Jerry Mann

While the use of liquid deicers continues to become more and more common among snow and ice removal contractors, understanding key selling points of this product can help ease clients minds and avoid potential pitfalls.

Enhanced safety on the client site is one helpful tactic in selling the product, says Matt Scott, director of operations, of Troy Clogg Landscape Associates, LLC.

“The utilization of the liquid allows us to do some pre-treatment applications that, from an ice and snow standpoint, doesn’t allow that to bond so that when we come in and clear after the snow has occurred, or the ice has occurred, that we get a cleaner surface after we’re done,” he says.

Troy Clogg Landscape Associates is a landscape business and snow removal company based in Wixom, Mich. Clients are primarily large commercial and industrial clients, airports, manufacturing plants, things of that nature.

The company uses a brine solution made of sodium chloride and calcium chloride. This solution has been used for about three years now, primarily in parking lot situations. Each year the use of the product grows, Scott says.

Environmental safety

Using environmentally-friendly products is increasingly important to clients, Scott says.

“Especially now, and with us being in the Great Lakes and having a lot of local waterways that we work around, being environmentally conscious is a really big selling point,” he says.

Snow contractors can sell liquid deicer to clients as one tool in their arsenal, says Dale Keep, owner, of Ice & Snow Technologies, Inc. based in Walla Walla, Wash.

Keep, who goes by the nickname the “Ice Man” works as an independent contractor, consulting with agencies looking to hire snow and ice removal service, and with contractors themselves helping by writing specs for their contracts, making sure they have proper equipment in place for the job and more.

“(Contractors should say) we have an assortment of tools, and we are the company that tries to use the right tool at the right time in the right way to deliver quality service,” Keep says. “One of those tools happens to be a liquid. Then give them a brief description of why you think it’s important, but the main thing is to come across as a professional.”

Client-level education should be straightforward.

“You wouldn’t educate them to the level you would one of your drivers, but at least educate them so when they look out the window and see you putting down a liquid, that they understand why you’re doing it,” Keep says.

Denver Preston says when marketing Beet Heet to government agencies, two selling points are that the product can save money and is better for the environment.

“If they can boost the performance of their rock salt or boost the performance of their sodium chloride brine, then they’re going to use much less of it,” he says. “When you take a look at the budgets of these (agencies), a majority of their budget goes for buying rock salt.”

Water quality concerns in the Great Lakes is a natural selling point for clients in the Midwest, Preston says. “Once rock salt is dispersed into the environment, it will be in that environment virtually forever,” he adds.

Xtreme Snow Pros has been offering liquid deicing to clients for about seven years. “We make our own brine ourselves, so we make it and that is our primary product. Then we mix it with other products,” says Chris Marino, president of Xtreme Snow Pros. “We do a ratio depending on the temperatures.”

Marino says he also explains to clients that liquid deicer can actually leave less “mess” on a property. Liquid deicer can be sprayed precisely with little overspray.

“It dries and you hardly know we were there,” he says. “There’s no tracking into their building and it’s better coverage. When you pre-treat using salt, it scatters and cars drive over it and it moves more.”

Xtreme Snow Pros provides snow management to corporate, government, shopping centers and malls throughout New Jersey and New York.

Lastly, don’t forget to tell the client the effectiveness of the product.

“You get excellent results from it,” Marino says. “You’re not only burning off half-inch to an inch of snow up front, is you’re preventing an ice bond, so you’re making the property safer.”

Far less liquid deicing product is needed, per application, when compared with traditional rock salt, he says.

“Typically, we’re spraying 40 gallons per acre for pre-treatment,” Marino says. “With salt application, it could be 750 pounds an acre. One ton of salt, so 2,000 pounds of salt, makes 1,000 gallons of pre-treatment in liquid.”

Common questions

Even with liquid deicers gaining popularity, clients typically still have a few questions.

“They’re afraid that it’s going to freeze and make the situation worse, so we’ve got to dispel that notion,” Scott says. “When you put it down it does make the sidewalk look wet for a little bit, 30 minutes to an hour. Then it dries and it’s invisible.”

During the winter season, about 300 people work for Troy Clogg Landscape Associates. A handful of subcontractors also help out. The company’s annual revenue is $12 million.

Clients usually want to know why a contractor is using a liquid deicer, Keep says. “They’re used to seeing a solid,” he adds. “They’re used to seeing material, and all of a sudden a liquid is something new to them.”

At Ice & Snow Technologies, questions about what the product is made of are common.

“We tell them what’s in it,” Preston says. “We also tell them what’s in it to explain why it performs so well.”

Hallerphotos

Application use

Keep teaches a two-day class on how to use deicers efficiently.

“Just light snow or a really heavy frost, or light black ice,” he says. “A liquid ahead of the storm, and assuming you do it properly, you’ll never see the ice. Or you follow up and you instantly have a wet surface.”

Other times, solid deicers perform best.

“The other extreme is something happens and you get behind the curve, and all of a sudden you’ve got snow bottom and for deicing, if the depth is more than a minimal amount, the best tool is solid deicer,” Keep says.

Both tools should be used in conjunction for effective snow and ice removal.

“I am a firm believer in liquids, but liquids will never replace solids,” Keep says. “They’re two different tools. They have two different uses. And an efficient program, involves both.”

Marino says the use of liquid deicer is up to his team to determine at each client property. Xtreme Snow Pros, serving locations in New York and New Jersey, employs 150 people during peak snow season and has an annual revenue of approximately $4 million to $4.4 million.

“It’s our decision to decide on what the best product for the scenario is,” he says. “In some situations, if the conditions aren’t right for liquids, we’re going to apply a treated salt or a rock salt.”

Cautions with use

One potential deterrent associated with liquid deicer use is if the client has never used the product before, there will be some up-front costs associated with getting started, says Preston, sales manager for winter products at K-Tech Specialty Coatings, Inc.

K-Tech Specialty Coatings, Inc., is a family-owned asphalt paving company based in Ashley, Ind., that began offering liquid deicing product to highway maintenance agencies.

“When these liquid deicers came on the scene, it just seemed like a natural for us, so we’ve been doing it now for about eight years,” he says. “Our product, the name of it is Beet Heet. It’s an organic-based liquid deicer. It’s environmentally friendly. It is just what I would classify as a high-performance liquid deicer. We have over 200 government agencies in the Great Lakes region that use our product.”

Liquid tanks for equipment are needed, including for trucks and salt spreaders, in order to begin offering liquid application, Preston says.

That deterrent can be negated quickly by savings accumulated through using liquid deicer. “The savings that they generate by using less rock salt and less brine, would pay for those investments in really short order,” Preston says.

Another potential pitfall associated with a liquid deicer is the possibility that the liquid will refreeze. Contractors also need to know how to properly mix the liquid.

“Any potential provider of snow removal service has to be educated on is the proper mixing ratios and the proper times to use a liquid deicer,” Scott says.

If early, or late season rainfall is expected, along with snowfall, liquid deicer is typically not the best product to use, Scott says.

“It’s going to get washed off,” Scott says. “The rock salt and the granular deicers are going to be better in a situation like that.”

Holly Hammersmith is a Cleveland-based writer and frequent Snow Magazine contributor.