Heated Driveways

Before you purchase a heated driveway system it's a good idea to get the scoop on radiant heat and learn what you can expect from these systems. The information below addresses the key questions that most consumers have. Arming yourself with information helps to ensure that you make the best decision for your heating and snow melting needs. This page covers helpful topics and answers the questions that homeowners should ask.

A radiant heated driveway

INTRODUCTION

Given the current emphasis on the environment and clean, renewable energy, radiant heat is quickly becoming the heating and snow melting solution of choice. Both electric and hydronic snow melting systems are versatile and can be installed to heat driveways, sidewalks, ramps, steps, roofs, floors, and more. Electric driveway heating systems are more easily customized and feature silent operation. The systems require no extra space or mechanical room. They are also a favorite among professional builders because of their relatively simple installation and ability to be easily configured for any layout and application.

As popular as heated driveway systems have become in recent years, most folks are still unfamiliar with the technology and components of radiant snow melting systems (such as the activation devices and heating elements). Certainly, you don't have to be a radiant heat expert to find the best driveway heating system for your needs, but it does help to understand the basic concepts behind radiant snow melting systems. In addition to reliable performance, radiant heated driveways are virtually maintenance free and fully automated. But the systems also come with manual override capability. The following content covers topics to help homeowners as well as business owners determine what their best options are. Here are nine key points to help you understand some important aspects of heated driveway systems.

What are Heated Driveways?

Heated driveways use radiant heat to warm concrete, asphalt, pavers, and various mediums to keep areas clear of ice and snow. There are two types of driveway heating systems: electric and hydronic. Both technologies use a network of heating elements (either electric heat resistance cable or special PEX tubing) that is installed beneath the surface of the driveway. (Radiant heated floors also use electric and hydronic technology to warm homes.)

Electric snowmelt systems such as ClearZone® use a premium quality twin-conductor resistance heat cable that is ideally embedded about 2-inches below the driveway's surface. Hydronic snow melting systems utilize flexible polymer (PEX) tubing and a centrally located boiler/water heater to heat a mixture of water and propylene glycol (anti-freeze). Then a series of pumps located near the boiler in a special mechanical room circulate the "heated water" through the closed loop of tubing. The heating elements of both systems are versatile, and are commonly embedded in concrete, asphalt, and under pavers. The heat generated from the cable or tubing spreads out to the surrounding area to warm the driveway and prevent any snow from accumulating.

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Installing the components for an electric snow melting systems is fairly simple compared to the process of installing a hydronic radiant heat system. Hydronic radiant heat systems require a mechanical room to house the system components, and are therefore more expensive to purchase and install; however, depending on the local fuel rates, the operational costs can be lower. Because these systems can operate on natural gas (for the boiler), the operating costs of large heated driveways versus their electric counterpart may be a little less.

System Components and General Overview

Heating cable installation tips Both electric and hydronic heated driveway systems utilize an activation device that allows the system to be fully automated. An aerial snow sensor or a pavement-mount sensor acts as "the brain" for the system. The snow sensor detects temperature and precipitation, and activates the system when conditions warrant. The system runs for a short time after the storm to ensure the driveway surface is dried before it shuts off. In addition to being fully automated, radiant heated driveways also include manual override capabilities. Maintenance-free ClearZone driveway heating systems are energy-efficient and feature a rapid response time; meaning that they generally heat the driveway surface quicker than water-based (hydronic) radiant heating systems.

How Much Do Heated Driveways Cost?

How much does it cost to purchase and install a heated driveway? Firstly, it’s important to know there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution for heating driveways. Warmzone custom designs each system to best meet the specific needs of the application, so prices will vary. However, there is some general information we can provide to give potential buyers a better idea of the expenses. Below is a formula for determining how much energy a heated driveway uses, and calculating what its operating costs may be as well.

A typical residential heated driveway system consists of the heating cable, auto snow sensor (with manual override), contactor panel, and shipping costs. For all the components and resistance cable to heat an 800-square foot driveway the costs may range between $5,540 and $7,393. These prices reflect a square footage cost range from $6.52 to $8.69 per square foot. Add in the costs for installation and you’re likely looking at a cost range of $12-$21 per square foot. For a price estimate of your project, fill out our free quote form or contact Warmzone at 888-488-9276.)

