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Aztec Cannon 07-24-20 01:00 PM

Passive Snowmelt
Needing input on a driveway snowmelt idea. I once knew an eccentric proprietor of solar/hydronic/heat pump equipment who I would have asked this question before he passed. He once said to me that people complained about snowmelt systems not working after a snowfall. The problem was that they turned on their systems after a storm dumped two feet of snow on their driveway. The system would melt the snow touching the driveway and leave a cavity that made melting the rest of the snow problematic as it would cost a ton to melt the rest of it.
My question is simply, if one sets up a system where the goal is to maintain a constant concrete surface temp of 40 or so by running the system pump all the time with no additional heat input other than what you get from the loops under the driveway; would that be enough to keep it clear as you would be melting the snow as it fell? Something to keep in mind, I live in SLC where the average high in January is 36.
My apologies if this question is ridiculous. If it is, I hope you get a good laugh out of it. Otherwise, I'd really like to know if this is feasible.

MN Renovator 07-25-20 09:15 PM

With absolute perfect efficiency and the heat only being in contact with the snow to melt it, it takes 288,000BTU of heat to melt a ton of frozen water(snow in this case). If you've ever shoveled a heavy snowfall, you know how heavy it is and how much work it is to dig out a driveway. Now add the inefficiencies like a very large uninsulated surface that is in direct contact to the air, wind, and ground below it and you might slowly realize that using a heated driveway is one very expensive and incredibly huge waste of resources to clear snow. IMO, doing this with solar in the winter isn't likely to do much unless you've got an impractically huge storage tank that stored the heat before the snow clouds come in. I'm not talking about 80 gallon solar storage tanks, that won't do anything.

Seriously, try to take a weed burner torch and try to melt some ice, or pour a 5 gallon bucket of hot water on some snow and see how little it does, then consider how much more it takes to clear an entire driveway of snow. It's significantly cheaper to buy a snowblower, both for the equipment and it's usage.

If you want to be lazy, pay a snow removal company to clear the snow for you. If you want to do it with the least environmental impact, an electric snowblower would be better. ..but even a ****ty 2-stroke gas snowblower will still be better for the environment than using natural gas, propane, or electricity to heat a driveway to clear it of snow.

Hope this information is useful, I'm from Minnesnowta.

jeff5may 07-30-20 01:42 PM

It's a balance point relationship. How much heating budget do you want to shell out for the level of melting capacity? Just like design temperature of home insulation and balance point of air source heat pumps.

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