Watching Snow Melt

I told my wife last night that I really enjoyed watching snow melt. As she picked herself up off of the floor and stopped laughing, knowing that I wasn’t as boring as that comment might suggest, she acknowledged that I probably meant something more than the literal translation of the words that came out of my mouth.

What I meant when I made that statement was that I enjoyed watching what amounts to the transmission of heat and its visual representation… the melting of snow. That transmission of energy from areas of warmth to areas less warm is occurring all of the time all around us, but there are moments – such as when we have a snow cover – that that transmission is made obvious to the eye attuned to it.

When roofs give up their snow cover in a pattern, what we can see is the transmission of heat… the photo above is a great example. There is good insulation between the rafters, but the rafters themselves don’t provide the same insulative value. That will result in obvious mirroring of the rafters in the snow pattern on the roof. Or maybe, as is the case with the roof pictured above – our former detached garage that we converted into an auxiliary dwelling unit this past summer – what we see is the insulative barrier of the blown in foam insulation broken up by the butcher work done by the electricians to accommodate the vaulted ceiling LED can lighting. As I watched them work this summer I knew their destruction of the foam insulation would be obvious. And it is… if you watch snow melt. Repetitive squares of snow melt march across this roof in a depressive pattern.

Our new ADU has water, electricity and plumbing drainage tied back into our home. We just finished a brick paver surface between the two dwellings, and I was fascinated this week to watch the snow melt first on the brick pavers directly above the water line between the two buildings. Clearly the water line is slightly warmer this week than the surrounding ground and therefore the snow above it melts first. The beginning of that pattern can be seen in this photo with the line coming in from the home on the left toward the ADU on the right.

I rely on a good infrared camera at inspections to help me visualize heat. But sometimes Mother Nature steps in with a blanket of snow to help us indirectly ‘see’ heat. That is when watching snow melting gets interesting. At least to some of us…

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