Snow and Ice Melting Systems: Needed Now More Than Ever (Part I)

This winter was one of the snowiest in most of North America. Here at REHAU’s headquarters in northern Virginia, we’ve had more than 50 in. of snow in 2013 / 2014 (and 15 snow days for local schools). The National Weather Service says that a normal year in this location should deliver just 22 in. of snow. But it’s not getting better: 3 of the 4 snowiest winters on record have been since 2002.

 

According to the Washington Post:

 

– In 2013 / 2014, Reagan National Airport received measurable snow on 16 days

 

– Dulles Airport marked its 3rd snowiest winter on record (since 1963) with 52.8 inches

 

 

Luckily, since 1999 we’ve had our own snow and ice melting (SIM) system clearing sidewalks, entrances, steps, a loading dock and 2,000 ft2 parking lot at our headquarters. It was really appreciated this year, one of those times when engineers suddenly become popular.

 

 

Outdoor steps are safer in winter at this hotel/casino.

Outdoor steps are safer in winter at this hotel/casino. Click here to learn more…

 

What is a SIM system?

 

SIM systems are hydronic systems intended to augment the removal of snow and ice by circulating a heat transfer liquid (inhibited glycol and water mixture) through crosslinked polyethylene (PEX) pipe installed within the outdoor surface.

 

 

On our website you’ll find more details about the following system benefits:

 

– Convenience of automatic snow removal

 

– Increased safety for residents and customers with reduced liability exposure

 

– Reduced maintenance costs for snow and ice removal and related damage to inside surfaces

 

– Minimized environmental impact with no de-icing chemicals entering waterways

 

– Long-lasting reliability of REHAU PEXa pipes

 

 

Patio at the REHAU Academy training center in Leesburg, cleared by our SIM system.

Patio at the REHAU Academy training center in Leesburg, cleared by our SIM system. Click here to learn more…

ADA-compliant ramps remain accessible even during heavy snowfalls (Vaughn, ON).

ADA-compliant ramps remain accessible even during heavy snowfalls (Vaughn, ON). Click here to learn more…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You don’t have to be a PEX manufacturer to afford the installation of a SIM system, as the piping network itself is not expensive. While the biggest cost might be the source of the warm fluid (e.g.: a boiler), many existing buildings already have excess boiler capacity to power a SIM system.

 

SIM systems work with most types of outdoor surfaces, such as concrete, paving stones or asphalt, and the time to install the piping network is just before installation of the outdoor surfaces.

 

Snow and ice melting systems work beautifully, and with the right control system are fully automatic.

 

The visuals included in this post are some good examples of projects with SIM systems in operation, with images at the bottom showing damage caused by de-icing chemicals.

 

Stay tuned for Part II of this series where we’ll discuss system design and control strategies.

 

 

Sidewalk damage at a Northern Virginia community center.

Sidewalk damage at a Northern Virginia community center.

Entrance way with chemicals that will be tracked inside and may damage interior surfaces.

Entrance way with chemicals that will be tracked inside and may damage interior surfaces.

 

 

No back-breaking snow shoveling for this homeowner, thanks to SIM!

No back-breaking snow shoveling for this homeowner, thanks to SIM!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Lance MacNevin