We had our own little Antarctica outside the back door up until a short while ago. Nature was doing her thing, and we were at her mercy.
Step 1: an ice dam blocks the gutter along the back-entry overhang. Step 2: mid-day melt from the roof slope can’t get to the downspout, so it drips from the eave — and it’s so cold that some of it freezes on the way down (fabulous icicles). But worst of all it makes a growing hump of glass-smooth ice outside the door, hard as rock in that blistering cold weather that gripped January and early Feb.
Maybe if I’d been a large college linebacker instead of a five-foot-two female with a recently sprained wrist, I could have chopped it successfully, but as it was we were stuck with it. It was too cold for ice-melter to work. Only sand allowed us to get as far as the car without sliding on our stomachs like penguins heading for the open sea.
Enter technology! Or so I hope. There are things called heat mats you can buy for a reasonable amount. You plug it into a grounded outlet and lay it down on the icy surface, and leave it there, and it gradually warms up to about 40 degrees above the ambient air temperature. Needless to say, it has a built-in cutoff switch if that surrounding temperature goes above 60 F.
The one I’ve got is about the size of a large doormat, with a rough, ribbed-fabric upper surface so you can indeed walk on it. The underside is smooth rubber (or something similar) that transmits the heat to the ground. The whole thing is surprisingly sturdy and heavy. Let’s hope it works.