Free and clear with electric snow-melt systems
Electric snow-melt system makes it easier for Jackson Hole, Wyo., residents to hit the slopes.
When you reside in the extremely popular ski resort town of Jackson Hole, Wyo., either full time or just for a weekend getaway, easy access to the ski slopes is critical. Same goes for the shops, the dining and the entertainment venues that the popular vacation spot has to offer.
So, the developers of the 116-unit Pine Glades condominium complex — which is just a mere seven blocks from the town’s square — found it crucial to install an effective low-voltage electric radiant snow-melt system. The developers tabbed Heatizon and its Tuff Cable snow-melting system for the road, sidewalks and parking area at the Pine Glades complex.
Ryan Bench, Heatizon’s distribution manager, is based in Murray, Utah, but was onsite for a majority of the construction.
“The system has approximately 25,000 sq. ft. of cable,” Bench says. “About two-thirds of that is for the main road and the remaining one-third is for the sidewalk and the parking area. The driveways do not have snow melt because the garage doors end right at the street.”
Longtime Heatizon product distributor and former general contractor Rob Scroggin, owner of All-Around Radiant Heating and Homestead Furniture in Cottage Grove, Ore., was the only person Heatizon thought was right for the Pine Glades job.
“We did not pick Rob to do this project; he developed it on his own, with our assistance, all the way through the sales process to the final installation and startup,” Bench explains. “His experience speaks for itself; we had no issue with him taking on this type of project.”
The problem was presented to Scroggin and he was confident he could meet the requirements. “The property’s road has a 28% grade slope and the system needs to melt snow on the road for a quarter mile,” Scroggin says. “I said we could do that. I’ve done that here in Oregon.”
Scroggin’s experience — which includes working with hydronic systems and working overseas in Japan — was tested early and often. He and his crew had to be flexible during the Pine Glades job.
“We made several changes to the system because there were changes made to the road structure plan,” he says. “But the biggest challenge was to figure out how to get enough power to the different places in the snow-melt system. The maximum distance we can go is 280 ft. — 560 ft. of total cable — because you have to go up and come back to a power source.
“It was always a fluid design. From the very beginning to the finished product we had to change where we had the power stations twice. It wasn’t something that was a fixed unit because we didn’t know where we could put things until the last minute.”
The application was designed as a preferential zone system. The snow-melt system turns on when the quad-sensing pavement-mounted temperature sensor feels snow falling onto the road, which is Zone 1. Once the snow is all clear from the bottom of the development’s tunnel entrance to the condos, the sidewalk and parking area section (Zone 2) will turn on.
“The benefit of the two-zone system is that the road remains functional at all costs, as it is the main method of accessing the residences,” Bench says. “The sidewalk and parking area can be completely shut off; the area is less of a priority because that system is meant to be more of a convenience. Both zones can operate together manually. But, if they operate only by the sensors, then the road will always be the first option.”
Pine Glades’ snow-melt system uses a plethora of Heatizon’s M329 Selector Boxes that allow for an easy phasing of power to each individual circuit, preventing circuit overload.
Finding the space for all the selector boxes needed to handle the job was another challenge for Scroggin. The job required one major “vault” dedicated for the road’s electric radiant system and another smaller bunker for the parking lot and sidewalks.
“Oh, that was a real fun job,” Scroggin says with a chuckle. “We got there and were asked, ‘What’s the minimum amount of space you need to get these boxes in?’ There are about 90 total boxes — five to a row — in the big control room. Each of those transformers weighs 95 lb. and getting them down from an unfinished hill to a little bunker was difficult. It took about a week to put together.”
Scroggin’s team worked for two weeks on the design of the system. He made four trips down to the development as installation of the system took another 10 days.
The Pine Glades system meets ASHRAE standards for the region for snow melt. The systems are required to use 26 W per sq. ft. and the Tuff Cable was installed on 5 in. centers for the proper wattage output. After all the cable was installed and operational, the team decided to lay down a base of sand evenly over the cable before laying the asphalt.
Sanding and laying the asphalt took another two weeks and the project was ready to be tested.
“The only thing we had to worry about regarding plumbing was the drains for the run-off water,” Scroggin notes.
Testing the system began in the dead of winter, and Scroggin and his crew put on a nice show for the local inspectors.
“People were really pleased,” he says. “We surprised a few of the inspectors. When we first finished the job and fired up the system for a test, it was below zero outside. They opened up the fire hydrants at the top of the hill and sent water gushing down the road to see how the system would do.
“They wanted to see if water would actually go into the tunnel made at the development. No water even reached the tunnel. The water evaporated before it got to the tunnel. It just went away. It was pretty surprising. It was below zero outside and points of the road were about 40° F.”