle used in commercial snow guns. The nucleation spray pattern is designed to match the width of the larger, flat-fan water nozzle plume. At the contact point of the nucleation spray, and the water nozzle plume, full contact coverage is achieved. This ensures that the full water nozzle plume will properly nucleate and achieve high-quality snow crystal formation. This means higher quality snowflakes and no ice formation. For more information, see the Snowmaking Science page.
Pressure Washer Train System
In the early development days, we set out to increase snow output from our system. The method to achieve this used by other residential snow makers was to use a larger, commercial-style pressure washer or high pressure pump. These units typically pump between 2 to 10 GPM, but the units are very expensive. These pumps also typically require 220 v electrical power. So the desire to go bigger was a major financial commitment.
We drew on experience from processing facilities that add smaller pumps together in “parallel” operation to increase the flow rate. This means that multiple pumps are operated side-by-side with the incoming water split evenly to feed the pumps, and the outlet of the pumps are joined together into a common outlet pipe. This concept allowed us to increase the flow to our snow gun with the incremental cost of additional small pressure washers. Our pressure washer outlet manifold includes high-pressure check valves to prevent damage that can occur at start-up and shut-down of the system. If high-pressure water runs backward through a pressure washer, it will be ruined.
One of the best things about a BYSS system is that it can grow with your needs over time. Most beginner snow makers typically start with a system that runs at 1 – 3 gpm, which is usually the single, or double train package. The nucleating nozzle is sized to operate effectively at system flow rates anywhere between 1 to 8 gpm. That means that once you’ve made the investment in a good commercial air compressor, you’re good for any system upgrade (we been running our Campbell Hausfeld 20 gal. compressor for 8 snow making seasons!). When you decide you are ready for more snow making capacity, the incremental investment will be an additional pressure washer (or two) and the inlet and outlet manifold piping. You will also need new water nozzles that are sized to the new output of the system. This allows you to double or triple the flow rate of the system at a fraction of the cost of the original system!
Is the system safe to operate?
Any time high pressure is involved in a system, safety must be a priority. This system is very safe if the instructions and common sense are followed. Modifying the system with components that are not rated for high operating pressure can be dangerous. All of our products are pressure rated and tested before they are sold to ensure safety. Caution should always be taken when connecting air and water hoses and blowing out the system.
One specific note on safety: this one goes in the common sense category. Do not point the snow gun, pressure washer hoses, or air hoses near your face or others. Ice crystals and water droplets coming out of the hoses exit at very high velocity and could cause major eye damage. We recommend always using proper safety equipment when near the snow machine (thick clothing, safety glasses etc.)
Nucleation: Internally or Externally mixed?
The phrase “internally mixed” is often confusing when referring to nucleation in residential snowmaking.
Mixing water and air inside of a pipe (or series of pipes) and forcing the mixture out one single nozzle is risky. If for any reason the air stops in the hose or at the compressor, the high pressure water will back flow through the pipes and ruin the air compressor. Even with a ball valve used as a “regulator” for the water, issues could still arise fairly easily. Not a smart idea if you like using your air compressor! However, this method typically provides superior mixing over external mixing because higher water droplet shear occurs at the exit of the nozzle.
External mixing is usually referred to when the water and air mix outside the nozzles. Usually, a small amount of water will exit out of a nozzle with a small orifice. Air will exit out of a nozzle with a slightly larger orifice and mix a short distance after. This style of mixing eliminates any back-flow issues that an internal mixed system could have. However, the down side is this style of mixing is less efficient when compared to internal mixing. As the air and water streams exit the separate nozzles, they lose velocity and energy. This means the shearing of water droplets is much lower and requires equipment with more capacity (more expensive).
The Backyard Snowstorm nucleation nozzle is internally mixed in an external chamber. What this means is that the water and air mix in a small chamber on the external side of the water and air channels. This method eliminates the back-flow issue that a truly internally mixed style would have, and provides superior mixing when compared with external type mixing methods. Nearly all commercial snow guns use this style of atomizing nozzle for nucleation because of 1) its superior mixing capability of air and water and 2) the consistency of nucleation droplet size creation. For more information, see “Snowmaking Science”. Even though a check valve is not necessarily needed in our snow gun, we provide a small check valve to prevent even the smallest amount of water from flowing backwards into the air line.
Return & Warranty
Backyard Snowstorm provides a standard 30-day return policy. Un-opened items are subject to a 15% re-stocking fee plus shipping costs. Any opened items are subject to a 25% re-testing and re-stocking fee plus shipping costs. If items are damaged, or show significant wear or abuse, Backyard Snowstorm reserves the right to discount the return further.
This return policy is based on our short selling season, limited inventory, and unique hand-made products.
Backyard Snowstorm products are covered under a 2 year limited warranty. If any item has manufacturing defects, assembly defects, or shipping damage, we will repair or replace the damaged items. The warranty covers damage or failure due to normal operation and conditions.
Outside of this warranty, Backyard Snowstorm can repair or replace any items at the customer’s cost.
Backyard Snowstorm ships internationally! If you are located outside of the US & Canada, please reach out to us via email for a shipping quote – firstname.lastname@example.org
IMPORTANT NOTE: Any additional customs fees/taxes will be paid for by the customer.
All Backyard Snowstorm snow guns are pre-built and ready to ship for the season. Orders will be shipped the same day or the following business day.
Backyard Snowstorm offers ground shipping via UPS. Additional shipping options are also available at checkout.