If you face the snow every winter, you know what a backbreaking job it is to shovel the driveway and sidewalk. Still, it’s important to get it done promptly; otherwise, you’ll be stuck without being able to move your car. You’ll also face the risk of slipping and falling on the ice, or potential liability if it’s someone else who falls. Fortunately, it’s now possible to have heated surfaces that minimize the effort of keeping your driveways and walkways clear of snow.
Installing a heated driveway is a huge project. It’s not a weekend DIY activity, for sure. However, shoveling snow often is something you do yourself. A heated driveway definitely makes it easier.
Who Can Benefit From A Heated Driveway
Anyone could benefit from having their snow melt away, but two groups really stand out. The first is homeowners with large properties and driveways. The other is business owners who have large sidewalks and entryways to worry about.
If you have to deal with a lot of shoveling or plowing to get your car out of the driveway, a heated driveway can cut down on the work. You won’t have to worry about getting out to your office, to the show, or to the airport on time after a surprise blizzard. And you can cut back on having the driveway plowed, which always has the potential to damage the surface.
Business owners love heated driveways, as well. It’s a struggle to get to the office or store on snowy dates. You’ll be glad to know the snow is already melting away before you arrive. That will allow employees, clients, and customers to get in without hassle.
In both cases, you’ll help reduce your liability in case of slips or falls, too. That’s always a huge risk on any property. Many cities and towns even have laws requiring that you clear a path within a few hours of when the snow stops. So your driveway system protects you from litigation and fines, too.
How A Heated Driveway System Works
There are two types of systems to heat a driveway, but both work on the same principle. A radiant heat source is laid under the surface of the driveway. This heats the entire surface and helps melt the snow as it reaches the ground.
One system uses small pipes through which warm water circulates. The principle is identical to how a hot water radiator works inside your home. Of course, this type will require a boiler. If you already have hot water heat, it may serve for your new heated driveway installation. However, that’s only the case if the boiler is oversized for your house and can support the extra capacity. If its capacity isn’t great enough or you don’t have a boiler at all, you’ll have to add one to serve the driveway.
The second type uses electrical elements rather than pipes. This is more like electric baseboard heat. You’ll have to be sure your electrical system can support the extra current. Your contractor will be able to look at your circuit box and tell you this quickly.
In both cases, your driveway has to be dug up and a new one laid on top. Most driveway surfaces work fine with it, including stamped concrete.
It’s Automatic – Or Should Be
Older heated driveways required you to turn them on manually. That meant you had to be in the right place at the right time. If you were at work and a blizzard started, you were out of luck. If you woke up to see the world blanketed in a sheet of snow, you had to dig out of home and into work to tackle the problem.
Newer systems, though, are mostly automatic. They are designed to turn themselves on as the temperature drops and before the snow starts. That way, the whole system will be preheated and the snow will start melting immediately.
That preheating is especially important. If the system starts up when the driveway is already covered with snow, the bottom layer will melt fine. However, an insulated chamber, like an igloo, can start to form. The snow itself starts to hold the heat inside, meaning the upper layers won’t melt. But when the ground is already warm, that thick layer will never have a chance to form!
Even if you have a manual system, it’s important to prime it. But the new automatic systems are ideal because they can sense what’s coming. And as the Internet of Things continues to advance, they’ll become even more effective at this.
Value and Cost
We don’t want to mislead you – a heated driveway or walkway can be expensive. You first have to take up the old surface. Then you can lay in the pipes or electric elements. Finally, you cover it with your new surface. You may also need to install a new boiler or make improvements to your electrical system. But it could be worthwhile depending on your situation.
A water-based system can be more extensive to install. It can also cost more to run since the water has to be heated at least a little to keep it from freezing.
In either case, it’s a matter of weighing the benefits against the cost. Despite the large initial outlay as well as increased utility costs, you’ll save on snow removal. You’ll also have a safer surface to walk or drive on and be able to avoid the exhausting work of shoveling.
A heated driveway may not be for everyone, but it definitely makes sense when you have a large property to worry about. It provides safety for you and for anyone who walks on your property. It also helps reduce the time you’d lose removing the snow yourself or what you’d pay to have it removed. Enjoy the winter just a bit more by adding a little heat under your driveway and sidewalks!
Bill Michaels is the digital outreach specialist at Patterned Concrete. The company is a pioneer in stamped concrete since 1972. From its Toronto beginnings, the company has grown to have franchises in various cities throughout Canada and the US. More franchise opportunities are available as well!