With winter comes snow and ice, and while it is fun for kids, it is often more of a nuisance for the adults that have to clear it from their driveways. Beyond being a nuisance, snow and ice are also a major safety hazard that creates a slick surface you can fall on or your car can roll into the street.
The traditional way to deal with snow on a driveway is to pull out a shovel and start shoveling. Some homeowners even invest in snowblowers to try and speed up the removal. Both methods still require you to be out in the cold and working to some degree. Then, to prevent ice, you have to salt your driveway, which can cause damage and potentially contaminate water sources.
Installing radiant heating under the concrete in your driveway is a better solution. Radiant heating systems prevent snow and ice from collecting on your driveway, to leave it safe and clean. Despite sounding like something out of reach, you may be surprised to learn about what heated driveways cost.
Whether you are a homeowner looking to spend less time shoveling snow or a business struggling to keep your parking lot clear, heated driveways are an investment worth considering.
How Heated Driveways Work
Heated driveways use the same technology you find in indoor radiant heat flooring. Besides the location, the major difference is the material that the heating goes under.
There are two ways you can go about installing driveway heating mats. The first method is to pour concrete or asphalt in two layers, with the heating mats between them. The second way is to start from scratch, by tearing up the existing driveway and installing a new one with the heating mats installed at the correct height.
When it comes to how you activate the heating system, there are three options:
- Activation via a Wi-Fi controller. The benefit of using this control method is that it acts as a “preheat” setting for the driveway.
- The second option is activation using a control with moisture and temperature sensors. This method works by using your local weather forecast and your desired probability of snow to turn on and heat the driveway before snowfall begins, to help ensure the most efficient use of the system.
- Finally, there is manual operation, where you manually turn the system on and off.
The Two Different Types of Heated Driveways
Much like indoor heated floors, heated driveways come in two varieties: electric and hydronic. While the way these systems work is generally the same, the way they produce the heat, their functionality, and their cost are different.
Electric Heated Driveways
Electrically heated driveways rely on electricity to produce heat. They are connected to your power grid, so the cost of a heated driveway using an electric system will depend on the cost of your electricity.
Choosing an electric heated driveway can increase your electricity bill, but the overall cost should be relatively low as the system doesn’t require much to run. An automated system will also help to keep costs down and increase energy efficiency.
Hydronic Heated Driveways
As the name suggests, hydronic systems rely on water for heat. It requires a boiler, which heats the water before pushing it through pipes under the driveway. While these systems will melt snow, they won’t be as effective as an electric system because the cold weather will cause the water to cool down before it can go through a complete cycle, which can leave spots of snow in areas.
Automatic vs. Manual
Electric or hydronic isn’t the only choice you have to make. You also need to consider whether you want an automatic or manual system.
Manual systems require more attention, and homeowners must stay on top of the weather forecast to know when snow is coming so they can activate the system in time.
Automated systems provide more convenience. They run at low levels to help conserve energy. Once snow is detected, they heat up to levels that will melt the snow.
Which to Choose?
Figuring out what system is best for you depends on your budget and how big of an area you are trying to heat. For example, if you are looking to heat over 1,000 square feet, a hydronic system might be ideal, though there is a drawback. The system must run consistently throughout the season to prevent ice from forming, which can get expensive. Some areas of the country also have a ban on glycol, or antifreeze, which is used with hydronic systems.
The choice between automatic and manual depends on your own preferences.
How Much Do Heated Driveway Costs?
The cost of heated driveway systems depends on various factors. They include the square footage of the space, the type of system you used, whether you install a control system or not, the labor required, and the chosen installation method.
In terms of what driveway heating systems cost, you can expect to pay between $4,150 and $8,700 for hydronic heated driveway and between $3,200 and $5,800 for an electric heated driveway. Overall, the general cost of a heated driveway is between $12 and $23 per square feet.
It may also be necessary to hire an electrician to upgrade the panel and do the necessary wiring for the heating mats and melting controller. Since driveways and project sizes vary, this is only an example of heated driveway installation cost.
Instead of heating up your entire driveway, you can save on your heated driveway installation cost by installing it as tire tracks rather than covering the entire system.
You can get an estimate from Warmup, which will provide you with all the information you need to calculate your running cost.
Driveway installation costs alone depend on the size, material, and labor costs. Asphalt will cost between $7 to $13 per square foot, while concrete will cost a little more at $9 to $24 a square foot. Finally, pavers are the highest cost at $5 to $20 a square foot. For labor, driveway installation costs from $5 to $11 per square foot.
Things That Can Add to the Heated Driveway Cost
You may encounter some unexpected heated driveway cost issues, which can add to how much you spend. How much can vary depending on the significance of the issue? Some of the potential issues you could encounter include:
You may find rocks or other large, immovable objects on your driveway’s path. For rocks, with the proper tools, you could break them down to help create a flat surface for the heating system to lay on. You will have to install the system around any immovable objects, like a structure.
While most driveways are straight, with a slight slope, some driveways have curves. You will have to keep this in mind, as it can affect how much your project will cost in terms of materials and labor.
Needing a Secondary Power Source
Some homes don’t have enough excess electricity to power an electric-heated driveway. If the homeowner set on having it, they will have to pay to add a secondary power source, which could raise the cost of the whole project.
Add Heating to Walkways and Patios
Outdoor radiant heating isn’t just for driveways and parking lots. You can use these types of systems on walkways to keep them free from the hazards of snow on ice, to help make sure everyone is safe as they walk.
Patios can also benefit from a heating system, especially if you have a firepit you like to enjoy during the winter months.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you install a heated driveway system under gravel?
Gravel is not an ideal material for heated driveway systems. For a system to work properly, it has to be fully embedded in a material that will eliminate its exposure to air. Suitable materials are concrete, asphalt, or pavers.
Does a heated driveway require insulation?
While not necessary, adding insulation to your heated driveway can improve its efficiency. You can add insulation under the slab and near the exposed edges to help reduce the heat loss, which allows the slab to heat up more quickly and can lower overall operating costs.
What sort of insulation is best for heated driveway systems?
While you should consult your contractor, rigid polystyrene foam that is 1″-2″ thick is generally used.
How fast will the system heat up?
Heat-up times vary due to several variables: air and ground temperature, how far the wire is from the surface, wind speed, insulation, etc. The right installation plan will help to ensure better heat-up times. Talking to an expert will help you to figure out everything you’ll need to make it happen.
How long will the snow take to melt?
Heated driveway systems are designed to keep driveways clear with no waiting time. If that isn’t happening, you may have to contact the company to troubleshoot any possible issues.
Eliminate Driveway Snow with Warmup
Nobody wants to deal with having to shovel snow or salt driveways. A heated driveway will eliminate those tasks, and will give you more time to do things you enjoy. It will also keep you, your car, and your driveway safe from the damaging effects of snow and ice.
Contact us today to learn more about our snow-melting heated driveway system and see how it can work for you. With over 25 years of experience, you can trust Warmup to point you in the direction of the perfect system!