Liquid, Granular, Aggregate: Snowfighting Tools

Many thanks to Brooke Loeffler, Content Specialist & Graphic Designer with Redmond Minerals for sharing this content with us. Brooke is responsible for the content and graphic design across all 11 of the Redmond Minerals brand websites.

Liquid, Granular, Aggregate: Snowfighting Tools

In the world of deicing and anti-icing, roads departments will use a variety of products and methods to ensure safe travel. Liquid, granular, aggregate – snowfighting tools are the choices for busy roads and public works departments. What they use will depend on road conditions, temperature and weather forecasts, and department budgets. How do experienced road superintendents determine what product they are going to use? Let’s explore the advantages and disadvantages of all three.

Liquid Anti-Icers

Liquids are primarily used as anti-icers to pre-treat roads and bridges to prevent ice from forming and bonding to the surfaces. They are typically sprayed by hand or truck on walkways, bridges, and roads before the snow starts falling. Busy roads department staff members ensure that the liquid applied is mixed in proper concentrations for the current outside temperatures and pavement temperatures. 

Pros of Using Liquid Anti-Icers

  • There is no bounce and scatter effect from liquid anti-icers. When applied to the road surface by a spray truck, the application can be more precise.
  • Liquid anti-icers prevent ice from bonding to surfaces, ensuring easier removal by roads crews.
  • By sinking down into the texture of the road or parking lot surfaces, liquids can provide better coverage.
  • With liquids, there is not wait time for brine, it begins working immediately.
  • There is no tracking of sand or cinders indoors.

Cons of Using Liquid Anti-Icers

  • Liquid anti-icing products are intended to be used as a preventative measure. They are not effective and can actually be dangerous when applied to roads and parking lots where ice and snow have already accumulated.
  • Liquids can be more difficult to store and transport than solids and require specialized storage tanks.
  • Additional personnel training may be required with freeze point curve tables for correct concentrations depending upon the current temperature ranges.
  • If the temperatures are very cold, liquids can actually create ice instead of preventing it.
  • On sloped surface, liquids will follow gravity and run off of banks and roads with inclines.
  • Winter weather can change at a moment’s notice. If the snow turns into rain, liquid anti-icers can be washed away. If a mix of rain, sleet, and snow are falling, liquid products can be washed away before they have a chance to work.
  • Liquid anti-icers have a narrow window of effectiveness. Timing, weather conditions, and differences between air and pavement temperatures can all impact the success of applications.
  • There is no additional benefit of traction with liquid anti-icers. Snowfighting crews may decide to add aggregates to improve pavement friction and ensure safer travel.
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The term “aggregates” when applied to icy winter roads can be a wide variety of solids like sand, clay, geo-synthetics, or cinders. They are scattered on snowy, icy roads to provide traction. Aggregates stay solid and do not melt into liquids. They are sometimes applied to increase and improve pavement friction.  

Cons of Using Aggregates on Icy Roads

  • Aggregates are for traction only. They are not are not anti-icers or deicers.
  • They do not melt in water and will require expensive and time-consuming clean up.
  • Aggregates will clog roadside drainage and make waterways more shallow.
  • They lead to an increase air particulate pollution during the transportation, application, and as they are driven on after the storm.
  • Aggregates cause significant damage to windshields, other parts of vehicles, and other property.

Liquid, granular, or aggregate – snowfighting tools of choice for busy roads and public works departments.

Ice Slicer is safer for windshields than aggregate. Check out this experiment to see which is safer for your windshield!

Solid Deicers

Solid deicers are granules of salt based products that can provide traction as they melt down and brine. They vary in size, shape, coarseness, and chemical or mineral composition. Solid deicers are applied to roads, parking lots, and walkways to penetrate ice and snow, form a brine, and melt ice that has already bonded with the surface. They lower the freezing point of water with freeze point depressants which control the structure of the ice slurry, preventing ice from forming large crystal sizes and making it easier to remove. There are solid deicers that can also prevent ice from continuing to form. Gradiated granular deicers are also used to provide extra traction and improve pavement friction. 

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Pre-Treating Solids

Some solid deicers can be pre-treated with a liquid solution that can help prevent the granules from bouncing and scattering off the roadway. The pre-treatment can also kickstart the brining reaction – which will equal clear roads – faster. It can reduce how much solid deicer is needed, and boost its overall performance.

Solid Deicer Pros

There are pros and cons to the methods a roads department will choose for icy winter roads. Here are a few of them.

  • Easier Storage and Transport – Solids are easier to store (a pile in the yard, in a shed, in bags in the warehouse) and transport (belt vans, dump trucks and more). They don’t require specialized storage or transport tanks like liquid deicers. This is helpful for facilities departments using a fleet of multi-purpose vehicles or municipalities that use their equipment year around, or subcontractors hired for deicer applications.
  • With or Without Snow or Ice – Solid deicer granules work effectively both on surfaces that are bare or where snow and ice has already started to pile up. Their variety of granule sizes allows them to penetrate existing ice and snow in order to reach the pavement below.
  • Traction With Ice Melting – Granular deicers provide both ice melting and traction without adding aggregate to the road. The best deicers have granules of varying sizes so the smaller granules melt quickly to create the ice melting brine and the larger sized pieces melt slower and provide traction without clean up issues.
  • Treatment You Can See – With solid deicers, it is much easier to see the areas of parking lots, sidewalks and roads that have been treated. This provides reassurance to the public that the area has been treated and reduces costly double applications to the same areas.
  • Deicing FAST – Granular deicers can go down more quickly than liquids ensuring safer roads – faster.
  • Longer Lasting – Solid deicers do not disappear with dilution immediately and can continue working to prevent dangerous re-freezing phases.
  • Less User Error – Granular deicers leave less room for user error. When using liquid deicers, there are no dilution rates to calculate, concentrations to mix, or sprayers to operate.

Solid Deicer Cons

  • Light Weight = Less Staying Power – Applying lighter granules that are all one size can lead to bounce and scatter issues. Choosing a granulated deicer with a variety of large and small granules will help keep your deicing products where they’re needed.
  • Sticking Together – After storage during the off season (especially outside), granular deicers can clump together. At the beginning of snowfighting season, make sure work the pile to ensure clumps are broken up.
  • Less is More – Some folks think that if a little is good, a lot is better. That is the case with some things, but not with granule deicing products. Overuse of deicers can cause problems down the line in increased product costs, corrosion of signs and bridges, and environmental impact on vegitation. Using a deicer that is designed for performance with less product will save entities tight budget dollars.

Powered by Ice Slicer®

While there are specific high-performance liquid deicers that are an exception, generally granular deicers are more effective in more fridgid and high snow and sleet conditions. Ice Slicer® is proud to offer all of the benefits of granular deicers, without the drawbacks.

Desert Mountain Liquids Granulars and Aggregates

Ice Slicer® ticks all of the boxes when it comes to a powerful and eco-friendly solid deicing option. The blend of over 60 naturally occurring minerals make the grains high performing, less corrosive, and safer for the environment than traditional white road salt. Better performance with less product means you can save money while receiving greater deicing benefits.

Many thanks to Brooke Loeffler, Content Specialist & Graphic Designer with Redmond Minerals for sharing this article originally published on Ice Slicer’s website.

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