Heated Roads Is The Answer To Snow Chaos

Sign my e-petition about heated roads – Click here

Much of the UK woke up this morning to a couple of inches of snow and I can imagine that for many people the daily commute to work was a nightmare. Our roads are clogged at the best of times and all it takes is a minor incident like a broken down vehicle to cause absolute mayhem. The situation is even worse when the snow falls. It can take hours to travel a distance that would normally take minutes and the situation is compounded by drivers who do not know how to drive in snow.

I have often thought that there has to be a better way to keep our roads clear of snow, ice and frost in winter so I did a bit of investigating using Google. I have often thought that heated roads would be a great idea, and now I have discovered that the technology does actually exist ! In summer our tarmac road surfaces generate an incredible amount of heat. If you have ever touched or walked barefoot across a tarmac road you will have noticed that the road surface is very hot, that is because tarmac acts as a giant solar panel.

In Holland they are experimenting with tarmac heating. Approximately 33m sq of tarmac is required to heat each 100m sq of a house.  A small area of tarmac (10 x 40m) can generate 108mW of energy per annum.

The system works by storing heat in aquifers in the ground and then it can be pumped up for heating purposes in the winter. In addition co2 emmissions are reduced by between 50% and 90% and there are many other benefits as well.

Typically, an airport runway could heat 2500 homes !

It’s been calculated in Holland that if 15% of Dutch roadways had the Road Energy System, more energy than all the combined utilities in Holland would be produced. 

The lifespan of roads is prolonged about two-fold as they can be kept cool during the summer and frost-free during the winter.  Resurfacing costs are typically halved as maintenance is reduced accordingly.  Traffic jams are decreased as there’s reduced road maintenance and bad weather doesn’t impede drivers as badly.  

Icy surfaces don’t have to be sprayed with salt – an obvious cost saving for local authorities and an ideal solution for airports (it’s not possible to spray airport runways with salt; the Road Energy System resolves the problem of ice on runways).

I think that it is solutions like this that need to be looked at. There will be an initial cost but the long term cost benefits are considerable. Even if a small percentage of the UK road network can be heated then our most important bits of the road network can be kept running.

Click here to sign my heated roads e-petition

The following photo is how snow free heated roads would look.

Snow free heated road

11 comments

  1. Great idea.
    I’ve been looking at this myself and it all makes so much sense. You don’t even need to store the summer tarmac heat in a seasonal heat store to heat the road in winter. If you just have a piping loop (filled with antifreeze or brine) which passes in a grid under the road, then passes through another grid a few metres down in the ground, that would take heat from deep in the ground (normally stable around 10 degrees even in winter) and bring it to the surface to heat the road. The only energy required would be to power a pump and you would save energy from mining, transporting and spreading road salt. I’m sure this could be built into motorway design with the deeper grid under the foundations and the upper grid just under the road surface.

    You could of course run the pump in the summer to take the surface heat down into the ground and cool the road to stop it melting. That would heat the ground and act like a seasonal heat store. I agree though, that it would be even better to use the summer heat productively.

    My motivation for this is having to clear snow from my drive morning and night. Much better just to turn a pump on (using overnight tariff) and melt it. I would have thought airports would love this sort of system to keep the runways open.

    1. Tony. Thanks for your comments and I’m glad that you think it’s a good idea. As ever though, politicians don’t see the bigger picture until it’s too late. Preventing roads freezing would save an incredible amount of money in filling potholes and other road repairs. It would only need the major roads to be heated to prevent the chaos that we see so often when the snow comes. Keeping the traffic flowing would save all those lost working hours and make the country more productive.

  2. i to have been thinking about this problem i think your ideas are good i think we should not keep moaning about it maybe do somthing about it and make some money of it ive got some idears on how to make it pay for it self get back to me my name is matt useing my gf email

  3. I just had a similar idea today, and thought i’d google it to see if anything similar already existed. This idea of harnassing the heat from the tarmac is better than mine however, since i was thinking more of a conductive netting (similar to the ones in the rear windscreen of cars) being layed just under the surface of the roads. Since it only needs a slight electric current to raise the temperature of the surface, it would be easy to stop snow and ice forming. In addition to the future cost savings you mentioned, private businesses would also benefit since they lose alot of money yearly due to not being able to get stock to their shops etc. Local councils wouldnt need to rush out and salt roads, which is ineffective anyway. It does seem we have very antiquated methods for dealing with the snow and ice, and it wreaks havoc every year, as you said it is definately a technology that should be invested in.

  4. Doug. Thanks for your comments. Since the year 2000 the Dutch have been using a type of tarmac that retains heat. At that time it cost twice as much as normal tarmac. I would have thought though that with more research and new technologies coming along those costs would reduce enough to make it viable.

  5. i am currently doing an engineering project on heated roads against the use of grit and salt and i would just like to thank you all for your feedback, it has greatly helped my project.

  6. my brother was in a serious accident on one of the worse bridges in the area i live in. it was up until his accident where i want to go ahead and propose this technology to the township. this bridge has been an on going issue with black ice since its first has been developed, even from the mildest snow falls we receive. i would love to hear back from someone as soon as possible with any type of information of cost to implement this great life saving idea.

      1. I have created an e-petition about this subject and I’m just waiting for confirmation that it has been accepted !

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

eighteen − sixteen =