Advantages of Electric Snow-Ice Melting

Ada Cryer of Delta-Therm Corp.
There are a lot of high-profile examples of snow-ice melting systems in the United States. The Super Bowl champs played all of their home games in one, Heinz Field. Heinz Field, the home of the Pittsburgh Steelers since 2001, is designed with an electric roof deicing system complementing its hydronic turf warming system below.

Heinz Field is one of several examples discussed by Ada Cryer, marketing manager of Delta-Therm Corp., Wauconda, Ill. Cryer was addressing an audience at the 2006 ISH North America Trade Show, describing snow-ice melt systems and the advantages of using electric heat to run these systems.

Cryer said that contractors who are familiar with hydronic snow-ice melting systems can also use electricity for applications including tire track snow melting, antenna heating, satellite snow melting, and roofs, gutters, and downspout deicing.

Why is it important for contractors to know and understand both hydronic and electric snow-ice melting? "Starting with the ‘1995 Master Format Commercial Use Master Format' snow-ice melting systems are specified in Division 15 and Division 23 HVAC changes," she said. "And consumers want choices, too."

Cryer pointed out some features of electric snow-ice melting systems including:

  • Electric heating elements manufactured from resistance heating cable, self-regulating heating element, and mesh.

  • Controls can be simple, utilizing an on-off switch, thermostat system, or a combination of thermostat and moisture sensors.

  • Two general electric systems including low voltage (12 and 24 V) or line voltage (120, 208, 240, 277, and 480 V).

    She said it is important that HVAC contractors work with electricians when designing and installing an electric snow-ice melt system. "Face it, electrical contractors are not heating experts," she said. "Also include manufacturer product reps in the system design. Product reps can support you with design, installation training, and whatever else you need."

    Cryer also noted that electricians and contractors should be familiar with all of the local codes and know the local building inspectors, too. She noted that local codes may or may not follow national codes and that not all projects get inspected.

    Once the electric snow-ice melt system has been installed, Cryer said that the selling job is not over. She noted that electrical systems are 99-100 percent efficient compared to 80-84 percent efficiency of boiler systems. Maintenance is a selling point, too.

    "The only moving parts to an electrical system are the switches inside of the contractor panel," Cryer said. "In a well-designed system, the only seasonal maintenance is cleaning the surface of the sensors before the start of the season. These systems should last the life of the pavement if they are well installed."

    She made a side-by-side comparison of an electric versus a hydronic system. Comparing 4.8 cents per kW/hour against 55 cents per therm (gas rate), an electrical system installed in a 70,000-square-foot facility will cost $26,531 annually in utility bills, compared to a hydronic system in the same-sized facility, which would cost $77,616 in utility bills.

    Publication date: 11/13/2006

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