Many people think heated driveways are a luxury or a “nice to have” feature to save some time on shoveling snow. However, one winter day, my wife’s eighty-year-old grandpa was walking down his driveway to get his mail when he slipped and fell on ice. He broke his hip and spent a couple of months in the hospital. Then he had to go to rehab for several months. Thankfully, he was able to recover and come home. This story and countless other injuries can be avoided by having a heated driveway installed.
After reading this article you will know of the many benefits a heated driveway provides, an estimate of how much installing a heated driveway will cost, and tips on installation processes.
First, let’s decide if YOU NEED a heated driveway.
Is a Heated Driveway Right for You?
Do you rarely receive snow or ice during the winter months? Are you someone who has never shoveled snow a day in their life? Do you have to google “snowblower” to know what a snowblower looks like? Do you call in sick to work when the weatherman mentions a possible snow flurry?
Then a heated driveway is not going to be for you unless you want to spend thousands of dollars on an unnecessary expense.
Do you live in an area that receives multiple feet of snow each winter? Do you hate shoveling or running a snowblower? Does your driveway or sidewalk become dangerous to walk on during the winter months?
If you answered YES to any of the questions above, a heated driveway or heated sidewalk is a project to consider.
Owning a heated driveway means-
- Little to no shoveling: You can spend more time inside with family and friends where it is warm.
- Walking is safer: The ice will melt so you will not have to be as concerned with slipping and falling while walking across the pavement.
- Pavement will last longer: By stopping the water from freezing and thawing in the cracks of the pavement, you will prolong your driveways life.
Don’t forget about-
- The hidden costs: Such as an increase in your electric bill or the price of solar panels.
- Saving money: By tearing out the old pavement yourself or if you are handy DIYing the entire project.
- Basic maintenance: Get the boiler checked by a professional once a year to ensure it’s in working order.
- Increase in home value: Having a heated driveway will set your house apart from other similar houses in the area. However, it is a pricey investment.
How Does a Heated Driveway Melt Snow?
A heated driveway works the same way a heated floor works, through radiant heat. A warm liquid is heated and pumped through pipes or electricity is used to heat wires keeping the floor at a constant warm temperature.
There are a couple of different types of radiant heated driveway systems you can have installed. The first system is a Hydronic (water) system. The second system is electric. Both systems use radiant heat, meaning they transfer their heat to the driveway because they are in contact with the driveway.
- Hydronic system: This system pumps a heated water/antifreeze solution from a boiler through PEX pipes underneath the driveway. The heat from the pipes keeps the pavement above freezing and melts the snow as it comes into contact with the driveway.
You can store the boiler anywhere you’d like but it is typically housed in the garage because it is closer to the driveway, thus cutting some installation costs.
- Electric system: This system is similar to a heating blanket underneath the concrete or asphalt. Electric is used to heat corrosion-resistant mats and cables which keep the pavement above freezing. While this system is less maintenance it does have a higher utility cost.
How Effective is Each System?
Both systems are effective for keeping your driveway and sidewalk free of snow or ice. However, if you have steps or a raised porch neither system will effectively melt the snow unless modifications are made. Each system can be set up to turn on once the snow begins to fall or the weather forecast calls for ice.
A radiant heated driveway melts up to 2 inches of snow per hour. While you might receive more than 2 inches of snow in an hour, your heated driveway doesn’t stop melting the snow so it will catch up and melt all the snow.
If you have access to solar panels, You can connect a solar panel to power the pump in a hydronic system and you can use solar power as the main source of power in an electric system. Don’t forget to keep the solar panel clean and free from snow so your batteries stay charged!
One downside to solar is the dependence on the sun’s rays striking the panel. If the clouds are blocking the sun for days on end, your batteries might not charge leading to your driveway not getting heated.
What is the Price of a Heated Driveway?
The price of a heated driveway or heated sidewalk will depend on several factors-
- The cost of living in your area.
- The amount of work that needs to be done. How big is the driveway/sidewalk? Will an old driveway/sidewalk have to be removed?
- Which contractor you choose or if you do it yourself.
- The heating system you choose.
- Your choice of pavement. Concrete, asphalt, bricks, etc.
Pro tip: Renting equipment and doing some or all of the work yourself will help to drastically cut down on installation costs.
You might also be interested in checking out our article to discover the cost of radiant floor heating.
Installing a heated driveway will cost anywhere from $10-$25 per square foot to install. The average cost is $8,500. While this is a large sum of money a heated sidewalk or driveway will last 15 – 20 years if it is taken care of well.
The operating costs for a hydronic system are minimal once it is installed. A regular yearly maintenance check of the boiler is the main operating cost. For the electric system expect an increase in your electric bill of $100-$650 a year.
Out of the many things people often don’t consider in the cost two of the most common are old driveway removal and tree removal.
Removing an old asphalt driveway will cost you between $1-$3 per square foot.
If a tree is too close to the driveway and could crack the pavement or bust the pipes in the future, it needs to be removed.
Tree removal can quickly get expensive! Ranging from $50 to over $1,500.
Another often forgotten cost is repairs. Repairs can cost as little as a couple of hundred dollars or as much as several thousand dollars.
Heated Driveway Installation Process
Installing a heated driveway is a HUGE project to tackle.
- Removing the existing driveway/sidewalk.
- Ensuring the soil below is compacted.
- Laying out all the materials and properly connecting and installing them.
- Pouring concrete or laying asphalt over the top of the heating system.
The process and heating systems used are the same no matter the location; sidewalks, driveways, and garages (check out radiant heating for garage floors). However, it will vary slightly depending on the type of pavement you choose to have installed.
While this project can be a DIY project, it is best to hire a contractor who specializes in heated driveways. Especially when you have a large driveway, the extra manpower will be much appreciated.
A few steps in the installation process are very DIY-friendly. You can save a few bucks during these steps but the overall project should be handled by professionals. Not only will they be more efficient, but they could also save you money and lots of headaches.
Many professionals offer a 10+ year warranty for a heated sidewalk or driveway. That warranty alone is worth hiring professionals to install it.
What are Your Options?
Another option you can consider is a portable heated driveway mat. These mats are similar in concept to an electric heated driveway, except they are removable.
These heated mats are much cheaper than installing a heated driveway. Costing around $1,200-$2,000 per mat. The warranty at 2 years is not anywhere close to what a professional will offer you for a warranty on a heated driveway.
You must also remember to place the mats out and plug them in!
Or you can invest in a heated driveway.
Do the pros outweigh the cons of a heated driveway for you?