Snow Removal Substance and Techniques





Snow Removal Substance and Techniques


Mechanical methods of removing snow are quite numerous and popular. Cleaning snow by individuals normally involves a small area such as a driveway or rooftops. Light snow can be removed using ordinary brooms and other household instruments. However, residents within areas that receive heavier snowfalls normally use a combination of snow shovels and scoops. Snow scoops are instruments with a hopper-like provision and a handle to gather up snow. Other related instruments are snow pushers and shovels with wheels. Shoveling is a risky method to use when removing snow as it entails a significant amount of physical effort. Most of the work done by snow shovels has been known to cause injuries on the back muscles and affect the functioning of the heart. On an annual basis, many old residents and middle-aged citizens suffer from heart attacks in the process of clearing snow with shovels (Razmara 76). However, for physically able individuals, shovels are a good form of exercise, easily available and portable.

Snow blowers or throwers are also mechanical solutions towards cleaning snow from the streets. They are fuelled by either electricity or gasoline and work by either throwing or blowing snow away. However, they have been reported to have engine complications that are caused when excessive snow becomes lodged in the auger and stalling the engine. Clearing the auger by hand causes the largest number of injuries when it snaps back into potion for normal operation. Winter service vehicles are larger vehicles rigged with massive shovels, corrosion-resistant bodies, plow frames and other reinforcements. Sophisticated winter service vehicles also have satellite navigation hardware that allows regular checking with the weather stations. An obvious disadvantage of these types of vehicles is the high amount of fuel consumed during use. Since most of them run on diesel or gasoline, they have to be constantly refueled. Furthermore, they also require a licensed driver who has approved by the authorized agency. Lastly, they also require regular service and maintenance.

Snow shovels are relatively cheap when purchased at the local outdoor store or hardware. For instance, the Yardworks Snow Shovel with Wear Strip was approximately $30 at the Canadian Tire Shop. Similarly, the Yukon 22-in Sleigh Scoop at the same store was retailing for $40 (Razmara 27). The manufacture of snow shovels, scoops, and pushers is a very basic affair. It involves the collection of scrap and used metal from different sources such as car yards. This metal is then sorted, molten and mixed into alloys that harden the shovel. The expensive shovels have handles designed with fiberglass and the shovelheads are strengthened using alloys. Snow removal vehicles are slightly more expensive to purchase and renovate for the particular environmental needs. An average winter-service vehicle can reach up to $17,000 while the renovations can amount to $1000 (Cuelho 43). Therefore, it is an expensive choice for a small area of cleaning. They are generally purchased by municipal councils and city cleaning companies.

The costs of the smaller equipment such as snow shovels and scoops are relatively similar across different states in the USA. However, the cost of gasoline and electric-powered snow removal devices such as throwers varies with the weather patterns. Therefore, states that experience lighter snow exhibit low preferences for motorized snow removers. However, regions such as Canada experience massive amounts of heavy snow forcing them to purchase gasoline alternatives or even pooling resources to buy snow removal vehicles. Another reason for this fluctuation in prices is the shipping costs. States located closer to sea ports enjoy lower prices for snow removal machines and instruments compared to mainland states. In conclusion, apart from the snow removal vehicle, the rest of the techniques require a longer time to complete the task. All these alternatives are also temporary and therefore demand regular snow removal to achieve a clear street or driveway (Razmara 14).

Chemical Substances

Chemical alternatives for removing snow are collectively called ice-melting chemicals. However, their function is not limited to snow removal. They are also used for de-icing and anti-icing purposes. Given the high cost of manufacturing and transporting chemicals, this option is mostly reserved for large-scale consumers such as airports and racing tracks. Liquid chemicals also known as deicers are applied on the road surface before the ice or frost gathers. It works by preventing the adhesion of the frozen deposits to the pavement. The most common chemical used is salt although it is less effective at lower temperatures. Therefore, in deep ice and snow, salt is not normally considered as a useful alternative. Below 150F, alternative chemicals such as magnesium chloride or calcium chloride are far more useful (Cuelho 19). However, due to their cost, they are mixed with salt in specific ratios. The latest ice-removal chemical released in the market is IceBan. The chemical is slightly sticky and mixed with pre-wet salt. It has several advantages including lower corrosion rates and easier cleaning when compared to other chemicals. These de-icing and anti-icing agents are also beneficial in that they can be applied before the snowstorm occurs. Consequently, after the snow has fallen, it is imperative to use an ordinary plow to remove the snow.

