What are heated driveways? The obvious answer is, “a driveway that is heated,” but what actually heats the driveway? 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. 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 asphalts 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. There are several vendors of driveway heating systems, however, Warmzone, Inc., is a dedicated source for matching your project to best valued solution. Warmzone, Inc. is the consumer and contractor advocate without a bias towards any one system. They will point out the obvious benefits and challenges to any project and sell you a system that makes sense. Warmzone has experience with both residential and commercial projects. Even though they do not install these systems, Warmzone has a growing network of contacts across the country that are ready and willing to help where ever possible. Visit them online at www.warmzone.com, or call them toll free at 1-888-488-WARM.