As Pennsylvanians, we're used to dealing with harsh winters. We dread the days when we have to shovel our driveways, scrape the ice from our car, and wait for it to heat up. Luckily, technological innovations have changed the way we deal with the snow and the cold by essentially allowing us to avoid it completely. Here is a look at some of the ways that science has changed how we handle winter weather.
Today, after each snowfall, both homeowners and plow truck drivers use road salt to keep snow and ice at bay and prevent accidents. After the number of highways throughout the U.S. increased substantially in the 1950's, road salt became the most popular product used to melt ice since it's proven to reduce car collisions by 88% and injuries by 85%. However, over the past few years, road salt prices have increased tremendously due to a limited supply. Municipalities currently pay $65 to $100 per ton of rock salt and private companies pay around $150 per ton of rock salt making snow removal a $2 billion industry each year.
Due to the dwindling availability of road salt, transportation officials rely on alternative methods to make roads and sidewalks safe after large storms. As a result, many large cities now use sand or brine, a mixture of salt and water, because they are cheaper alternatives. Recently, unconventional substitutes for road salt in some U.S. cities have even included liquid cheese brine and beet juice. These substances are somewhat harder to produce, yet they are less expensive and more environmentally friendly.
During the winter, many residents feel their streets are not plowed in a timely manner and they have no information telling them when their street will finally be plowed. To deal with this problem, large cities like NYC and Buffalo have recently created online snow plow maps that let residents know when their street will get plowed and when it was last plowed. If residents see that their street is not being plowed anytime soon, they can call the Division of Citizen Services to file a snow removal request. The requests are sent to "smart snow plows," which are equipped with a GPS system to locate the streets that need plowing.
"Smart snow plows" can also take note of potholes, measure road temperature, and measure the amount of salt remaining on the street. Hopefully these tools will soon become available in all cities across the country.
For many people, one of the worst parts of winter is getting into an freezing-cold car and scraping ice from windows and windshields. Fortunately, many cars now come with a remote car starter so your windows can defrost before you even get in the car. Although not all cars come equipped with one, over one million remote car starters are sold and installed each year. They can range from $50-$400 depending on how advanced the system is. Remote car starters also eliminate any worries you may have about leaving your car running with the keys inside. To some this may seem like an unnecessary luxury, but in the cold Pennsylvania winter, a remote car starter can make a big difference in your daily routine.
If there's one thing that's better than getting in a pre-warmed and defrosted car, it might be not having to shovel your driveway to get your car out. The heated driveway makes this possible. They have become more widespread and work similarly to indoor floor heating systems. It is recommended that homeowners invest in new driveways to install this system so that tubing can be more easily run underneath the driveway. The heating system can be controlled by a switch or it can be set to automatically activate when snow is present. Heated driveways are every homeowners dream, yet unfortunately, they cost around $7,000-$9,000 depending on whether the driveway is made of asphalt or concrete.
As winter storms continue to get more intense, new technological innovations are created to make dealing with the snow less painful. While not everyone has access to the newest snow removal technology, you must remember that it is crucial to clear your walkways, driveways, and windshields, even if you have to do it the old-fashioned way. Remember that as a property owner, you are legally responsible for any injury or damage that occurs on your property due to improper snow removal.