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Heated Driveway Basics

Why install a heated driveway: It adds value to your home, avoids damage
with harmful salts and chemicals, prevents slips and falls and, of course, the
No. 1 reason? Never having to shoveful your driveway again...

heated drivewaySnowy winters may be wonderful for skiers and children who look forward to a day away from school, but homeowners usually have a very different reaction.

Shoveling piles of wet, heavy snow is strenuous exercise. Worrying about whether the salt you put out to keep the driveway clean is ruining your greenery is not anyone's idea of winter fun. Slipping on an icy patch on your way to the car can ruin your day, not to mention your clothes and the trip to the emergency hospital.

Those are some of the reasons that heated driveways are becoming more popular in areas where winter means snow and ice.

What are heated driveways and walkways?

The obvious answer is, “a driveway or walkway that is heated,” but what actually produces the heat? The best driveway heating systems are radiant heating systems, similar to indoor floor heating systems. There are primarily two methods for heating, electric and hydronic.

heated driveway cables, electric and hydronic
The two types of heated driveway systems
incorporate either line voltage cables (top)
or hot water pumped through plastic
PEX tubing (bottom).

Electric systems use a line-voltage cable, while hydronic systems generate hot water then pump it through plastic PEX tubing. The heating elements are embedded in the surface and use resistant heating to heat the surrounding area. Most systems incorporate an automatic sensor that detects inclement weather to activate the system. Electric systems tend to be more efficient, require less maintenance, and heat surfaces quicker.

Hydronic systems are usually slightly more expensive to purchase and install, but the operational can be lower depending on their local fuel rates. Both systems have their advantages, however, the electric systems are gaining a lot of interest due to their price, ease of installation and threatening future of the cost of fuel.

Why install a driveway heating system?
Some of the obvious benefits are of course, not having to shovel your driveway again, avoiding injury due to slippery surfaces, and having the confidence that your driveway will be cleared when you need to use it. Other notable benefits include; adding value to your home, preserving the life of your driveway, and avoiding damage to bordering landscape with harmful salts and chemicals.

Where and when can you install a system?
Driveway heating systems can be installed in almost any location, in almost any medium (including concrete, asphalt, under pavers, etc.), and nearly anytime of the year (depending on the medium). The most popular and ideal time to install a system, is during new construction. However, with weather permitting there are no limitations when to install a snowmelt system.

How do the systems work?
Snow melting systems are composed of three main items: the heating element, the controller, and the activation device.

The heating element can be either an electric resistance cable, or PEX hot water tubing. These heating elements can be installed in almost any medium. The simplest application for installation is under brick or stone pavers and in new pour concrete. Asphalt can also be used but the installation methods call for more care and labor to avoid injurious contact to the cable because of the asphalt's temperature and abrasive nature during the paving process.

These systems are controlled by either a wall-mounted control box for electric systems, or a small mechanical room to house a boiler, pump, manifold etc. for hydronic systems.

Both types of systems use manual and/or automatic activation devices. Available automatic sensors include aerial mounted or pavement mounted snow switches. These sensors activate the system when there is moisture present and the temperature is below approximately 38 degrees. Most systems also include a manual timer to preheat an area before a large storm to curb snow and ice accumulation.

Who installs them and who sells them?
Electric snowmelt systems are fairly easy to install, and any experienced “do-it-yourselfer”, contractor, or electrician would be a candidate for installing a system.

About the Author...
Troy Butcher - Warmzone, Inc. - Visit them online at

More about heated driveways around the Web:

Snowmelt system - Wikipedia

Heated Driveways: How They Work and Costs


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