How Much Salt Is Needed To Deice Roads?
While a ton of salt may sound like a great deal to the household consumer, the truth is that a ton of salt only removes about one cubic yard of snow or ice from a road. This can add up to a hefty expenditure for small businesses and local government agencies, which of course translates either to higher taxes or increased safety concerns for those without a large deicing budget. Clearly, at upwards of $50.00 per ton, and at one ton per cubic yard, salt for roads is a major city expenditure.
Minimizing The Cost Of Road Salt
There are a few simple steps which will help minimize the cost of salt for roads. Firstly, road salt is often mixed with sand which “stretches” the effectiveness of the road salt itself. The idea is to lower the freezing point of water (a natural property of sodium chloride), thereby causing the snow or ice to melt. The sand not only increases the traction of vehicles on the road, but increases the communication of salt into crevices of snow and ice. While salt for roads is certainly effective, simple additives like sand will make this major safety expenditure more feasible for cities and businesses with smaller budgets.
When Salt For Roads Is Most Effective
Because sodium chloride only lowers the freezing point of water to a certain degree, salt for roads is most effective between temperatures of 5 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The higher the temperature, the more effective the road salt, since melting is a cumulative chemical reaction. Below this point, the melting process is very slow, or does not occur at all. However, since most areas which require salt for roads face hazards in this temperature window, road salt is usually the most viable and cost-effective option. Also, most transit requiring safety measures occurs during the day, when the day’s heat assists the salt in melting ice and snow.
Rock salt (salt for roads) is the most popular way to remove snow and ice, since it is far cheaper than calcium chloride or other chemicals which could replace road salt. Even if such chemicals become more feasible in the future, many of these (ironically) require large amounts of salt in the production process. Salt for roads is still popular because there is little to be done to the salt after it leaves the ground.
Check out our previuos article on road salt for deicing.