Short On Salt? Think Liquids


Securing salt this year has been a huge challenge for many contractors. The price of salt and other granular ice melting materials seems to go up daily. What can a snow & ice management contractor do to alleviate this situation? Think liquids.

The buzzword this fall surrounding salt shortages and rising salt prices seems to be liquid, as in liquid deicers. Liquid ice melters can set your company apart from your competition. They offer you the opportunity to boost your profits, too.

When used properly, you can deliver them faster and more economically than granular products. They can also give your clients safer properties. How many times have you been asked by a potential client, “How quick can you be here?” By offering liquid ice melters, you can say, “Before it even snows. Is that fast enough?”

You can also advise customers that they will not have granular product laying all over their properties, granules that can be carried off of the site by tires or knocked off the target application area by traffic. And, with liquids, there is no mess left behind if it doesn’t snow.

Another advantage to liquid deicers is that they require lower application rates and fewer applications, making them more environmentally acceptable than many granular materials. Since application rates are lower per acre or mile, many times they become a better alternative than solids. Keep in mind that application rates will change with liquids the same as they change with different granular products. Regardless of your liquid product choice, the product can dry in place when applied; it stays there until activated by moisture.

Even with these advantages, many snow and ice removal contractors are still resistant to incorporate liquid deicers into their programs. Is this resistance to change by contractors a matter of fear of the unknown? Do they perceive there is way too much to learn to implement liquids into their already successful operations? It is easy to understand why successful contractors are hesitant to add new products to their operations.

Liquid ice melting products are not really that complicated. Although application rates are calculated differently for liquids compared to solids, the products are still the same products—sodium, magnesium, calcium and potassium. A few brand names include Tru-melt, Clear Lane, Ice B Gone Magic, Liquid Calcium Chloride and Apex Melt Down. There are also products, such as beet juice, pickle juice and other organics, that are available without any chloride additive at all. Additionally, certain acetates are available that contain no chlorides. For instance, potassium acetate, is what snow and ice removal professionals tend to use on runways, bridges, in parking garages and on other sensitive areas where corrosion isn’t tolerated. Although many of these products work basically the same way, they do have different characteristics. Some of these liquid products are single products and some are blended products.

Train and educate yourself about liquid deicers so you can educate your clients as to why they make sense for them. The transition for you and your clients will go smoothly if you help your customers understand how the products can benefit them in terms of performance and cost.

9 Liquid Advantages

Liquid deicers offer advantages to both contractors and their customers. That’s why contractors offering snow and ice management services should investigate how to incorporate them into their operations. Advantages to contractors include:

  1. You can spray prior to an event.
  2. It reduces overtime.
  3. You don’t have to rush to properties.
  4. You are often traveling to properties when traffic is lightest.
  5. Clients see that you are proactive.
  6. Clients feel protected and safe.
  7. Liquid deicers save your clients’ money.
  8. They give you additional time to get to the properties when it starts snowing.
  9. Plowing is easier because the snow is not bonded to the pavement,and the property requires less granular material after plowing.

Using liquid deicers gives you cleaner and safer properties faster.

Penciling costs and ROI

A common concern for using liquid deicers is that they cost too much. But when you look at equipment cost to offer this service, the entry-level equipment costs are very similar to the cost of purchasing a quality V-box-type spreader. As with any equipment, research which liquids and what type of equipment will fit your company’s needs.

Next, put a pencil to the costs of the products, where and how you will use them, and how you will price them to your clients. Base your equipment and liquid deicer selection on the types of clients you will be servicing and the production possibilities of that equipment. A few things to consider are pressurized or gravity-feed flow systems, boom sizes, nozzle spacing, side spray options and hose reels for sidewalks.

Where do you get the products? That concern can be the most challenging aspect of offering this service in some markets. However, as the popularity of offering liquid ice melters has continued to grow the past few years, finding a source for liquid products is not as challenging as it was just a few years ago. When deciding on a product to spray, take a few things into consideration, including:

The type of weather you are expecting;

Where and how you use the product;

Your client’s expectations;

Your expectations (many times your expectations will be different from your client’s expectations);

What the products cost.

How much a product costs is important. However, more important, is how well the product performs for the winter conditions you expect to face, and whether its use meets or exceeds your customers’ expectations in keeping their properties clear and safe.

Sometimes the clients’ expectations during the selling process are different than their expectations when it is actually snowing. That’s why the contractor needs to predict each client’s expectations and base product choices on these and the unique characteristics of each customer’s property, as well as the winter conditions expected for the season. What are you anticipating in terms of temperature ranges in your market? What are you expecting in terms of snow and ice? Are you treating roads, concrete, parking garages, entrances to buildings with marble entranceways, wood ramps or some other types of surfaces?

Weigh these variables when selecting the right liquid deicers. Consider also that you will find many situations where you will be using a combination of liquid deicers and granular products. Finally, be aware that there will be times, conditions and events that do not allow for a liquid application. There may also be times when they offer no benefits to either yourself or your clients. So, why waste the time and money?

But, by and large, liquids can be a win-win situation for everyone involved. Educate yourself about them so you will have the confidence to know and understand why liquid ice melters are great tools you can offer your clients.