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Liquid know-how

  • SIMA
- Posted: October 24, 2018
By Michael Frank

It’s no surprise that more snow and ice management contractors are moving toward use of liquids. Liquids provide yet another tool to achieve that ever-elusive down-to-the-pavement service. They use less salt but with similar results, meaning less expense and fewer chlorides impacting the environment. Because they use less salt, end users don’t have to worry about the amount sprayed, right? Not quite. Though using liquids can be more forgiving with potential impact on profits and the environment, understanding the application rate is key to multifaceted operational success.

Maximize effectiveness
Maximizing effectiveness should be the main goal. It’s what separates “snow pushers” from “snow managers,” and those who “drop” salt from those who “apply” it. 

Liquids provide distinct advantages over granular products. The amount of material being applied is more effectively measured and liquids are less intrusive. Also, they can be applied before a winter event. Contractors have more time to prepare, better conditions to work in and can more confidently understand what is being put down. Pre-treatment offers the benefit of helping prevent snow and ice from bonding to the pavement. 

Liquids can be used during and after the event for post-treatment at a higher application rate. It is critical to understand targeted application rates to provide adequate coverage. Under-applying may not achieve the desired results and may worsen conditions.

Maximize profits
Though doing a good job is always a main goal, for any business, making money is just as important. One of the main appeals of using liquids is it can achieve results while using less material. Less overhead should result in more profits.

So, how much profit is the right amount? The answer is at the intersection of the exact amount of materials necessary to achieve the desired result. Without understanding your application rate, that may result in overapplication - and a completely unnecessary use of resources. Though it’s a fraction of the cost compared to spreading too much bulk material, lost profits on any scale should be avoided.

Maximize stewardship
Many times it’s difficult to balance being a good steward of the environment with keeping an operation running smoothly, but eventually it may not be an option. 

Overuse of granular deicing materials over the years has resulted in chloride contamination of aquifers and other water sources. Increased use of liquids is a big step in the right direction to limiting chlorides introduced to the environment, but calibration is still key to making sure no more potential pollutants are applied than necessary.

Minimize liability
Another growing concern with every season is how a contractor can reduce site liability. This has driven the importance of keeping proper documentation indicating how much material was applied to each property and when. Accuracy is important, which can be streamlined with the tools and equipment available for liquid applications.

Technology rules
Several of today’s sprayers are built with technology, such as flow meters, to more easily achieve repeatable application rates. The most advanced sprayers offer deluxe controls combined with GPS speed sensors, allowing users to simply set the rate and drive, and the spray automatically adjusts to the vehicle’s speed to apply the exact amount of brine needed.

Not all contractors can afford to arm an entire fleet with such sprayers. Basic spray systems can still yield similar results; the user must have a better understanding of flow rates and speeds to feel confident they are hitting close to their targeted application rate. 

Tear & Teach Pullout: The October Tear & Teach offers a worksheet for learning how to calculate the amount of salt and liquids being applied during operations - download it here.

Michael Frank is senior product marketing manager for SnowEx Products. Email him at
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