If your board of managers or homeowners association is looking for a way to clear driveways, walkways, stairs and other critical access areas quickly and efficiently after a snowfall, perhaps you might consider installing a snow melting system. Although it may seem like a new technology, snow melting systems have actually been around for about 25 years in the United States, and have been used in Europe in commercial and residential applications for more than half a century.
One advantage of using a snow melting system is that concrete driveways and exterior surfaces stay safer. These systems also eliminate the time and labor of using a contractor or in-house maintenance staff to plow and shovel paved surfaces and other access areas. No corrosive de-icers or chemical applications are required thus preserving the life of the underlying pavement. And the snow melting system can be designed to shut off when the snow is cleared and the precipitation ends.
"It's beneficial mostly because of the safety aspect—especially on the stairs, which is a critical area for snowmelt and a hard area to keep clear of ice," says Gary Fries, a technical writer at Wirsbo in Apple Valley, Minn., which manufactures snow- and ice-melting systems. "Then there's the convenience. When there is salt and chemicals on the surface, people are going to drag that into the house and wear on their rugs and floor coverings."
There are two common types of installations: hydronic, in which hot water or steam is circulated in pipes below pavement level or electric, where coils or cables generate heat to melt the falling precipitation. Both systems involve a series of coils or tubing that are built into a development's driveways, walkways and steps, and controlled with a simple on/off manual switch. The systems can also be remote-controlled and programmed by temperature to automatically come on when snow and ice develop. Both rely on four key elements to turn the entire slab surface into a heat source:
• A heating element, which is embedded in the slab