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I am writing this in May, and the temperature is going to be 75° F here in Minnesota. So why in the world would I take the time to talk about snow melt applications?

If you’re thinking about pouring a concrete driveway or sidewalk this summer, now is the perfect time to consider a snow-melt system. Think about it: no more shoveling snow and no sore back!

When I think of shoveling snow, a frigid chill goes down my back. I remember when I was a young snow-throwing machine. I still regret the days of shoveling 10-12” of snow from our endlessly-long driveway.

After us kids left the nest, my dad purchased a shiny new snow blower! So let’s see… the snow removal evolution path looks like this: A snow shovel leads to a snow blower, which then leads to a snow-melting system. I like it!

Snow-melt system benefits include:

  • Convenience
  • Safety
  • Value
  • Extends slab life (No harsh salts or chemicals are needed to clear the snow, which can damage concrete and asphalt.)
  • Save your poor kids’ backs – coming from those of us that weren’t saved!

A snow-melt system can be comprised of electric cables, electric low voltage mats or hydronic water tubing. Each one of these options has different design parameters that are too lengthy to extensively cover in this blog. Also depending on your energy source, it may be more advantageous to install a gas-fueled system instead of electric or vice versa. These systems can be designed for use under concrete, asphalt and brick pavers. To say the least, it is critical that a snow melt system be designed by a professional.

The number one question that needs to be answered is what your expectations are regarding a snow-melt system. Drainage of the melted water is critical and must be taken into consideration when designing a system. A faulty system would allow melted snow to re-freeze and cause a potential safety hazard. The remaining calculations are based on average snowfall in the area, temperature, drainage, wind speed, energy use, BTU sizes etc. Does this sound complicated to you? That’s why a professional will need to design your snow-melt system!

Basically, there are three classifications for designing a snow-melt system. The first one will allow 100 percent of the snow to accumulate and melt to prevent icing. This is the most common type of residential application. The other classifications allow 50 percent of the snow to accumulate. These types of systems are commonly found in public entrances. The third type is found in areas such as emergency entrances or a helicopter landing pads. This type of snow-melt system would not allow snow to accumulate and would also dry the slab of concrete. Each classification results in respectively higher installation costs as more BTU’s of heat energy are needed to completely melt the snow.

Control options vary with system design. An automatic system is convenient and will save the most on energy expenses. However, this type of system will come at a higher price. These control systems have outdoor temperature sensors as well as pavement sensors that trigger the system to come on when snow accumulates. A manual control system is another option. If a manual control is considered, then a temperature regulator and a timer should also be installed.

After your snow-melt system is installed, for the first time in your life, you’ll wish it would snow! You’ll be scanning the weather channels or looking at your iPhone for some inclement weather to roll in so you can test your new snow-melt system. Meanwhile, the rest of us will be rolling our eyes and reaching for our snow blowers and shovels.