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 https://www.backyardsnowstorm.com/snowmaking-science.
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 https://www.backyardsnowstorm.com/info.