PROFESSIONAL SALT APPLICATION GUIDELINES FOR PARKING LOT WINTER MAINTENANCE
Do you ever finish deicing and shake your head at the amount of salt you went through? Maybe you’re checking the books for your snow removal business and trying to cut down on expenses. When minimizing costs, the best place to start is by reducing the amount of material, product, or time consumed. For snow removal, one of the biggest controllable items on that list is salt. Some snowplow crews will throw heavy just to ensure they cover the area, which is likely to result in wasted product. But the less salt you’re dumping, the more you’ll see back on your bottom line. The key here is finding the balance between using too much salt and not enough, shorting your client, and losing business.
If you’re wanting to streamline your salt delivery system and ensure you’re managing your spreading to make the most money back, this blog is for you. Just remember that with a topic that includes words like “snow”, “cold” and “salt”, there will be a high number of variables to consider.
THE QUICK RESPONSE
So how much salt should you use? Here’s the simplified answer. For light snow or ice, 2.3 pounds or more per 1000 square feet at a pavement temperature of 30° should work. However, keep in mind that the amount of salt required will vary based on the conditions you face and the type of salt you choose to use.
The colder it gets or the more snow that falls, the more salt is needed. A drastic drop in temperature or an increase in precipitation could quickly multiply the amount of salt you’ll be required to distribute. When you’re battling ice instead of snow, you’ll need even more salt (or possibly a different product) to get the same job done.
Taking the time to plow before deicing can also reduce overall costs. Even though salting may seem like the fastest, easiest way to clear a lot, your plow is not a diminishing commodity. Less snow and ice on the pavement means spreading less salt, so this one is a no-brainer.
TAKING A CLOSER LOOK
However, there are even more significant ways to reduce your costs when applying salt and other agents. The key lies in knowing the difference between anti-icing and deicing techniques. Many of the same types of equipment and materials are used in both anti-icing and deicing, but when and how they are used differs. Anti-icing is a proactive strategy that keeps snow and ice from sticking to the pavement, whereas deicing is a reactive measure that breaks an ice-to-pavement link that has already formed.
Snowfighters who have the right tools to execute each of these methods are in the best position to meet service goals and gain a competitive advantage when a storm occurs.
WHAT IS ANTI-ICING?
Anti-icing requires assessing a range of real-time factors in order to choose the best course of action. The amount of wetness present/anticipated, the type of deicing substance utilized, cycle periods, and the expected amount of sunlight/traffic during the event are all elements that influence your anti-icing strategy.
With this preventative approach, you can apply anti-icing agents up to 48 hours ahead of time or at the commencement of a storm (as long as rain is not expected). Because this is a ‘bottom-up’ method, you’re preventing compacted snow and ice from creating a solid connection with the pavement. The best practice for anti-icing is to apply a light layer of a liquid deicer (roughly 18-35 gallons per acre) directly to the bare pavement. Pre-wet solid deicers can also be used if needed, but it’s important to remember that this strategy is only effective on bare surfaces. It should be applied ahead of the rain, sleet, or severe winds, but not on top of compacted snow or ice.
So exactly how does anti-icing increase your bottom line? According to the Winter Parking Lot and Sidewalk Maintenance Manual (2010 Minnesota PCA, MLTAP, and Fortin Consulting), “Anti-icing requires about ¼ the material and 1/10 the overall cost of deicing. It is the most cost-effective and environmentally safe practice in winter maintenance.”
If you’re still not convinced, here are some additional benefits to consider:
- When used correctly, it reduces salt damage to property and landscaping.
- As a preventive strategy, it achieves faster safety goals at a lower cost.
- Extends the operating window in which to meet service objectives.
- Reduces the amount of time and effort required to meet performance targets.
THE DEICING DIFFERENCE
Waiting until an inch or more of snow has accumulated on the pavement before plowing is the most common strategy for snow and ice control. This method frequently leads to compacted snow adhering to the pavement surface. When this happens, deicing measures are required. This takes significantly more material than anti-icing to undercut the packed ice and weaken its bond to the pavement.
Because deicing is a reactive strategy used during or after a storm, it employs a top-down application of a deicing agent to break through compacted snow and ice, allowing a plow to clear away the remaining hazard. The best practice for deicing involves pre-wetting rock salt in the auger or chute with a liquid deicer just before distribution. According to a 2004 “Joint Transportation Research Program Study” at Purdue University (Innovative Environmental Management of Winter Salt Runoff Problems at INDOT Yards, INDOT, FHA), “Pre-wetting salt with brine or other liquid chemicals has proven to reduce application rates by 20-30 percent.”
