New Technology in Snow Removal

by Rachel Laurendeau on January 8, 2013

Ok, it’s January now. The novelty of shoveling snow from my driveway, sidewalks, front steps, and porch has faded and now all I can think about is trying to find ways to avoid more snow and ice clearing.

This has lead me to research some of the new technology around snow removal, and I like what I’ve been finding out!

The basic concept behind all of the technology is simple: snow and ice melt when they land on a heated surface. The trick is, how do you heat your driveway or sidewalk? The three main options are electric, hydronic and infrared snow melting systems.

Electric systems – cables are laid before the concrete is poured and work to heat the surface of your driveway or sidewalk. The upside to this method is that the cables can be laid in any shape so they can follow to the form of your walkways. You may need to upgrade your electrical service panel to accommodate the system but overall, an electric snow-melting system has relatively low installation and maintenance costs. The downside is that it has rather high operating costs.

Hydronic systems – flexible pipes which circulate heated fluid work to heat the surface of the driveway. Like the electric systems, hydronic snow melting systems also need to be installed prior to pouring the concrete. Installation and maintenance costs are higher but this type of system can be tied into your home’s existing heating system, thus offsetting the operating costs.

Infrared systems – quartz lamps on poles warm up the surface of your sidewalks or stairs. Of the three systems, these are more easily installed and are a good retrofit solution. They are good for spot applications but impractical for larger areas such as driveways. And, while they are easy to use, they use a lot of energy, making them expensive to operate on a square foot basis.

Heated mats – A slightly lower-tech solution is to use electric snow melting mats that you simply place on top on your walkways, at the front door, on your stairs, or wherever you need them. They are easy to use but generally have to be turned on manually about half an hour before the snow starts to fall in order to work to their fullest. Some of these mats do have sensors to detect moisture and turn on automatically but you’ll have to check with the manufacturer or home improvement expert for more details.

Of course, if your concrete has already been poured or an infrared lamp seems impractical, you can always call your local snow removal or snow plowing contractor and have them take care of all the messy white stuff for you. My aching back and cold fingers think that’s a really good idea!

Resource: The Weather Channel

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