What You Need to Know About Radiant Driveway Heating Systems
Radiant heated driveways have steadily gained traction (no pun intended) in the U.S. during the past 10-20 years. Electric radiant snow melting systems have proven especially reliable, and are fully automated and maintenance free. Yet, as popular as radiant snow melting systems have become in recent years, most folks are still unfamiliar with the technology and efficiency behind driveway heating.
So, what are heated driveways and how much do they cost? How do they work? Do heated driveways require any regular maintenance? How exactly, is the concrete (or asphalt or paver) driveway heated?
Heated driveways utilize energy efficient radiant heat with either electric or hydronic radiant heat technology. Many consider the best heated driveway systems to be electric radiant heating systems. These energy efficient snow melting systems use the same technology as radiant heated floors.
Electric snowmelt systems such as ClearZone use durable heat cable to warm the driveway, while hydronic snow melting systems utilize flexible polymer (Pex) tubing that heated water is then pumped through. The heating elements of both systems are embedded under the driveway's surface and generate heat that radiates throughout the surrounding area to warm the driveway and eliminate any snow accumulation. Installing the heat cable for electric snow melting systems is fairly simple compared to the process of installing a hydronic radiant heat system. Hydronic radiant heat systems utilize a mixture of hot water and propylene glycol (anti-freeze) that is pumped through the closed-loop Pex tubing. The hot liquid is circulated from a centrally located water heater/boiler.
Warmzone heated driveway systems are fully automated. Automated systems utilize an automatic sensor that detects temperatures and precipitation, activating the system only when conditions warrant. ClearZone electric radiant heated driveway systems are maintenance free, energy-efficient, and feature a rapid response time; meaning that they heat surfaces quicker than hydronic heated driveways. Hydronic radiant heat systems are usually more expensive to purchase and install; however, depending on the local fuel rates, the operational costs can be lower. For this reason, hydronic systems are often used for large snow melting projects. Be sure to consult with a radiant heat expert to determine which system is best for you (888.488.9276). Both electric and hydronic driveway heating systems have their advantages, but electric heated driveways are gaining popularity among homeowners due to their price, no need for maintenance, ease of installation and the uncertain future of fossil fuel costs.
Reasons for Installing a Heated Driveway
Of course, one of the most obvious benefits of a heated driveway system is the elimination of shoveling or plowing snow from your driveway. Automated radiant snow melting systems also enhance safety by reducing the potential for injuries due to slippery surfaces. Peace of mind is also a factor, knowing that your driveway will be automatically cleared, regardless of the weather conditions. Installing a heated driveway can also add significant value to your home, help preserve the life of your driveway, and avoid damage to the bordering landscape by eliminating the use of harmful salts and snowmelt chemicals.
How, Where and When to Install a Radiant Heated Driveway
Radiant heated driveways and snowmelt systems can be installed in most mediums, including concrete, asphalt, under pavers, etc., in just about location and nearly at anytime of the year (depending on the medium). The most popular and ideal time to install a snow melting system is during new construction. However, with weather permitting, there are no limitations as to when a snowmelt system can be installed. In addition to the many custom options available, you can also install a radiant snow melting system in an existing driveway. Asphalt driveways are particularly easy to retrofit with a radiant heat system.
How do Heated Driveways Work?
Heated driveway systems from Warmzone are fully automated. These automated driveway heating systems consist of three main components: the heating element, a master controller, and the sensor, also known as the activation device. The heating element can be either an electric resistance cable or heating element or PEX hot water tubing which is used for hydronic systems. Both the electric and hydronic heating elements can be installed in just about any type of medium. The simplest and most common applications for radiant snow melting systems are brick or stone pavers and concrete. Snow melting systems are also installed in asphalt. The methods for installing radiant heat in asphalt call for more care to avoid damaging the heat cable. Warmzone ClearZone heat cable is designed to withstand the hot asphalt temperature as well as the stressful compacting process; however, because of the abrasive nature of the paving process, greater care must be taken during installation. ClearZone cable is the premier snow melting cable, and one of the few radiant heat cables capable of withstanding the extreme temperatures of fresh asphalt installation.
A master control unit is used to control the heated driveway system. The controller can be either a wall-mounted control box for electric systems or a small mechanical room to house a boiler, pump, manifold, etc., for hydronic systems. Manual and/or automatic activation devices (snow sensors) are used to trigger the systems. Aerial-mounted or pavement-mounted snow sensors are available to activate the system. Residential heated driveway systems typically utilize the aerial mounted snow sensor. Both types of automatic activation devices signal the controller when there is moisture present and the temperature is below a set point (usually 39 degrees). Most snow melting systems also include a manual timer to melt snow drifts that may have formed due to wind or to preheat an area before a large storm to prevent snow and ice accumulation.
Who Installs Radiant Heated Driveways?
Much of the initial installation work of an electric snowmelt system can be done by any ambitious homeowner. The systems are fairly easy to install, so any "do-it-yourself" type or contractor would be a candidate for installing a system. However, it is important that a qualified electrician wire the system. For your convenience, Warmzone may be able to provide a list of experienced installers in your area. Call one of our representatives (888.488.9276) to learn more or to get additional installation information.
Warmzone provides installation support with each heated driveway system as well as free installation training courses online. Whether you're a contractor or homeowner installing the system, a Warmzone radiant heat expert will be available to you to guide you through the process and answer any questions you may have during the installation. This is an invaluable service to help ensure that your system is installed correctly and performing to your expectations.
Who Sells Heated Driveways and Snow Melting Products?
There are several vendors of driveway heating systems; however, Warmzone differentiates itself by offering a wide variety of radiant heat solutions from several different manufacturers - so you are sure to find the system that is the optimum solution for your specific needs. Because Warmzone is not limited to offering one brand or type of driveway heating solution, you can be certain that you'll receive unbiased information and a radiant system that is truly best for your particular situation.
Warmzone will also include a detailed engineering and system layout for your radiant heat system. As an established, dedicated source for matching your project to the best valued solution, Warmzone is the number one consumer and contractor advocate without bias towards any one system. Warmzone has earned its reputation as a trusted resource for radiant heat solutions, and will point out all the benefits and challenges for your project before recommending a system that makes the most sense. Warmzone has extensive experience with both custom residential heated driveway and roof deicing systems as well as large commercial projects.
Warmzone has a growing network of contractors across the country who have experience installing heated driveways (and floors) and are ready and willing to help with your radiant heat project.
Contact Warmzone online, or call us toll free at 1-888-488-WARM (9276).
For more information on snow melting systems and driveway heating, an excellent series of radiant heat articles covering all aspects of heated driveway systems can be found in the Warmzone Pressroom. For example, check out the links below to read some informative radiant heat articles or download product manuals, technical guides, illustrations, and other informative resources.
Heated Driveway and Snow Melting System Articles and Information
Radiant Snowmelt Solutions (Part I and II)
Installing a Heated Driveway Snowmelt System (Part I and II)
Heated Driveways and Radiant Snow Melting (Part I and II)