Remember, radiant snow melting systems are easy to customize, so homeowners have several options to choose from. One affordable option is to heat two 24-inch wide tire tracks instead of the whole driveway. This brings installation and operation costs down considerably. Call and talk with a radiant heat expert to learn more.

Prior to purchasing a snow melting system, get some cost estimates from local installers – and make sure your installer is experienced with radiant heat or has received free installation training from Warmzone. (Warmzone may be able to recommend installers in your area who have successfully installed radiant heating systems in the past.)

How to Determine the Operating Cost of an Electric Heated Driveway

Radiant snow melting systems are specially designed for the specific demands of the average temperature and snowfall of their location. Therefore, no two radiant heat systems are exactly alike; however, there is a formula that can be used to help you determine the approximate operating cost of a snow melting system.

General Guidelines to Determine a Heated Driveway's Operating Cost
  1. Determine the total square footage of the area that will be heated. (The average American home has an 800-square foot driveway.)
  2. Multiply the square footage by the heat required (37 watts per sq. ft. for residential). This will give you a total for the watts per square footage required.
  3. Divide this number by 1,000 to convert to kilowatts.
  4. Look up the kilowatts-per-hour rate from the local power utility company.
  5. Multiply the total watts-per-square footage by the watts-per-hour. This gives you the cost-per-hour of usage for the snow melting system.
  6. EXAMPLE (for an 800-square foot driveway): 800 (sq.ft.) x 37 (watts) = 29,600 (total watts).
29,600 divided by 1,000 = 29.6 kw per hour (This is what the power company will charge you per one hour of operation.) The average utility rate is .12 cents, therefore: 29.6 x .12 = $3.55. The heated driveway cost of operation would be $3.55 per hour.

NOTE: Heating cables and mats are rated in total watts. If the snowmelt system is intended for a commercial application, then you would multiply the total square footage by 50 watts to get the total wattage required.

The operating cost of an automated snow melting system is typically less than that of hiring a professional snow removal service. And radiant heat can help to extend the life of concrete driveways and keeps them from being subjected to abrasive snow removal methods or harsh snowmelt chemicals or salt. Safety is particularly important for business owners who wish to avoid costly litigation due to personal injuries caused by slick ice. Visit our ClearZone snow melting page to learn more about Warmzone snow melting systems. And with radiant heat systems being so easy to customize, you may be surprised at the many snow melting options that are available. Mesh-Up support chair.

As you may suspect, it is easier to install an embedded heated driveway during the new construction process. For concrete snow melting systems, the heating cable is laid out over the area to be heated and secured to the remesh with zip ties. To ensure that the heat cable is not pushed down to the ground during the concrete pour, sturdy plastic chairs such as Mesh-Ups® should be used. These small supports are attached to the remesh to keep it from sinking during the heavy concrete pour. This way, the heating cable remains within a couple of inches from the surface - as recommended - when the concrete is poured. Whether installed in concrete or any other medium, Warmzone heated driveway systems are energy efficient and easy to customize.

The Versatility of Heated Driveways

In addition to heating concrete and under stone pavers, Warmzone also carries heat cable that is designed specifically for hot asphalt installations. This heat cable features a more sturdy external cable jacket to withstand temperatures up to 464°F for 10 minutes. The heat cable is laid out over the area to be heated and asphalt is then applied over the cable.

NOTE: Heating cables and mats are rated in total watts. If you are installing a snowmelt system for a commercial application, to determine the total wattage required, you would multiply the total square footage by 50 watts to get the total wattage required. (E.g., 5,000 sq. ft. x 50 watts = 250,000 watts required.)

Electric snowmelt systems can be easily customized and installed in just about any type of layout. Be sure to consult with a radiant heat expert (888-488-9276) to determine which system is best for you. Both electric and hydronic driveway heating systems have their advantages. Speaking with a Warmzone radiant heat expert will help you determine the best system for your needs.

