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How It Works: Heated sidewalks, how the concept began

Heated sidewalks, should Canada dream big or dream on?

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    Friday, January 24, 2014, 12:31 PM -

    Imagine a world where you could step outside your front door in the middle of a snow storm and not even think about picking up a shovel. Imagine going for a jog the day after an ice storm and not having to worry about an embarrassing or painful slip halfway through your 5 km. Imagine a world where your children don't run the risk of being clipped by a vehicle on the way to school all because a sidewalk wasn't shoveled and the road was the only visible form of concrete in sight.

    For some this is not just a hopeless dream, but a reality.

    The volcanic island of Iceland has used geothermal heat to keep its roadways and sidewalks clear of snow and ice for the past 10 years. The snow-melting system is used in the capital city of Reykjavk, where ground water from the earth's crust is used to generate electricity and heat 95% of all buildings.

    The underground hot springs range from 100 to 300°C. The run-off water, which is about 30°C, is piped into plastic tubing inside Reykjavk city streets, parking lots and sidewalks, thus keeping them clear all year long.

    So in a country like Canada, where more than five million tonnes of road salt is used each year, why hasn't anyone considered such an alternative?

    SEE ALSO: 'HOW IT WORKS: How do aquariums feed all those fish?'

    As mentioned in the video above, Saskatoon, Sask has considered an environmental approach to snow removal through connections with nearby public buildings or the recapture of waste energy. But what about the rest of the country? Would something like this even be possible? What would that mean for city workers who maintain our roads throughout winter months? Would the cost of running and maintaining the effort outweigh the benefits?

    In this latest installment of How It Works, we propose these questions and more to city officials and residents from coast to coast. Be sure to check back on our site this Saturday and Sunday to see who's hot on the idea, and who would rather keep the current model frozen, so long as they're in charge!

    TUNE IN: 'GO WEST: Find out Saturday what western Canada has to say about snow-free city streets. The public's reaction may surprise you!'

    Want to find out how something works? Tweet us @weathernetwork using the hashtag #twnhowitworks.

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