Snow melt is clear winner over snow removal at condos

BY BOB MIODONSKI OF CONTRACTOR'S STAFF PARK CITY, UTAH If snow had not fallen over Memorial Day weekend here, Thornton Plumbing & Heating might have started another large snow-melt project at one of the high-end condo complexes that dot Deer Valley. In recent years, the contractor known for its radiant heating-expertise has developed a specialty in installing snowmelt systems that range from 26,000

BY BOB MIODONSKI
OF CONTRACTOR'S STAFF

PARK CITY, UTAH — If snow had not fallen over Memorial Day weekend here, Thornton Plumbing & Heating might have started another large snow-melt project at one of the high-end condo complexes that dot Deer Valley.

In recent years, the contractor known for its radiant heating-expertise has developed a specialty in installing snowmelt systems that range from 26,000 sq. ft. to 38,000 sq. ft. The projects usually begin in the April-June timeframe so that the systems are in place when the real snow begins to fall, President Clay Thornton said.

"I had a call this morning from someone who wanted to start the project in August," he told CONTRACTOR in late May. "I told him that was getting a little late in the season. We try to get into these jobs as early as we can."

So far, Thornton Plumbing & Heating has installed three of these systems, one of which was at a new construction site. Previously, the management of the other two condo complexes would have to pay to get the snow removed.

Land is so expensive that once the condo complexes are built, not much property remains for landscaped areas. That means not space to put the snow that has to be removed from driveways and common areas.

"It's so expensive to remove snow," Thornton said. "The snow is piled so high that they have to truck it out — up to 14 miles away for disposal. If they don't, it makes the complexes look terrible with the dirty brown snow.

"It destroys the landscaping. It's ruinedby the snow, the salt soaking into the dirt and the weight of the snow. They get to the point where they say, 'We can't deal with it.'"

Vice President and General Manager Ken Barney added that the snow removal process damaged more than the landscaped areas.

"The concrete in driveways was in bad shape," he said. " They really weren't designed for big loaders and other heavy equipment. And, as the snow starts to melt, you'd see this black, nasty stuff in the snow."

The contractor installed its first condo snow-melt project three years ago at a complex named Little Belle. The system covers 29,000 sq. ft.

Little Belle's management board two years ago had budgeted $18,500 for snow removal — not including the cost of trucking the snow away or any damage caused to landscaped and paved areas. The cost of operating the snow-melt system was in line with what the board had budgeted for snow removal — less than $19,000.

Thornton Plumbing & Heating finished projects at the Stirlingwood and Ironwood complexes late in 2005. Stirlingwood has 26,000 sq. ft. of snow melt, and Ironwood has 38,000 sq. ft.

Ironwood was the new construction project, and the snow-melt installation took more than a year. Little Belle and Stirlingwood both took about four months to complete.

Six to eight employees worked onsite installing tubing for each of the jobs.

The contractor did its own design, engineering and controls work on the projects. The installation cost of each project went into six figures.

Thornton Plumbing & Heating installed REHAU 3/4-in. tubing on all three jobs. The contractor used Grundfos pumps and tekmar snow-detection controls as well.

At Little Belle, the contractor doubled the size of an existing maintenance shed to house the mechanical system, which has a Cleaver-Brooks Flexible Watertube boiler as its heat source. Due to space restrictions at Stirlingwood, Thornton put Riverside Hydronics Primera boiler in a garage, which still has room to park a car. The boiler at Ironwood is a Unilux Flexible Watertube boiler.

TAGS: Snowmelt