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Ice Control in the Summer???

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Well, no.  We don’t do ice control in the summer.  However, we do use our ice control spray equipment year round. In the summer we do dust control.  The base liquid for most dust control is the same as anti-icing… magnesium chloride. Hence, the same equipment can be used for both.  The only difference is that the application rate for dust is much higher than anti-icing. That is normally accomplished by higher flow rate spray heads.  All else is the same.

Dust control liquids can be applied to dirt roads, parking lots, and even horse arenas and livestock areas. Think about it.  Dust on dirt roads can become objectionable easily.  Even if liquid mitigation only is applied near people/animals/structures, it can be a huge work and health saver for the people & animals affected.

In the case of arenas, dust is a significant health issue for horses or other animals.  Breathing dust causes horses to develop respiratory issues easily parituclarly when working hard and breathing hard . Most of the time dust is controlled with a combination of wetting and harrowing.  With water shortages in the midwest & west, that is not as economical as it used to be.  So spraying dust with a mag based solution will dramatically reduce the need for wetting, and reduce the use of water down to almost nothing.  Animals are much happier and perform better in a treated arena. Different blends of mag are used for different arena surfaces. There are blends for dirt, sand, or sand with rubber shreds.  Most vendors are willing to train in the use of their products in various environments. Some will provide free or low cost analysis to help you use the best product for the material in the arena being considered.

Later we will talk about other seasonal uses for liquid ice control equipment.  Stop back soon.



Coverage calculations- no over application allowed

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Occasionally I am asked about how to determine coverage with a boom, especially when we see a municipality or DOT over-applying. How do you prevent using too much?

To start, take a look at the spray heads. Your spray heads are most likely marked with 2 numbers. One is a flow rate in gallons or liters per minute. The second is the width of the fan in degrees. You will have to do some math. How far away from the ground do you want to run the boom? Usually 18-24 inches above the ground will give you good spread but limit how much product gets blown away in a light wind during application. That will let you calculate the width of the individual fan pattern based on the degrees width of the fan. (triangle geometry) Then you decide how much overlap you need. Then position your spray heads a proper distance apart to get the coverage with overlap. Most commercially made booms have done this part for you.

Then you have to look at application rate. This is where the adventure begins.

For example, we use a 7 ft boom with 6 evenly spaced spray heads that sprays about 8.5 ft wide. Then you need to look at flow rating. Say a spray head is rated at 1.5 gal per minute at 40psi. (our typical) So your total gallons per minute for the boom is 9. (6 spray heads, 1.5 gallon per minute each)

Then you look at speed. How many feet per minute are you traveling ?. At 10 miles per hour you are traveling (5280 ftx10mph)= feet traveled in 1 hr. Then divide by 60 minutes in an hour and you get 880 ft per minute. Now you take your feet per minute times the width of the spray pattern for the whole boom, (8.5 ft wide spray pattern) and you get the square feet you are covering every minute with that boom at 10 mph. 7480 sq ft. Yes, all this to calculate how many square feet you cover in 1 minute at 10 mph.

Now you divide the sq ft covered by the gallons used in that same minute to get a sq ft per gallon coverage rate. In the example 7480/9= 831 sq ft per gallon at 10 mph

That is a little too thick coverage for most liquids. So, you put in lower flow rate spray heads, or speed the truck up above 10mph, or drop the pressure a little (lower psi) to get nearer 1000 sq ft per gallon which is usually a good starting place. **Check with your liquid manufacturer for application rates according to temp and road surface condition.**

Hoowee what a pain. But worth it to be sure you coverages are right for the boom you have.

Liquids for low snow profitability

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Here it is November 13 in the foothills of Colorado, and we have yet to have a plowable storm. However, we will have statements going out in 2 days. What happened? We had a small snow & freezing drizzle event that was nowhere near enough to plow. However, we sprayed the night before the storm. Our customers had no buildup of ice or snow on their lots, even first thing in the morning. They were happy and we get to bill for it. Not a huge amount but at least it is revenue. There would be no income and icy parking lots with all that can lead to if we had not sprayed. So, this is a win/win situation. Think about it. Better profitability even when the storm “fizzles”. Gotta be a good thing.

Basics part #5 Selling liquid anti-icing

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Greetings and welcome to fall. The Colorado high country has had its first dusting of white and the phone if finally starting to ring. Woohoo !

The subject at hand is selling liquid anti-icing and deicing. It is a subject that can be a challenge. Here are a few ideas that I have used effectively to communicate the benefits of liquids.

1. When you pre-treat before a storm (anti-ice) the liquid melts the snow from the bottom. It functions a little like “teflon for the road”. It keeps the packed snow from bonding with the pavement. That bonded snow, which would easily turn to hard pack and then ice, is kept from forming. Any kind of post treatment, be it salt, treated salt, or some liquid is coming from the top down. It has to melt its way to the pavement. That takes time. Anti-icing is working from the first flake, and can be of significant help in improving traction before plowing.

