Five tips for evaluating de-icing products

Key considerations to combat winter’s wrath
Monday, December 11, 2017
By Nate Clemmer

The 2018 Canadian Farmers’ Almanac is forecasting a return to a colder, more normal winter from Quebec east to the Maritimes, with many locations experiencing snowier than normal conditions. Ontario is expected to see periods of mild temperatures and tranquil conditions mixed with occasional spells of tempestuous and very cold weather. British Columbia can expect below normal precipitation, though it won’t be immune from storms that sweep off the Pacific Ocean and cold weather that pushes south from the Yukon, while the Prairie provinces are anticipated to see above normal temperatures and moderate amounts of snow.

For decades, the almanac has become a closely watched predictor of winter weather; however, many meteorologists question its long-term forecasts. After all, it’s difficult enough to predict the weather five days in advance, let alone several months. Regardless of whether this year’s predictions come true or not, one thing is certain: Now is the time to prep for snow and ice removal because come winter it’ll be too late.

There are various products on the market for managing the season’s worst, which can make choosing a de-icing material a difficult task. To assist with the decision-making process, here are five key performance criteria that should be considered when evaluating this type of product.

Criterion One: Potential for tracking residue on floors

Ninety per cent of granular ice melt tracked into a facility is the result of pedestrian traffic within the first 15 feet of the building entrance.

Sodium chloride granular de-icers leave a white residue that can dull the finish of floors and fade the colour of carpet, while calcium and magnesium chloride-based products coat floors with an oily, slippery residue that damages wax and urethane finishes, posing a safety risk to employees and visitors.

The neutral pH formulations of formic technology de-icers eliminate tracking, reducing near term labour costs associated with manual cleaning, estimated at $50 per entrance per day, according to the International Sanitary Supply Association’s (ISSA) Clean Management Institute. In the long-term, this reduces the need for full strip and recoats, which is a significantly higher expense.

Criterion Two: Eco-friendliness and non-corrosivity

Calcium, sodium and magnesium granular chloride products are all hydroscopic, meaning they draw moisture from the atmosphere. Such materials are harmful to pets if swallowed, and certain chloride-based products like calcium chloride can seriously burn the paws of animals. In addition, chlorides will dehydrate turf and ornamentals and cause desiccation. If leached into waterways, they reduce the available oxygen levels, leading to the death of fish and aquatic plants. Chlorides are also corrosive to metals and, to varying degrees, concrete, and will reduce the functional life of structures like railings and doors.

Formic technology de-icers are 100 per cent chloride-free and readily biodegradable. They are safer for pets, plants, metals and concrete.

Criterion Three: Speed of melt

While chloride-based granular deicers take a minimum of three to five minutes to achieve an acceptable melt – and as much as 10 minutes – liquid de-icers based on formic technology quickly and reliably remove thin layers of ice and prevent new snow and ice from accumulating. In fact, some formic technology de-icers have a speed of melt of 30 to 50 seconds by reducing the freezing point to approximately -53 C.

Criterion Four: Ease of application

Ease and speed of application combined with reduced transport and loading costs make using liquid de-icers extremely attractive from a labour perspective. Utilizing granular products can be very labour intensive, slowing the application process and negatively impacting safety in high traffic pedestrian areas. In many areas, such as stairwells, applicators have to carry heavy bags and spread material by hand. In larger areas and walkways, push spreaders may be utilized; however, liquid applications are far more efficient. Liquid tanks fill very quickly and today’s liquid applicator technologies (sprayers) are accessible and easy-to-use, providing for very precise application rates.

Criterion Five: Cost-efficiency

The low quantity of liquid required to produce an adequate melt combined with the ease and speed of application typically makes liquid de-icers more cost-effective than granular products. Most users will achieve a lower application cost per 1,000 square feet with liquid over granular de-icers. And because liquids achieve a melt three times more quickly than granular products, they create a longer-lasting, safer walking surface.

Nate Clemmer is CEO of Secure Winter Products, makers of Entry de-icing and anti-icing fluid.





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