The cost of mining and producing ordinary salt is relatively cheap. A ton of Sodium Chloride ranges between $90 and $160 (Razmara 169). However, the production of complex chemicals such as magnesium chloride is far more expensive. They require intensive laboratory calculations, mixing processes and other treatments. Therefore, one ton of magnesium chloride is approximately $200 (Razmara 17). While magnesium can be obtained naturally certain water bodies having high percentage of concentrated salts such as the Dead Sea, it is also produced in large scale within the factory setting. Bitterns are mined and refined to eliminate impurities such as common salt and clay. The liquidated magnesium chloride is passed over heated copper pans until it evaporates. It is then completely recovered and stored in drums where it can solidify while being stored. The production of chemical substances that remove ice and snow is closely monitored by the state and other stakeholders. The high vigilance is because of pollution concerns given that earlier versions of these substances used nitrogen-based urea and potassium chloride that greatly influenced the farming conditions in most farms downstream.

Another major restriction is that its usage is strictly controlled by several environmental agencies since it can cause soil and water pollution. Calcium magnesium acetate is a common chemical that has been certified by the Federal Highway Administration for snow removal purposes (Razmara 67). Another anti-icing agent, potassium acetate is highly effective in cold weather. Corrosion-inhibiting additives are an important aspect of all these liquid and solid chemicals. Their absence is a definite way of eroding all the equipment as well as the vehicles used on the treated roads. The difference in prices across the states is determined by the type of legislation adopted by that particular state concerning its environmental sustainability. Therefore, long-lasting chemicals are either banned or stocked in limited quantities to deter its purchase and use. Similarly, the weather patterns in an area determine the popularity of chemical solutions toward removing snow and ice (Cuelho 65). Long-term use of magnesium chloride has been discovered to have a scaling effect on the concrete where it is applied. Apart from scaling, these salts also cause crumbling, staining and fracturing. Another major limitation of using chemical alternatives is that effective cleaning procedures must be carried out afterwards. The cleaning process ensures that the public are not exposed to dangerous chemical deposits after winter is over.

Traction Materials

This last alternative for snow removal is specifically used in areas with low maintenance budgets or in sensitive sites that have aesthetic value. Natural abrasives for example, gravel and rice hull ash, are another useful solution in snow-removal tasks. It efficacy is mostly felt when the external environment reaches temperatures that reduce the melting rate of salt. In such situations, abrasives greatly reduce the slippery state of the streets caused by a mixture of ice and melting snow (Cuelho 64). These natural abrasives lack the ability to melt ice making it necessary for mechanical and chemical options to be used if a snow-free street is expected. Abrasives are not soluble and do not evaporate therefore using them frequently demands regular cleanup that can raise the costs significantly (Cuelho 41). To overcome this limitation, abrasives can be combined with salt in small quantities to improve its ice-melting qualities and still maintain a good grip on tarmac and concrete. Modern techniques include heating the sand in an open flame and spreading it on the sidewalks to facilitate the melting and increase the traction. There are also different devices such as sand and salt spreaders that can be used to disperse sand on a street quickly. Companies such as Kuhn and Rasco Ltd develop trucks mounted with tippers, sweepers, and spreaders that can be hired out for such emergencies (Razmara 48). The performance of sand and other abrasives is largely determined by the technique of crushing. The best abrasives are crushed in angular methods since they offer more traction when compared to rounded particles. Similarly, having minute particles and dust worsens the traction. Therefore, the sieves used in selecting the preferred gravel size should not be less than #50 (Razmara 35). It is for this reason that abrasives are used as the last option and only in hazardous locations such as black spots, bridges, and sharp corners.

One of the biggest advantages of using this technique is its affordability. Purchasing abrasives such as sand or gravel is relatively cheap when compared to the same amount of chemicals. For example, at Weidle Corporation in Germantown, Ohio, a ton of san is approximately $7 (Razmara 34). This low price originates from the cheap mining processes that involving breaking down rocks and grinding them according to the preferred sizes. This is the main method of producing gravel and therefore, reduces its cost drastically. A ton of pea gravel at Weidle Corporation is about $8 (Cuelho 24). In some communities in London, sand is even offered free and this reduces the costs to basic delivery only. Furthermore, it is easier to recycle the abrasives making them very cost-friendly in the long term (Cuelho 28). Its benefit is also its limitation. Sanding is the slowest method of snow removal. In fact, sanding does not necessarily remove the snow. Instead, it intensifies the grip of the shoe or car tires and this allows the pedestrian or driver to maneuver through the snow.

In the future, the introduction of the snowmelt system could render most of the current snow-removal methods obsolete. The sophisticated technology works by laying down electric cables when laying down the tarmac or concrete. The technology senses precipitation or low temperatures using a thermostat that switches on the heaters to melt the ice that then drains away in the sewers. Their operational costs are significantly lower as they use normal electricity. They also have little maintenance costs since they are laid in a permanent location under the asphalt.


Work Cited

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Cuelho, Eli. Establishing Best Practices for Removing Snow and Ice from California Roads. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University, Western Transportation Institute, 2010. Web. 27 November 2014.

Razmara, Gholamreza. Snow Removal Routing Problems: Theory and Applications. Linköping: Univ, 2004. Print.

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