Anti-Icing Is Your Partner in Anti-Icing

Anti-Icing is the application of a liquid de-icer prior to the onset of a snow event.  Much misinformation exists in the marketplace about anti-icing, what it does, and what to expect. Here are our answers to some of the most common questions.

What is anti-icing?

Anti-icing, when done properly, will melt the first centimeter or two of snow. Anti-icing prevents the bond of snow and ice freezing to the road surface. It also reduces the opportunity for “hard-pack” to develop and provides a wet surface under the plow’s cutting edge. The benefit is improved efficiency when plowing or shoveling. Anti-icing is so effective that in some cases you won’t even have to plow “nuisance snow” (snow that’s just a dusting).

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Why is anti-icing a good thing? Won’t it hurt the environment?

Anti-icing takes a quantum leap towards preventing hard-packed snow (in most cases), which makes for safer conditions. It also gives the snow-fighter the upper hand  because when a surface has an anti-icing treatment, the first pass of the plow will usually produce black and wet pavement. When anti-icing isn’t used, a fine, slick icy glaze is what’s left behind from the plow in the initial stages of snow-fighting. But with anti-icing, friction coefficients are dramatically improved since the anti-icer helps plows get down to black and wet pavement instead of icy and glazed pavement. The benefits from this are obvious.

Regarding the environment, we have an entire line of environmentally friendly ice melt products that are state approved for use in zone one watershed areas as well as areas adjacent to wetlands and fragile ecosystems. Safe for pets and your well water, our products deliver performance where you need it. Snow and ice management is a balancing act, one that we help our customers achieve day in and day out.

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When should I apply anti-icing?

Typically material can be applied several days before the forecasted event, providing an opportunity to get a head start on a forecasted storm. When anti-icing liquid is applied correctly, it covers the desired area with a light barrier between the surface and falling snow. The liquid stays where it is applied. It doesn’t scatter from vehicle traffic and/or the wind. However, tire wear and traffic can directly affect  the anti-icing’s effectiveness since those applications may wear away from tire transfer before the bad weather arrives. For this reason, timing the anti-icing application is critical for optimal success. The benefit to “perfect timing”? You’ll waste less product and you’ll reduce environmental damage to the surrounding area.

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Will anti-icing melt the first few inches of snow as it falls?

It is unrealistic to expect anti-icing with liquid to melt inches of snow accumulation. If the snow is a  light, low-moisture content, high-elevation “fluff” of two inches of “Utah diamond powder,” then perhaps anti-icing can provide that effect. Our experience is that one centimeter is about all you should expect from an anti-icing application.The goal of anti-icing is to create a layer of liquid brine to improve the mechanical clearing process.

Keep in mind our expertise has evolved from experience with snow events in the Northeast, sometimes referred to as “New England Bulletproof Snow”. It’s very similar to concrete before it sets up, and if you don’t attack it  with the right tools and chemicals, it IS concrete when it DOES set up. Because of our deep experience with this type of snow, we know that with the correct materials and with thoughtful timing, the clearing process can be made more efficient. 

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Can we stop using dry products and salt and just use liquid to control our snow and ice?

No, our experience is that liquid is simply another tool to improve the snow & ice management strategy for a given property. Using liquid prior to an event, or to enhance the performance of dry material should be the focus. Once accumulation starts and there is significant amounts of snow on the ground, using liquid becomes problematic as it gets diluted. At that point, the strength and concentration of dry material is preferable.

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Can anti-icing products help with sidewalks and stairs?

Yes, treating sidewalks and stairs prior to accumulation with either dry or liquid material will help in the process.

The goal is to create a layer of brine between the sidewalk or stair surface and the snow & ice. This layer of brine will facilitate the clearing by allowing the blade of the plow or shovel to get under the hard pack of the snow and easily push it. This process prevents the bonding of the snow and ice to the surface.

Manual snow-removal followed by the application of an abrasive can keep sidewalks safe without the problems associated with deicers. Using deicers wisely, or replacing them with manual removal and abrasives, can minimize the potential for damage while keeping steps and sidewalks safe.

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When it comes to anti-icing products, how is different from everyone else?

We are unique in that we represent many different producers of anti-icing materials from the US and around the globe. We are not beholden to one product line or forced to try and make it work for all applications.  We can suggest, source, and provide many materials that are appropriate for the specific application. 

For example, if the challenge is to manage a watershed district, we will work with you to identify and understand the limitations, suggest appropriate material, and recommend a proper application process.

The idea is to design a strategy that will work to minimize the negative impact on the surrounding environment while providing effective, safe snow and ice control. In a watershed region, frequently preventing sodium intrusion into the potable (drinkable) water supply is important. High sodium levels may be problematic for people with hypertension, so in that environment we might suggest a non-sodium anti-icing product and strategy. On a bridge deck, where corrosion is of paramount concern, we might offer a range of corrosion inhibited liquid anti-icers.

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What do I need to know about anti-icing today?

The world of snow and ice management is constantly changing, and you’ll find us on the leading edge of those changes. Anti-icing systems now come with ground-speed controllers and carefully designed dispensing equipment that prevent over-treatment. Over-treatment is often the principle cause of problems with deicers. When problems like slickness or surface damage occur, you can usually trace this back to over-treatment. We carefully evaluate each customer’s needs and then make suggestions as to which anti-icing products will deliver the best performance and  work best for your particular environment.

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What should I know about your policies regarding anti-icing and de-icer products?

We suggest using ground speed controllers on the application equipment. Performing anti-icing applications with a tank and pump and no ground speed control is a formula for disaster.  Liquid anti-icing material must be carefully applied at very specific application rates. Specific rates can only be accomplished when ground speed controls are used on the application equipment. 

Think of it in this context: if you set up a tank, pump and “dribble bar” to dispense liquid for anti-icing, and you plan to treat at a rate of 25 gallons per lane mile, then what speed do you need to drive that truck to achieve the desired delivery at the rate your system is pumping? What happens if you travel at 30% slower speed due to traffic conditions? If you reduce your speed by 30% of your theoretical target speed, and you don’t reduce your application rate accordingly to match the slower speed, then you will over-treat! That could mean the difference between a safe driving surface and a virtual skating rink. What about approaches, stop signs, and lights? Does your anti-icing equipment control the flow to the spray bar when the truck stops and slows down? If not, then you are likely going to make a far more dangerous slippery condition at these critical points from over treatment than if you had done nothing at all.

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How long has been involved with anti-icing technology and strategy?

We have been involved in liquid de-icing and anti-icing systems for over 40 years. While many think liquid anti-icing is a new technology, it’s not. We sold the first liquid system ever used in New England to the city of Haverhill, Mass., in 1981, We understand how these systems work. We can help you integrate an effective anti-icing strategy by using all of the available resources, such as Road Weather Information Systems ( RWIS) technologies. To make their time and effort more effective in the Boston metropolitan area, the Massachusetts Highway Department installed nearly two dozen RWIS transmitters, a technology evaluated and enhanced under the Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP) over two  decades ago. The system provides timely, accurate information on weather and pavement conditions. This provides municipalities with metrics that allow them to create a plan based on which roads will need to be treated first, taking into consideration factors like air temperature, ground temperature, wind chill, humidity, elevation, and known traffic patterns and volumes.

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Do you have any material safety data sheets (MSDS) on your anti-icing products?

Yes! You’ll find material safety data sheets on our  liquid and anti-icing materials here.  These include liquid magnesium chloride, liquid calcium chloride, as well as various brines, solutions, and anti ice mixes like our new Solutions line of environmentally approved liquid anti-icing and deicing materials.

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