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 are poised to activate when needed 24/7, so safety is enhanced by reducing the potential for injuries because of slick, icy 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.

ClearZone heat cable installed for heated paver walkway.How, Where and When to Install a Radiant Heated Driveway

IMPORTANT INSTALLATION TIP: All heating cables or mats should be checked for continuity and resistance prior to being embedded.

Radiant heated driveways and snowmelt systems can be installed in most mediums, including concrete, asphalt, under pavers, etc., and customized for just about shape or location at most times of the year (depending on the medium). The 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.

For general installation guidelines, visit our How to Install a Heated Driveway web page.

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, activation device (snow sensor), and contactor panel. The heating element can be either electric resistance cable or PEX hot water tubing which is used for hydronic systems. 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's special asphalt 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, pumps, and manifold, 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-mount snow sensor.

The snow sensor (automatic activation device) signals the controller when there is moisture present and the temperature is below the adjustable set point (usually set at 39°F). Power is then sent to the heat cable. The heat resistance cable then begins to warm the driveway, preventing snow from accumulating. The system remains on until the snow stops falling. The power to the cable continues to run for a short time after the final snowfall so that the driveway is dried, which keeps ice from forming. Then the snow melting system shuts off. Warmzone snow melting systems also include manual override capability to melt snow drifts that may have formed due to wind or to preheat an area before a large storm to better prevent snow and ice accumulation.

Click here to learn more about how radiant heated driveways work.

Who Installs Radiant Heated Driveways?

Overall, the heated driveway systems are relatively easy to install, so "do-it-yourselfers" and contractors can easily lay the cable out, check the spacing, and secure it prior to applying the cement or asphalt (or pavers). However, for safety purposes and to ensure that the warranty remains valid it is necessary that a qualified electrician perform all the wiring and connections of the system. Proper installation is vital to ensure that your system performs at peak efficiency.

For your convenience, Warmzone may be able to provide a list of experienced radiant heat installers in your area. Remember, a heated driveway is only as good as its installation, so using a trusted, experienced installer is ideal. In addition to wiring the system, a qualified electrician should test the cables upon receipt and throughout the installation process. Call one of our representatives (888-488-9276) to learn more or to get additional information about driveway heating systems.

Warmzone provides installation support with each heated driveway system as well as free installation training courses. This valuable training is important for those looking to install a heated driveway. In addition to providing free installation training, Warmzone always has a radiant heat expert available should your installer/electrician need assistance during the installation of the snow melting system. Whether you're a homeowner laying out the heat cable, a contractor, or an electrician wiring the system, you can always call a Warmzone radiant heat expert. Our technical support staff is on hand to help guide you through the process and answer any questions you may have during the installation. This valuable service is provided to help ensure that your system is installed correctly and performing to your expectations.

Who Sells Heated Driveways and Snow Melting Products?

Shoveling snow from driveway.

Driveway heating systems are available from several vendors; however, Warmzone differentiates itself by offering a wide variety of radiant heat solutions from many different sources. Having an assortment of proven radiant heat systems helps allows you to compare and find the system that best meets the specific demands of your project. Because Warmzone carries many options from which to choose, you'll receive unbiased information and recommendations for a radiant heating system that is ideally suited for your needs.

Warmzone will also include a detailed layout and system design for your radiant heat system. As an established, dedicated source for matching your snow melting project with the best valued solution, Warmzone is the number one consumer and contractor advocate without bias toward 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 of your project before recommending a system that makes the most sense. Warmzone has extensive experience with custom residential heated driveways, sidewalks, and steps, as well as large commercial snow melting projects. (Warmzone is also a leading provider of roof de-icing systems and radiant floor heating solutions.)

As a service to customers, Warmzone maintains a growing network of experienced, favorably reviewed installers across the country who may be in your area and are available to assist you with your heated driveway (or floor) installation. Contact Warmzone online, or call us toll free at 888-488-9276.

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 Warmzone's Pressroom. For example, check out the links below to read some informative radiant heat articles or download product manuals or view instructional radiant heat videos. Warmzone consistently updates its online information to give customers access to as much information as possible.


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