Snowmelt systems are often thought of as a luxury expenditure. Seldom are they considered a sound financial decision. However, there are many reasons to consider snow melting systems, and they can even be looked at as a financial investment. Dan Holohan eloquently echoes our view on snowmelt systems in his article "The politics of snow-melt systems." Sure, snow melting systems are luxurious. But, in many cases, snowmelt systems can save money in the long run and have benefits that are often unduly discounted. Here is a break down of the factors that play into the return on investment of a snow melting system:
1. Long-term Cost Savings
When compared to the costs associated with manual snow removal, snow melting can actually cost less in the long run. According to Dan's article a 3,000 ft2 sidewalk snowmelt system cost the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY) $50,000 to install and $2,500 a year to operate. Prior costs to manually maintain snow and ice were $8,500 for overtime labor, salt and chemicals, and interior cleaning. Using these numbers, this system begins to save the DASNY $6,000 per year after just 8 years. Payback periods can be significantly shortened if the system is also used to harness solar energy from the pavement.
2. Environmental Savings
Snowmelt systems eliminate the need for salts and harsh chemicals intended to remove and prevent ice. When the snow and ice melts and turns to water, this water transfers the salt and chemicals into the surrounding environment. This can lead to dead plants and salt laden runoff into streams and rivers. Reducing the use of chemicals not only saves money, but it helps the environment as well.
3. Preservation of Aesthetics
The use of erosive materials, abrasive snow removal methods, and thermal shock has harsh consequences on the aesthetics and lifespan of pavements. Furthermore, salt and chemicals are brought indoors via pedestrian traffic and can deteriorate interior flooring made of granite, carpeting, and hardwoods.
By not having to manually remove snow, you reduce injury liability for both staff and pedestrians. Dan's article quotes that, "Snow and ice removal is one of the most physically damaging aspects of facility management." Liability can bear a huge cost when it comes to slip-and-fall accidents. Snowmelt systems can help reduce the liability risk for owners. This is a huge factor when one lawsuit could cost thousands of dollars.
The cost of a snowmelt system depends on many variables, meaning the payback period will be different for any specific system. It is important to look beyond the basic financial analysis of a snowmelt system and realize that there are many benefits that can drastically shorten the ROI. Take it from architect, and sustainability director of the DASNY, Jodi Smits Anderson when she tells Dan Holohan, "I would recommend snow melt in every capital project involving sidewalks in a snowy area." We would take that one step further and include pedestal mounted patios and terraces.
To learn more about snow melting options, and other applications, download our product brochure. As always, contact us with any questions you may have about ThermaPANEL or snow melting systems in general.