WARWICK, N.Y. — The situation seemed ideal — idyllic, even. A professional couple had found their dream home here in this picturesque town about 60 miles northwest of New York City. The husband a pharmacist, the wife a dentist, it proved the perfect retreat from their busy workday lives. Accessible via a secondary road and set 800-ft. back from that by a long, winding driveway that had in some sections a 23-degree grade, it had all the privacy they wanted.
Then came the first few heavy snowfalls, the first early morning ice patches, and the homeowners realized the bind they were in. Some bad days found them parking at the foot of their driveway and climbing the 800-ft. up to the house. The isolation they had wanted was keeping them from enjoying their home, was causing problems running their home (the oil trucks couldn’t make it up the grade in bad weather) and was potentially endangering their lives.
After being told at first their situation was hopeless, the homeowners began looking into an electric radiant snowmelt system. Eventually a sales representative for the Warmzone system from Danfoss put them in touch with Ron Charnecky, the owner/operator of Snowmelt Inc.
Charnecky has been working with mechanical systems for more than 30 years, installing refrigeration, heating, air conditioning and controls solutions for residential, industrial and commercial clients. “We’re a family-owned company,” Charnecky said, “We keep everybody more than 40-hours-a-week busy.”
The seven-man, five-truck company operates out of Ringwood, N.J., with a 200-mile range of operation from the Hamptons to South Jersey. While Charnecky’s brother and cousin are now running the mechanical contracting side of the business, Charnecky himself is focusing on the snowmelt side — and the way the company sells its systems demands a high degree of focus.
“We offer a turnkey solution,” Charnecky said. “That’s our biggest offering to our customers. Whether it’s getting past the proposals, the return visits, the site surveys, dealing with everybody from the utilities to the municipalities, from the design to the drafting, from the electricians to the landscapers, masons, pavers, asphalters, we make it a single package for the client, and within the budget they require. One phone call to make, one check to write.”
From inception to completion, Charnecky can complete most projects within 90 days — if the utility companies don’t drag their feet. The Snowmelt Inc. crew used two, 20-HP slot cutters to cut 1/4 –in. wide, 2 to 4-in. deep grooves for Danfoss ClearZone radiant heat cable. Since electric radiant cable is narrow enough to be installed with minimal damage to existing asphalt, Chernecky has been able to save his customers tens of thousands of dollars that would otherwise go towards repairing the surface.
“How do you tell a person to rip up and replace their driveway?” Chernecky asked.
At the top of the hill, around the garage area, Snowmelt Inc. installed a complete mat area to prevent slipping and falling.
“We won’t do, like, a 20x20-ft. area on one wire,” Chernecky said. “We tend to run single elements where we can, so if one should drop out the other 19 or the other nine can do the job, and the customer can still get in and out.”
Some cold milling was involved in preparing the pad area. Eight hundred amp service was brought in and a new primary transformer added to the property. Chernecky used in-ground sensors and controllers from OJ Electronics, a Danish company with offices in Glenview, Ill.
“Here’s a job where overrun played a factor,” he explained.
The control can be set to run up to six hours past satisfying for a certain set of conditions in order to clear problem areas where shade or excess moisture might play a factor.
“That versatility is where the OJ controller really has it over the competition,” he said.
Digital controls and readouts on the OJ products allow for accuracies to within a tenth of a degree. Rather than put all the controls into the garage area, Snowmelt Inc. built a small control shed.
“All the controls, all the wiring is off-site,” Chernecky said, “never mind that now he’s got a little bit of extra room for his bicycles and his lawnmower.”
The system, when activated, produces a contact click from the connectors followed by a barely audible hum.
The finished system is more than 95% efficient. Almost all the power to the system goes towards the removal of snow and ice, “Minus the power to a couple of small controls here and there,” Chernecky said. “We’re talking maybe one amp out of 800.”
After the first season with the snowmelt up and running, Chernecky returned to fine-tune the system and get some customer feedback.
“The guy’s tickled pink,” he said, describing the customer’s reactions to seeing snow and ice almost magically disappear.
“The wife can get in and out. It was the worst thing trying to get down that long driveway — you get white knuckles! Sometimes it’s that 16th of an inch of snow more than the 6-in. of snow that really bothers you.”
Thermal Engineering LLC warms to condo snowmelt job
Snowmelt System Exceeds Expectations