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  • Writer's pictureBrian Maurer

Liquid De-icing - Accomplish More, with Less

Updated: Feb 20

Author: Brian Maurer

Rock Salt or Liquid: Brian-Kyles Continues to Find Success with their Approach in Northeast Ohio.

Flashback to the snowy winter of 2013-2014 which sent the price for rock salt soaring as the Northeast Ohio region scrambled to keep up with heavy, frequent snowfalls. Then, the winter of 2014-2015 followed with its bitter cold, taxing a depleted stockpile of rock salt even further. The resulting rock salt shortages seemed daunting at the time, but there was a silver lining in those empty salt bins. For the team at Brian-Kyles, it was a tipping point. We made it through those winters, but have spent countless hours since determined to find a way to break our dependence on bulk salt.

Drastic price increases and stockpile shortages during critical times motivated our efforts to reduce our salt consumption and usage. However, the more we immersed ourselves in our cause, the more other factors began to play a role such as environmental concerns. A recent industry study revealed that average parking lots are often treated with 20% more salt than the amount actually needed. Considering a separate study’s findings that one ton of salt causes anywhere from $800 to $3,500 in environmental damage, this has become an urgent call to action. As a steward of commercial properties and the environment, Brian-Kyles knew there was a better way. The result is a multi-faceted strategy using a more complete arsenal of granular and liquid products.

As we researched products, experimented with various techniques, consulted leading industry professionals, and began to make investments in liquid infrastructure, we began to realize the true potential of a complete liquid anti- and de-icing arsenal. Last year’s mild winter may have pushed the concerns related to rock salt into distant memory, especially for those that have been determined to forget the record freezing temperatures of 2014-2015 that resulted in the coldest winter in nearly 40 years. It started with a desire to reduce our exposure to a commodity, then it became a realization that salt was misused and potentially harmful, and now we have since learned ways to deliver better results with liquids. Liquids became impactful to maximize the triple bottom line.

To solve any problem, one has to go immediately to the source. In this case we introduced liquids at the very beginning by treating our stockpile of rock salt. Mixing in an agricultural product to our rock salt before it’s even used reduces the amount of salt we use on commercial properties by as much as 25%. This is because the de-icing compounds are more effective at colder temperatures. In this case, we can accomplish more with less.

To make our salt even more effective at colder temperatures, we treat a second time with chemical brine when the salt is actually applied. Treating at the spinner reduces the amount of harmful rock salt even further. Our fleet is now calibrated to apply product at a rate of 50% less than standard rock salt applications. And rather than sacrificing, service quality is actually enhanced.

In addition to making rock salt more effective, liquids allow for more proactive services to be planned and executed. This is of critical importance since all snow and ice contractors are essentially playing a game with the weather and are often reacting based on what happens. Even with the most advanced modeling and weather reports, only God truly knows what’s going to happen and when. Liquids buy time before a storm by giving a residual effect that salt simply does not have. Liquids can be applied at lower rates and last days on treated surfaces. Treating with liquids is thus cleaner, less corrosive and even more convenient. So liquids grant the flexibility of pre-treatments without the risk of wasted product. They push into the realm of anti- rather than just de-icing.

Undoubtedly, all of these benefits are significant, but the case for liquids does not even have to be so grand. To truly understand the importance of liquids, think small. As in molecular level. Salt works by melting into brine when it comes into contact with snow and/or atmospheric moisture. In granular form, salt itself does not melt the snow or break the bond of ice, it is the liquid brine that acts as a de-icing agent. So using liquids actually cuts out a step. The result is a quicker, more efficient process. Even at the micro level, liquids make sense!

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