Here is a glossary of terms that you may run across when discussing snow and ice management solutions for your property needs during the winter months.
Beet brine is a more natural anti-icing solution with a 20/80 ratio of sodium chloride to beet juice. It uses much less salt, is a natural rust inhibitor, and the beet sugars help the brine stick to road surfaces instead of washing away. The City of Calgary has been conducting trials with beet brine since 2017. An alternative to beet brine is molasses.
Brine is a mixture of water (commonly 77%) and salt compounds (commonly 23%) that lowers the freezing point of water/snow when applied, forming a protective coating or barrier that prevents ice and snow from sticking to asphalt or concrete. Brine is sprayed as a liquid and is effective as a pre-treatment option for snow and ice management. More reading: Using Brine to Supercharge Your Winter Maintenance
Calcium Chloride is a water-soluble salt that is used in brine mixtures to lower the freezing temperature of water (or snow). Sodium Chloride is safe to ingest in small quantities for humans when added to water. Large doses are toxic to plants.
Chinooks are a local weather phenomenon experienced in Calgary caused by warm weather formations dropping their moisture as they pass over the Rocky Mountains, resulting in a dry, warm air front which temporarily suspends winter conditions. Chinooks are characterized by a “Chinook arch,” which is a cloud formation that pushes the clouds back from the mountains, forming an arch of stratus clouds across the sky.
Ice Melt is a solid deicer made up of salts and chemicals that are sprinkled to melt accumulated snow and ice.
Magnesium Chloride is a water-soluble salt solution that is used in brine mixtures to prevent snow and ice from sticking to road surfaces. Magnesium Chloride is safe for humans, but large doses are toxic to plants.
Molasses is often added to brine, acting as a stabilizer so that the salt and water do not separate. It allows better adhesion to pavement surfaces and is less corrosive to vehicles than salt. An alternative to molasses is beet brine, but molasses is less bulky and doesn’t plug up equipment as much.
Pickle mix is a combination of 7mm pebbles and rock salt to provide traction and melts snow and ice.
Pre-treating is the application of ice melting treatment before a weather event occurs. Pre-treatment options melt the first inch or two of snow and prevent snow from sticking to pavement surfaces for easier clearing.
See: Sodium Chloride
Hauling snow away from properties that are cleared of snow (e.g. parking lots) is an alternative to leaving snow piles on site. More reading: Should You Create Snow Piles in Your Parking Lot?
Sodium Chloride (rock salt) is a water-soluble salt that is used in brine mixtures to lower the freezing temperature of water (or snow). Sodium Chloride is safe for humans, but large doses are toxic to plants.
Stress-free winters? Are you kidding?
Download our free resource
A Realistic Guide for How to Have Stress-Free Winters
It is a compilation of our best kept secrets that we have learned from over fifteen years in the industry.
Advantages of pre-treating
Here are some advantages of pre-treating:
- Less salt: Pre-treating solutions (like brine) use only 20-25% of the amount of salt that is required to clear the same amount of snow that post-treating with a rock salt deicer needs.
Less salt means:
- less cost, and
- a more environmentally friendly approach.
- Works sooner: Pre-treating can work to melt the first few inches of snow (often the slipperiest) on contact before crews arrive, meaning that hazards and liabilities are reduced. Compare that to salt crystals, which are applied only after snow and ice is built up and which need time to liquify before they have any melting effectiveness.
- More precise: Liquid solutions can be applied more precisely than salt crystals that tend to bounce and scatter to areas that do not need it, like grassy areas, tree wells, and flower beds—all which are negatively impacted by salt. The Michigan Department of Transportation learned that roughly 40% of rock salt spread on roads bounced off the roads and onto the shoulder.
- Easier snow removal: Anti-icing brings a site back to bare pavement conditions more quickly than other methods, resulting in fewer hazards throughout the winter season. This is because pre-treating creates a barrier layer between the ground and snow, which makes the snow easier to remove because it does not bond as much.
“Preventing a bond is critical. You get better coverage of a property or a surface with liquid. You have a bit more control over the liquid to a degree, depending on the equipment you use. If you’re using a spreader that’s flinging salt, you have to deal with this concept of bounce and scatter.”- Brian Birch, COO of the Snow & Ice Management Association (SIMA).
- Cheaper: Because brine uses less salt and has more precise application, it can be significantly cheaper than post-treating. However, crews are usually more strategic with the areas where salt crystals (post-treating) are applied, which means that pre-treating can be more expensive when not done properly.
Fun fact: We have our own brine making plant, which brings down the cost of pre-treating even more for our clients.
When to post-treat instead
OK, with all those advantages of pre-treating, why post-treat at all?
Pre-treating options fall down when applied in extreme cold (below -20°C) or during windstorms. In these conditions, they can actually do the opposite of what is desired. Instead of melting snow and ice, brine can freeze and create its own icy surfaces.
Best of both worlds
Brine is not the cure-all. It should be just one component of your overall snow and ice management solution. We recommend targeting specific problem spots with brine. For areas larger than 1-acre, total brine coverage can be cost-prohibitive. Instead, a post-treating sanding mix, or a pickle mix (gravel and rock salt combined), may be more cost effective. LECM works with you to make sure pre-treating and post-treating is done sensibly.
Applying brine solution strategically can significantly reduce the cost of keeping high traffic or hazardous areas clear.
Areas that require bare pavement, like
- high foot-traffic corridors,
- busy sidewalks,
- loading docks, and
- sloped traffic surfaces
are great candidates for pre-treating and reduce risks and challenges for pedestrians and drivers. Keeping these surfaces free from snow and ice can save headaches.
Pre-treating areas with salt brine before a snow event is more effective than applying ice melt or rock salt after the snow falls. However, in instances where the weather is too cold, or in areas that cannot be reached by brine equipment, post-treating is an effective option.