2. Anti-icing can make those “not quite plowable” storms much safer, and get the contractor some revenue from a storm that likely would have had him sitting out. Light “dusting” snowfalls are melted on contact. BEWARE- vendors will stretch the truth and say some products will melt the first 2 inches. Generally NOT true. 1/2 to 1 inch, possible, even probable. more than that- not likely.

3. It is a better value. All the product you put down (unless in a significant wind) stays on the ground, not bouncing to the sides. Granular products of all kinds tend to track with traffic. Liquids will track but generally that is a good thing to even out coverage. You rarely have a quantity of liquid tracking off your lot unless you spray at a high traffic time. (which most avoid anyway)Any traffic driving over freshly spread granular pre-treatment is going to track and disperse.

4. If you pre-treat with liquid and post treat with salt or granular, your need for salt/granular will diminish significantly. Liquids used in combo with salt reduce salt usage to finish up after plowing dramatically.
Hope the things help you to talk to your customers and sell the value of pre-treating with liquids.

Basics #4- Make or buy your brine

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There is much contention in the industry as to whether most contractors should make or buy their anti-icing/deicing liquid which is frequently referred to as brine. When I say buy it, I mean as a pre-mixed ready to use solution. When I say make it, I mean generally take some dry base chemical and put it in a mixing vat and add water. Then agitate to disolve the dry base. Most any chemical you would want can be purchased in either form- dry or in solution. Here are some general (not all-encompassing) thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of each method:
Make you own brine-
Most commonly done with salt & water. Can be done with flake Mag Chloride or pellet calcium chloride as well. Shortcomings are:
* you need a non-freezing water supply to your brine making tank
* brine maker needs power for agitation so electricity must be available
* need a dependable supply of dry base chemical and likely need a place to store it. (dry but near the brine maker)
*quite a bit of work shucking bags and monitoring mix for consistancy
*need to study and research if you take on blending or putting in your own additives. for example, salt brine is easy to make but doesn’t work much colder than 25*F, so many companies add vegetable byproducts of several types to improve cold performance. This can take a lot of research and extra effort.
*Specifically manufactured brine making systems are quite expensive and add to the cost of adopting liquids.
Strengths are not so numerous but can be compelling:
+ Much lower cost to produce per gallon
+You can control your supply
+Not dependent on trucking/transportation as heavily

Pre-mixed ready to use liquids
*Must have a storage tank or be close to a depot for pickup
*cost per gallon can be significant(although cost vary widely by base chemical and by transporation costs)
*delivery can be an issue, especially mid-season. Tank trucks & icy roads do not play well together

Strengths of ready to use liquids
+ Minimal hassle to prepare to use
+storage tanks are cheap
+blends are readily available
+good consistancy between loads/batches

Biggest deciding points
Availability of product (what can you get?)
What kind of facility do you have? (water & power, room for storage- dry or tank)
What chemical(s) does your climate dictate you use?
What does the state DOT use? Other contractors in your area?

Now I will briefly cross into editorial territory. IMHO it is better when first starting with liquids to find a pre-mixed liquid that is readily available and has proper support from a sales support person or team. Take all the advice you can get from the manufacturer of your liquid.
See our web page ( ) for a free downloadable list of companies that make/sell anti-icing and deicing liquids.
Next topic will be selling the product & service
Thanks for reading. Be back in about 10 days.

equipment- the big ??

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For most small contractors looking at liquids, initial startup cost is a huge hurdle. There is the spray system to get. Then there is some kind of storage tank unless you have a depot open extended hours. This is fairly unusual but a great service and value if available. Some systems need an auxiliary pump to fill from a storage tank. Others will use the pump to fill themselves. After 12 years in the business, I like the self-filling spray system better. That way I do not have to run a power cord or fuss with an extra pump. Quick caveat- most self filling systems struggle to get the last 100-200 gallons out of a large storage tank. (depending on fitting size & direction in the tank) So they are not perfect.
Other things to consider-
** electric motors are fine for ATV spray units and perhaps low-flow spray systems. If you have large lots to do or need to spray at a higher speed (like a private road) go for the gas engine at least 5 hp with a centrifugal pump. If you stay up on the maintenance they will last 7-8 years in even heavy use. Mine went 9.
**Easily changeable spray heads (nozzles) are important if you do any after-storm treatment or work to cut existing hard pack. Fan spray heads are best for covering area evenly. Pencil stream or drill type spray heads are needed for cutting hard pack and some post treat uses. You need both kinds of heads to get the most out of your system.
** All pickup/small truck spray systems are on a steel or aluminum skid. Many of these have to be loaded into the truck with a forklift or crane. Others have fold-up legs and require only 2 people. That is a great bonus for small companies that do not have a forklift. No special equipment required.
** there is great debate in the industry- Steel skid or aluminum skid. Here is my take. Steel is generally better. Mag chloride and aluminum do not play nicely together. The anti-corrosion additive in most manufactured liquids reduces the steel corrosion dramatically. So, unless you are using home-made salt brine with no addditives, the steel is generally better. Rinse it off after every storm and touch up the paint every year at the end of the year.
** Sometimes a spray system that uses 200 gallon refillable “totes” looks pretty good until you consider that the totes have to be moved with a forklift. And you may have to keep several totes around to make sure you can finish a job. 200 gallons only goes so far. So be aware of the shortcomings of totes.
These things are the reason HighCountry exists. There was not one system on the market that met all the things I thought were needed. So we created 325 gallon and 200 gallon systems. I realize that there are a million ways to piecemeal together a spray system, and that is OK if you are dabbling in the liquid arena before jumping in. But realize that things like wooden skids, electric pumps, hand made booms etc will not make good long term solutions and can turn into hassle magnets.
For further info check out blog section for an article called “when in doubt, do it yourself” Then wander over to to see the results.
Next time we will talk about selling liquid services.
Thanks for reading.

