an You Make a Home Snow Gun for $100?

A common theme in forums and threads related to residential snowmaking is how to minimize the cost of a home snow gun. Snow guns available to home snow makers typically cost between $500 - $1,000 and the systems are more expensive when the costs of air compressors and pressure washers are added.

The “tee” gun is often quoted as a way to bypass the higher costs of home snowmaking, and if you already have an air compressor at home, the cost for parts for the “tee” gun will run about $100 at your local big box hardware store.

So, the question is: can you really make a snow gun for $100?

In full disclosure, I am a licensed professional engineer in the State of Utah. I have been involved in the development of the Backyard Snowstorm residential snow gun for several years.

The short answer to the questions, is yes, we could make a functional snow gun with standard hardware parts for about $100 plus the cost of an air compressor. Unfortunately, that snow gun would only have a viable production rate of about 10 gal/hour or (0.17 gal/min). For more perspective, that would make about 5.5 cubic feet of snow per hour.

The Backyard Snowstorm snow gun is designed to run between 1 – 10 gal/min and make 33 to 333 cubic feet per hour of snow. Our snow gun has a throw distance of about 25 feet and a spray width of about 12 feet. For that spray coverage, 1 gal/min of water will put down about 1.5 inches of snow per hour and 10 gal/min of water will put down about 15 inches of snow per hour. A standard home garden hose faucet will typically put out about 6 – 10 gal/min of water. BTW a typical resort snow gun uses 50 – 100 gal/min of water…

So, to make a reasonable amount of snow for backyard fun, the $100 version won’t cut it. To better understand why, a short background in snowmaking science is helpful. Please see

As discussed in the Backyard Snowstorm info section, nucleating ice crystals in the range of 30 to 70 microns are needed to “seed” a snowflake (a human hair is about 50 micron). A common means to get a water droplet of that size is to “atomize” water with high pressure air (thus the need for a compressor). Proper atomization requires a certain ratio of air to water, which is in the range of 5 cubic feet/minute of air to 10 gal water/hour at about 100 psi air pressure. Most residential sized air compressors have a capacity of 3 to 5 cubic feet/min at about 100 psi.

The Backyard Snowstorm nucleation nozzle is sized to make nucleation crystals from atomized water droplets at about 0.15 gal/min. The remaining water used for snowmaking is sheared to droplets between 700 to 1,500 microns. To make this size of water droplet consistently, a flat fan nozzle running at 800 to 1,500 psi water pressure is required (and thus the need for a high pressure water pump or a pressure washer).

For a more complete discussion of this subject, please see