STEP® Snowmelt Vs. Traditional Snow Melting Systems

Green Wave Distribution ~

Traditional snowmelt systems, like electric cables or hydronic, are based upon an on/off concept. The systems are activated either before or at the start of snowfall and use a great deal of electricity (30-50 W per square foot) to keep the surrounding area above 32 degrees. After melting the snow, the systems must remain on to prevent melt runoff from refreezing. This process can last for hours or even days at a time. Once the system is no longer needed, its power is turned off.

Typically, these systems are either hydronic or electric. Hydronic systems use a boiler to heat a mixture of water and antifreeze, which is then pumped through tubing that is embedded in the heated surface. The tubing is laid in an “S” pattern to evenly distribute the heat throughout the area. Electric cable systems are available in the form of mats or spools of cable. These cables are thick and high wattage. Like hydronic systems, the cable is installed in an “S” pattern to distribute the heat. Some electric systems offer mats that come with the cable pre-installed in mesh.

What is STEP Snowmelt?

STEP Snowmelt system takes an entirely different approach to snow melting. The low wattage heating elements provide significant energy efficiency compared to most on/off high energy systems. The STEP Snowmelt heating method uses a thermal reservoir to provide the heat required during a snow event.

What is a thermal bed?

A thermal reservoir is special kind of system that always remains at constant temperature even though energy is added or removed by heat transfer.

How is the thermal bed created?

Vertical insulation is installed along the edges of the heated surface to create a thermal barrier. The barrier prevents cold from creeping into the ground beneath the heated surface, allowing the system to use the earth’s natural heat to maintain the heated surface above freezing. The key to creating the thermal bed is to turn the heating elements on before the ground begins to freeze. The ground freezes from the top-down, and the heat barrier will prevent the cold from creeping in from the top sides. The open bottom freely lets the earth’s geothermal energy rise and keeps the thermal bed at a minimum of 55°F. Once turned on, the system remains energized during the snow season to maintain the thermal bed.

What is the benefit?

The use of a thermal bed allows the STEP Snowmelt system to operate at a lower energy output than traditional systems. The result is substantial consumption savings, no wasteful overheating, and elimination of finished surface damage due to thermal cycle shock. STEP Snowmelt heating elements are covered by a 10-year outdoor use limited warranty and powered using safe, low voltage current (24-50 volts AC or DC) that requires no third wire grounding, or ground fault devices.

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