Can I use a flamethrower to clear away snow?

Yep. Purely hypothetical question, I suppose, but there you go. Due to yesterday’s blizzardey conditions on the east coast, I’m stuck with a huge pile of snow blocking the garage door. Yeah, I could shovel it out, but that would require shovelling snow – the single worst job known to mankind. I’ve got several pressurized sprayers that you can fill with the chemical of your choice; conceivably, it would be really easy to fill them with a flammable liquid, rig up a pilot light, and boom: miniature flamethrower.

Question is, would such a device be at all useful for melting snow? I know it might technically be illegal, and realistically I probably won’t do this – but still, it’s something I’ve always wondered about. If this were plausable, what would be the best fuel to use? I was thinking something like alcohol, because it burns at fairly high temperature and doesn’t make a chemical-ey mess. So, how about it, science types? Realistic or ridiculous?

I’d use propane, clean and long lasting. But I think the ice afterward would last longer.

Why it would be illegal I don’t know. But I’d get a Reddy Heater and cut off the barrel a bit. “Sawed off Reddy” flame thrower.

My Dad go a torch that you hook up to a propane tank. It is intended to be used to get rid of ice on the driveway. It does melt the ice. But the water seeps into the concrete and freezes causing the driveway to crack and flake away. It is really a useless thing.

It is more or less this thing.

One thing most people don’t realize is that there is a latent heat transfer in any phase change. When you turn ice to water, you need 140 times the heat that you’d need to warm that water up one degree. Of course, the flamethrower would add quite a bit of CO2 to the atmosphere, and this in addition to the fact that more UV rays would be coming in through the ozone hole over your head would reduce the de-snowing time.

Obviously, it just needs more power–rather than melting the ice, you need to vaporize it so that there’s no water left, just hot, slightly seaming asphalt. Get seven of them, and arrange them in a bundle (like dynamite!).

Snow and ice buildup will be a thing of the past!

Let us know how it works out.

Yeah, my intention was really to vaporize, not to simply melt – though I figured that that would probably not be realistic. I do have one of those propane torches, but the flame is pretty small, at about a half-inch in diameter and a few inches long, so I figured that’d take too long.

Think “Batmobile”. That oughta do it.

At least one of the Do It Yourself - Gas Turbine (jet engine) guys has used it for snow removal. Loud, but easy.

An unlit afterburner is also useful for killing bugs (it puts out a big haze of diesel mist) and lit ones have roasted a lot of grass.

Actually, if the temp is not too cold, I’ve seen people spraying their driveways with water. It worked quite well. Because the water they were using was roughly 80 degrees so bye bye snow and hello steamy driveway. It works much faster than a flame thrower for the reason look at what flying monk said.

Ya know, the petroleum by-oducts left over from the 'thrower’s gas are gonna kill your lawn.

NASCAR uses neat truck-mounted gas blowers to dry the tracks after a rainstorm. I imagine the same thing could be mounted to a 4 wheel drive to melt your driveway.

Maybe these guys would have some ideas:

Or try infrared radiation. They’re de-icing planes with it.

All-purpose sprayer: $50
Bottle of kerosene: $10
BiC: $1.95
The look on your neighbor’s face when you violate the Geneva Convention in your battle against icy driveways: Priceless

Friend of mine jimmied one up with, IIRC, a propane tank, a backpack, and some sort of hose and nozzle apparatus. Melted all the snow in his dirt driveway and parking area. Worked pretty well, he thought. Then, an hour later, he tried to drive someplace, and he screwed up his tires on the now-frozen-solid ridges of dirt.

I guess ice is your biggest problem. Aside from the problem with cracking (and melting) asphalt that someone mentioned, if your driveway is sloped at all, you’ll be sending rapidly freezing water into the sidewalk and the street. That pretty much spells lawsuit to me.

It would also take a fair amount of energy to melt a driveway’s worth of snow. Dunno how much, but it might be cheaper to pay someone to plow.

The devices listed are designed to direct great heat onto a small area, while what you need is a way to create a small heat over a great area. If you can dig up an old tarp and make some sort of tent over the area to be cleared and blow hot air into it then you’re in business.

Small tactical nuclear device would probably do the trick.

But the others are more practical.