Plastic pipes are often used in hydronic systems designed to augment the removal of snow and ice by circulating a heat transfer fluid (usually glycol and water) through pipes installed within outdoor surfaces.


Traditional methods of snow and ice removal include "mechanical" removal by snow blowers and plows, manual shoveling, and chemicals such as salt and sand. However, shoveling takes huge effort and can cause health issues. Snow blowers and plows are expensive pieces of equipment that consume much fuel and leave snowbanks behind, sometimes damaging landscaping. Salt and sand can damage both outdoor and indoor surfaces while creating environmental issues during run-off.

Modern hydronic technology can provide responsive and efficient solutions to these problems through snow and ice melting (SIM) systems. These systems have been used across North America in all climates for over 75 years. By heating the outdoor surfaces, snow and ice are melted and evaporated. These closed-loop systems include a heat source, circulating pumps, controls, and other mechanical devices such as fluid expansion tanks.


SIM systems were pioneered in the 1940s using wrought iron or steel pipes embedded in concrete. Modern SIM systems use flexible plastic tubing, typically PEX or PE-RT, the same as used for radiant heating systems. In fact, some people think of SIM systems as outdoor radiant heating systems.


Snow and Ice Melting systems are used in outdoor areas such as sidewalks, steps, driveways, ramps, parking lots, loading docks, carwashes, roadways, bridges, and even helicopter landing pads. They are used at hospitals, train stations, airports, hotels, and ski lodges, in addition to light commercial and residential applications.

These systems are used across North America in all climates. With proper design and installation, these systems provide long-term performance and reliability, as well as saving the time and energy spent on traditional snow and ice removal using mechanical equipment.


No matter what the outdoor application, benefits of hydronic snow and ice melting (SIM) systems include safety, convenience, reduced liability, minimized environmental impact, improved long-term reliability, and reduced snow removal costs. In fact, hydronic snow and ice melting systems can reduce facility operating costs by 75% or more as compared with mechanical snow removal (i.e., snowplows or trucks). SIM systems eliminate the need for frequent sanding and salting and the inconvenience and cost of snowbanks left behind. Plus, SIM systems can be fully automatic with the right controls and are always on time.

See Also

PPI has two presentations that are viewable as PDF files, or can be delivered to audiences by PPI staff over the web upon request.