The business side

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The business side is where liquids become very attractive. If you have never done any anti-icing, they are a great first step for a customer that has a problem with slick spots. If you currently use salt by the ton, and have limited ability to pretreat, then liquids will be especially productive for you.

For the snow contractor or municipality that has been using sand, or done nothing to prevent or reduce ice, liquids can open up a “brave new world” of customer safety and satisfaction. As an example from our past (1999), we had a small medical center that we were plowing. They liked our work but the residue left after plowing was getting slick, particularly if the sun did not come out during the day after plowing. Slips and near falls were getting common. The customer asked us for some help. We researched the issue, talked to a bunch of folks including the Colo Dept of Transportation (CDOT). We arranged a small test with a hand sprayer and a 5 gallon bucket of mag chloride solution. The test went well and we determined to use the mag solution the next year. More on the adventures that caused in another blog. The next season, the customer was thrilled with the added safety of being almost black when plowing was done, and having little or no ice anywhere on the lot the next day.

For a contractor that uses salt, liquids can give you more control and better results. A friend from Philly called a few years ago. I went out and visited his sites and we developed a plan. He had been doing some pre-treatment with salt, but he had the same subcontractors that did the post-treatment with salt doing the pre-treatment. He wanted to bring that function back in house. So we set him up with a liquids program. He did all his pretreatments with liquid using his trucks. Then left the post-treatment to the subcontractors. He had to teach the subs to read the pavement after plowing and use the salt a little more sparingly. The profits and quality both went up. His salt usage dropped noticeably. (did not get a percent, but it was significant) Customer satisfaction went up because most sites had less salt being tracked into their facilities. The ice was gone with noticeably less salt residue. (because of needing less salt after plowing) The contractor could put the liquids down 12-24 hrs before the storm so he was not in panic mode to pretreat just as the storm hit. He could schedule his application around business hours at the site. It turned into a win-win for my contractor friend and for his customers.

So just to review-
Non-salt users can benefit from liquids by improving quality of service and introducing an income stream not had before. Also, most liquids are more ecologically friendly than sand or salt/sand mix.

Salt users can benefit from liquids by being able to schedule the pretreatment ahead of time and bring the function in house, not asking subs to do it. They should also notice a very significant reduction in the use of salt for post treatments. (saving money) And, with much less salt used, salt tracking in is reduced which customers like as well.

So, if you are in the snow & ice mgmt business to make money, you really need to look into using liquids.
Email me at with your questions. I will use some questions on this blog later. special gift sent to you if I use your question. Thanks for reading.

The basics Part #1 Starting liquid anti-icing

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Many people over the years have asked “How do I get started in doing liquid anti-icing in my snowplowing business?” This blog will be my answer to that in moderate depth. There will be 4 or 5 postings on this topic so check back often for the next installment.

The basics.
Liquid anti-icing is based on using some kind of liquid brine solution to prevent ice from forming. It does this by preventing the bonding that happens when snow falls on pavement or concrete. Think about how hardpack forms on a road or lot. It gets driven over a couple times and packed into the surface of the lot. Most of the time plowing does not get this packed stuff up. It just stays. Eventually, with enough packing, it turns to ice, and that is almost impossible to get scraped up with a plow. You have to resort to melting it from the top down. This is normally done with salt or salt with an additive. It works, but not real well.
With anti-icing, you put a brine down before the storm. It interrupts that bonding process by melting snow from the bottom. It allows the plow to then scrape much cleaner, and most brines stay down and will continue to melt (residual action) after plowing. So the white film of snow left after plowing goes away quickly, or may not even be there.

Now, there are 3 basic chemicals as the core ingredient in most brines: Sodium Chloride (salt brine), Magnesium Chloride, and Calcium Chloride. There are many many additives used with these base brines for various applications. More on them later. Brines are normally sprayed from a moving truck onto the road or lot surface 12-48 hrs before a storm depending on the liquid used, surface condition, and temperatures.

There are a couple things to keep in mind at this point-
1. If you are a heavy user of salt, liquids will likely NOT replace salt usage. Liquids will reduce your salt usage dramatically in most cases.
2. Be cautious and skeptical about a liquid vendor’s claim to melt the first 2″ (or 1.5, or 1″) of snow that falls. This is rarely true and requires the perfect combo of conditions. However, most liquids will melt a dusting up to 3/4″ under most normal conditions.

Next part we will talk about the business side of things. Thanks for reading.