Pre-wetting offers even more advantages, such as:
- The agent is less prone to bouncing off the surface, conserving material and reducing environmental impacts.
- Jumpstarts the brining process and accelerates performance — solid deicers must first form a liquid to work.
- When using exothermic chlorides (Calcium Chloride or Magnesium Chloride), it will also enable the salt to be effective at a lower temperature.
- Reduces time and labor required to complete each application.
INVESTING IN YOUR EQUIPMENT
As stated at the beginning of this article, spreading more material than necessary or placing material where it isn’t needed is the costliest mistake you can make. Try to stay away from overspreading. Some snowfighters choose to buy salt with dye in it to help prevent over-application. Even though this increases visibility, check with your customer before using it on their property. They might not appreciate dye on their sidewalks.
If you can afford a quality applicator, they tend to distribute the salt more uniformly, saving you time and materials. Buying a low-cost spreader could simply shunt what you would’ve spent on a good spreader into additional salt costs. As a snow removal professional, you’re probably already familiar with this concept, but when you make a purchase, you sometimes have to choose between a beater car and a Cadillac. Now and then you can get away with the beater. Other times, you have to buy something in between to avoid the cheaply made product. Usually, you get what you pay for, and you might have to invest in a Cadillac. The trick is knowing when to do so.
When it comes to providing good quality replacement parts at great prices, The ROP Shop is here to help. Since we’re based in the USA, we offer FREE standard shipping to anywhere in the lower 48 states. We also offer expedited options for unplanned mishaps. Be sure to check out our salt spreader replacement parts and snowplow replacement parts in our shop.
The beater/Cadillac analogy applies to your salt and salt vendor as well. Purchase your salt or deicing goods from a reputable vendor. Who do your competitors use? Does the vendor come highly recommended? Do they know what they are talking about? Anyone can sell salt, but only good vendors can sell themselves.
SALT SPREADER CALIBRATION RECOMMENDATIONS
So how can you make sure you’re applying exactly as much salt as you should be? The best practice for snow management companies is to employ a calibration process for their material spreaders. We recommended that these calibrations take place before the start of the season, two or more times during the season, whenever new equipment is installed, or when a material change is made. Below is an application rate guide based on what kind of material you’re spreading. There’s also a printable form you can use to calculate and calibrate application rates for the minimum required salt output. This output will be based on weather conditions.
** The Wisconsin Salt Wise partnership offered this informative graph below to give you a starting point for application levels.
CALIBRATION STEPS FOR SALT SPREADERS
- Bypass, remove or turn off the spinner.
- With the spreader system running, warm up the truck’s hydraulics to the normal operating temperature.
- Place a small load of salt in the truck.
- Mark the shaft end of the conveyor or auger.
- Dump the salt on the auger.
- Increase the truck’s RPMs to working levels.
- At each control setting, count the shaft’s revolutions and record it.
- Collect salt for one rotation, weigh it, and subtract your container weight. To calculate the weight for one revolution, collect salt for multiple revolutions and divide by this by the number of turns.
- To calculate the discharge rate in pounds per mile, multiply your shaft RPM by discharge per revolution to get your discharge rate in pounds per minute, then multiply your pounds per minute by the number of minutes to travel one mile at varying truck speeds. **See the printable form for help.
AUTOMATIC CONTROLS CALIBRATION
- Bypass, remove or turn off the spinner.
- Set the control to a specific number.
- Secure a tarp or a bag beneath the spreader discharge zone.
- On a roadway or other paved surface, mark a measured distance, such as100 or 1000 feet.
- With the spreader operating, drive that distance.
- Weigh the salt that was discharged.
- Multiply the weight of salt by 5.28 if you drove 1000 feet, or by 52.8 if you drove 100 feet. The amount of salt released per mile will be the result. This will remain constant, although calibration will be required for each control setting. Some automated control manufacturers provide “simulators” that eliminate the requirement for calibration on the road.
Knowing when to apply anti-icers and deicers and applying the exact amount needed will go a long way toward making your customers happy and saving on your snow removal expenses. A snowfighter who understands these components can save thousands of dollars over the course of a season while also gaining the competitive advantage needed to expand their business. We’re here to help you keep your roads and sidewalks clear. Keep up the good work, my friend, and as always, Stay Rugged.
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