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How to choose the right de-icing and anti-icing fluids for your needs

A frozen road in the countryside

The variety of deicing and anti-icing options has increased dramatically over the years and there are a number of factors that need to be considered when debating which solution is right for your job.

Decision makers need to take into careful consideration things like the environmental impact of a product as well as the effect that they might have on the surfaces they are applied to.

An effective product that damages the flooring with every use could easily end up costing far more than it saves. But a product that isn’t strong enough can be dangerous.

In this article, we are going to explore four key influencing factors which need to be considered when deciding which deicing or anti-icing agent is right for you.

  • Which are most effective?
  • How cost effective are those solutions?
  • What are the environmental impacts?
  • How quickly and conveniently can they be applied?

Impact on surfaces

As we mentioned above the impact a product has on the surfaces it is applied to is something that must be taken into consideration. It is more than just an issue of appearance; some materials can cause permanent damage which will increase maintenance costs and potentially pose a health risk.

For example, sodium chloride – a commonly used chemical in many deicers and anti-icers leaves a white residue that can dull the finish on wooden floors. On carpeting it’s even worse and can cause things like dry rot and colour fading.

Calcium and magnesium chloride-based products on the other hand can coat floors with an oily residue that damages wax and urethane finishes and make hard surface floors slippery, increasing the risk of injuries. If left in contact with carpets these materials can wear out fibers and attract dirt.

On top of this, the salt residue leftover from many products can cause permanent damage to pavement, asphalt, concrete, masonry, decorative stone, or other custom walkways as well as metal light fixtures and railings.

A much better alternative to the above listed options are liquid based deicers like those developed by CHELA which are specifically designed to preserve surfaces they are applied to. This can reduce maintenance costs associated with damage caused by the wrong deicer and ultimately add up to significant savings.

Environmental Impact of Deicing and Anti-icing

Some chloride based products have also been found to be toxic to humans, animals and plants. Sodium chloride products, for example, can cause irritation when they come in contact with the skin. Calcium chloride based products can burn human skin and if the particles are inhaled they can cause serious irritation.When spread on to vegetation, calcium chloride products can have a defoliating effect.

Another key considerations the effect that deicers and anti-icers can have when they build up in waterways. Even essentially non-toxic products can cause a huge amount of harm to aquatic life. If it builds up in meaningful quantities they can reduce the waters oxygen level.

ICEBLAST SF – 898

An aqueous solution of potassium acetate that is designed to be safe for the environment – especially when used in quantities near waterways. It is an efficient anti-ice as well as quickly melting ice and snow. IceBlast Plus works down to -37°C (salt works down to -7°C). It conforms to AMS 1435A aerospace material specification for fluid de-icers for use in airports on runways and aprons and stations, on bridges, car parks, pavement, roads and other public areas.

Performance characteristics

Whilst ensuring that the deicer you choose is both safe for the environment and won’t case undue damage to the surfaces it’s applied to are both important, it’s pointless unless it actually works as a deicer.

Key performance characteristics that need to be considered when selecting the right deicer or anti-icer are:

  • How well does the low temperature performance of the material match the coldest temperatures you are likely to experience?
  • How quickly will the material melt ice to minimize pedestrian exposure to potentially dangerous conditions?

To properly evaluate the performance of deicers against these two needs it helps to understand how they work. Generally speaking, deicers work by dissolving in water and lowering the freezing point. When this solution comes into contact with ice it causes it to melt.

Liquid deicers are generally then more efficient that solid deicers as they have an increased surface area of contact with the ice.

When choosing a deicer you want to select one that matches your particular environmental needs. For example, if you are in a very dry cold location your deicer needs are far different from a very wet cold location due to the different ways that deicers work.

Safety

When we talk about safety we aren’t talking about the potential toxicity of the chemicals in the deicers and the harm that they could cause. Rather about how effective the deicer is and how this might impact the safety of members of the public or employees in a location.

The entire point of a deicer is to remove ice that could be dangerous to those near it or hinder work. So, an essential question to ask is how quickly does the deicer work? And how long after application will that surface be safe for people to walk or drive on?

Chloride-based granular deicers may take more than five minutes to achieve an acceptable ice melt. Liquid deicers based on formic technology may remove thin layers of snow and ice factor and prevent new accumulations. Some formic technology deicers achieve a speed
of melt of about 50 seconds by reducing the freezing point as low as minus 63 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cost-effectiveness

Determining cost effectiveness of a deicer is complex because of multifaceted considerations. A product that is too slow for purpose could, for example, cost more money in lost revenue than was made up by choosing a cheaper product. However, a fast product that is harmful to those around it is an unacceptable trade-off.

Plus, you have to consider the ease and speed of application combined with transport and loading costs. Granular products for example, are labour intensive with a slow application process, they’re heavy and hard to transport and can negatively impact safety in high traffic pedestrian areas.

Liquid products, combined with a push spread are far more easily applied and often work faster. On top of this, due to a more even spread, a lower quantity of the product is often needed to produce similar or even superior results.

However, they can be more expensive. So, it really depends on the specific applicatrion need when making final decision.

Conclusion

Whilst there are some generic rules to think about when selecting a deicer, you need to carefully consider your individual needs; the environment that you will be applying the deicer in and the surfaces themselves.

The deicing and anti-icing product then depends on the purpose and demands for the product