While a heated driveway may seem like a luxury item of the highest order, the simple fact that these systems are growing more popular is a testament to just how practical they can be. If you live in an area where snow shoveling is a fact of life, these installations can make your property easier to manage, more attractive, and safer, as well.
The easiest, fastest, and most effective installations are performed before the asphalt or concrete is in place.
1.How Heated Driveways Work
Much like radiant floor heating, heated driveways are divided into two main categories: Those heated by warm liquid and those heated by electric cable. In both designs, these systems are best installed when the driveway is being built. Retrofitting is sometimes an option, but in most cases, the easiest, fastest, and most effective installations are performed before the asphalt or concrete is in place.
In both designs, a series of channels (pipes for heated liquid and cable for electricity) are placed below the driveway surface. When snow is detected, the system kicks on and begins raising the temperature of the asphalt or concrete surface to a point where snow melts and flows off rather than sticking to the pavement. It is very important, therefore, to have a system that is properly sized and gauged for the surface area, as insufficient heat may melt the snow but allow that water to refreeze, forming dangerous ice patches.
2.Which Type of System Is Right for You?
In terms of initial cost, electric cable systems are the clear winner. However, depending on the cost of electricity in your particular area, the operating cost of a liquid-heated driveway may be significantly lower, saving you money in the long run. Electric cables tend to require less maintenance over their lifetimes and are typically able to heat surfaces more quickly. Many companies who deal in these installations are well-versed in both designs and can help you calculate which system is the most cost-effective for you.
3.How Much Do Heated Driveways Cost?
Here, again, there is a great deal of fluctuation between one situation and the next. The amount of surface area that needs to be heated will certainly play a huge role in the cost of installation, but the area you live in and whether you choose an electric or hydronic system will also be key factors. For a homeowner who is constructing a new driveway of modest size, adding a radiant heating system to it may not raise the price more than one or two thousand dollars. On the other hand, a homeowner wishing to retrofit a large driveway with electric heating cables may have to pay a lot more for the project.
4.What Types of Driveways Can Be Heated?
Asphalt, concrete, and driveway pavers are all good candidates for radiant heating. Additionally, just about any sidewalk or pathway on your property can likely be fitted or retrofitted for heat cable.
5.DIY Vs Professional Heated Driveways
While it is true that some avid do-it-yourselfers have tackled this project successfully using radiant heating "mats", most homeowners will probably shy away from attempting this project without the aid of a professional. In many cases, the amount of time it takes for a professional to put down the necessary elements for driveway heating is small--especially in comparison to the time it takes to build the driveway itself. Though there are certainly some folks out there who have saved a little money by preparing their own driveway and putting down their own heating elements, most homeowners will find that the peace-of-mind and efficiency that comes with professional installation is well worth the cost associated with it.
Those who are considering doing this project themselves might find it extremely helpful to perform a "practice run" on a pathway or sidewalk before attempting to do the driveway. This will not only provide some valuable hands-on experience with the techniques used in this project, but can also help homeowners decide whether or not having the larger driveway surface fitted with heating elements is worth paying a professional to perform.