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HOME ICE MANAGEMENT – LIQUID THERAPY

Once again, winter is just around the corner. For those of you who are, or will be, using liquid deicers, it is time to take stock of how well-prepared you are. Some key areas to look at include:

Economics:

Because of the present-day marketing of de-icing chemicals, with many claiming magic results, it is recommended and should prove profitable to look at the true economics of the various liquid deicers available.

Cost vs. price. The true economy (cost) of the use of a de-icing chemical cannot consider just the purchase price. The true total cost of use can only be determined by considering the price of the chemical in the storage tank ready to use; the application rate under varying conditions; handling and storage costs; and effectiveness.

Often the effectiveness of higher-priced materials is no better than lesser-priced materials, in terms of melting capacity under various conditions. Other factors such as corrosion inhibitors and chlorides (or lack thereof) may make the use of the higher-priced material worth it; but evaluation of the economics of use compared with purchase price and actual needs is most beneficial.

Effectiveness: The cost of use over a reasonable and applicable temperature range must be considered. In general, performance at lower temperatures comes at a premium, because when temperatures fall, application rates rise.

For example, if the lowest expected pavement temperature is 0° F, it would not be economical to pay a premium for a chemical that will work to -20°F. Also, be aware that a lower working temperature does not automatically mean added melting capacity and better performance at warmer temperatures. Analysis to determine true needs, what’s available, and actual cost of use for each product available is a worthwhile effort.

Additives: The same can be said of the additives available to reduce corrosion or possibly enhance performance. Are any or all of the additives really needed? If so, what is the price—and what does it do to overall cost of use? Again, determine true needs, pick the product that best fits those needs, do the math, and take advantage of cost savings.

Logistics:

The logistics of making or purchasing liquid chemicals include where they are purchased and whether there will be an adequate supply when needed. Whether you are manufacturing your own liquids or purchasing from a supplier, consider:

Is there a reasonable supply of ready-to-use product, or the ingredients needed (including additives) to manufacture on hand to start the season?

Can the products be replaced at a known price and in a timely manner when needed? Contracts should specify criteria for initial and resupply delivery, including time requirements.

Are the storage facilities fully operational and ready for use?

Is the storage available adequate to handle the amount of materials expected to be used per storm event?

Equipment and storage:

Calibration: With all deicers, calibrating application equipment and knowing how to determine correct application rates is critical to profits.

All spreading equipment should be calibrated and application charts developed for each piece of equipment. The application charts should show the settings and speed required to achieve desired application rates for each applicator.

Calibration and knowing what settings to use to get desired application rates is the only way to ensure that the operator is applying the proper amount of chemical. It does no good to ask for an application rate of 300 lbs. or 40 gal. per acre if no one knows how to get there.

Inspection: Close inspection of pumps, seals, hoses and connections on the storage facility before the snow flies is very important. Start the pumps, move product around, re-circulate or do whatever is reasonable to find out whether they are functioning without leaks. Any deficiencies should be repaired or replaced now, before it is an emergency order and repair. Also inspect and clean screen and filters, replacing as necessary.

Electrical systems should be checked for the presence of corrosion and proper function. Anywhere the electrical systems are exposed to moisture and/or de-icing chemicals should be given particular attention to determine whether corrosion is present and may cause problems in the near future.

If you have liquid in storage held over from last season, it should be re-circulated and tested to ensure uniformity and then tested for concentration.

Conclusion:

Ensuring a stable supply of properly tested liquid deicers is crucial to serving a customer’s needs and the bottom line. Additionally, equipment maintenance and preparation is more easily accomplished now than when it’s snowing with the temperature below freezing, and with drivers and customers both asking for product. Fall will go by quickly. Use the time wisely to ramp up readiness and profit.

Dale Keep owns Ice & Snow Technologies, training and consulting company based in Walla Walla, WA