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JLeslie's avatar

Is heating the streets for snow removal cheaper than snowplows?

Asked by JLeslie (65558points) March 10th, 2021 from iPhone

In Holland, MI, USA the streets are heated with underground tubing. Here’s an article:

A friend was wondering if it’s cost effective.

Seems like a great idea.

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8 Answers

elbanditoroso's avatar

Maybe in small areas it works – they talk about 10 acres of heated sidewalks and streets, and mention that they’re using “waste heat”. So for 10 acres, it might work.

I think that for a full city (keep in mind that Holland has a population of 33,000, which is tiny), there wouldn’t be sufficient “waste heat” – whatever that is, and the building and upkeep cost would be immense. Imagine doing this in Chicago, New York, or even a smaller city like Cleveland.- the costs would be huge.

While it’s not a bad idea, the cost of building and maintaining this sort of infrastructure would far outweigh the cost of plows.

Finally, the article mentioned that the maximum melt was only 1” per hour. That means in a serious blizzard, it would be worthless.

jca2's avatar

I’m guessing that the streets would have to be dug up or cut in order to lay the tubing. Factor in that cost – the labor cost, the cost for new asphalt, etc.

kritiper's avatar

No. Here they’re changing all of the street lamps to LED because the 29,000 to 30,000 sodium lamps cost an extra $60,000 in electricity in a year. Heating elements take even more electricity. The cost to maintain, install, replace would be astronomical!

JLeslie's avatar

@jca2 I think it would only be a consideration in new cities or new neighborhoods, or cities redoing a lot of streets.

NYC and my college campus use steam heat for heating through a central system. I wonder if those lines could be used. I guess if the lines are too close to the surface it’s counterproductive maybe.

chyna's avatar

This is a small example of what I know about heated roads:
My brother built his own house and as it was on a bit of a hill, installed a heated driveway. We had an ice storm, so he turned it on for a partial day, not an entire day. His electric bill went up 300.00 for that month. He never used it again.

zenvelo's avatar

Well it would only make sense in places that get a lot of snow. Be a waste of money in Georgia, despite their lack of snow removal equipment.

I don’t think it would even be worthwhile in Chicago or NY city. Those places seem to be able to handle the snow pretty well.

KRD's avatar

In small areas but big streets.

JLeslie's avatar

Where I grew up we parked our cars on the street in front of our houses. When the snow fell the plow would come through and the snow was pushed behind the cars on our side of the street, or behind the cars on the other side of the street. Meaning, one group of people had to dig out a lot more snow than the other. Neighbors help each other and they try to alternate the sides each snowfall. If it just melted away that would be amazing.

When I lived in the South, Tennessee and North Carolina, the ice on the roads was incredible. So dangerous. Too warm in those states. We didn’t often have that problem north of the Mason Dixon line. Even in Maryland we didn’t have that problem most years.

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