Should You Upgrade Your Paving and Install a Heated Driveway?

Snowy days spell hard labor to homeowners as they haul out the snow shovels or snow blowers to clear away the winter wonderland and create a safe surface on their driveway. The idea of upgrading your paving to install a heated driveway may have crossed your mind after one or two bouts of shoveling, but this project has a few details you need to consider.

What is a Heated Driveway?

Imagine watching the snow fall from your window and simply enjoying the beauty of the scene. Flip on your heated driveway and marvel at how ice and snow melt away from your asphalt, concrete or paving stones, to present a clean, safe surface for vehicles and foot traffic.

Essentially a radiant heating system installed in an exterior application, heated driveway systems run under the paving materials and connect with a boiler or power source inside your home or garage. Other options include precipitation and temperature sensors, landscape lighting and timers. Depending on the brand installed and the conditions of your property, your heated driveway system can range from simple to rather complicated.

Benefits of This Home Improvement Project

You can expect to pay anywhere from $2,000 to over $10,000 for a heated driveway installation. This project comes with several advantages, including:

  • Reduces winter maintenance requirements

  • Increases property value
  • Extends the life of your driveway materials
  • Increases safety and reduces injury
  • Preserves the health of surrounding landscape by avoiding the use of salt and other harmful chemicals

How Do Heated Driveways Work?

You'll find two options on the market for heated driveways—electric powered and hydronic systems. Installation, cost and design for these two types differ considerably.

  • Electric Heated Driveways - using resistance cables embedded under or into the surface of your paved driveway, an electric system is hooked to conventional power and heats the area quickly and efficiently. The control box is often wall-mounted and activation devices can range from a switch to sensors and timers.
  • Hydronic Heated Driveways - using plastic tubing embedded under the driveway's surface, a hydronic system is connected to a boiler system that pumps heated water and antifreeze to warm the elements.

Comparing the Different Options

Most homeowners are drawn to the electric system. Affordability, ease of installation and simple operation make this system work in many cases. However the hydronic systems may cost less to operate over the long term, especially with the rising cost of electricity.

Electrical systems also work faster, although the performance of a hydronic system is impressive, even in deeper snowfalls. Maintenance on an electric system tends to be less involved and more affordable. With a little practice and training, as well as the proper materials, the homeowner can handle hydronic system maintenance.

Consider your space. A hydronic system requires floor space for the boiler, pump and manifold, while an electrical controller can be wall mounted with a simple conduit running down your wall. Activation devices come in several different options, including aerial sensors that detect exterior temperatures and surface sensors that detect actual snow accumulation.

Sensors often detect moisture and temperature, most often those temps below 38 degrees Fahrenheit. A manual override switch allows you to operate the system when the weather dictates. If the forecast includes a snowstorm or freezing rain, set the manual switch to keep your driveway clear and avoid the need to shovel.

Do You Need to Upgrade Your Paving?

New heated driveway systems may be installed under an existing driveway, but the success of this project is fairly slim. Homeowners are wise to budget the cost of ripping out the old driveway, installing a heated driveway system and replacing or upgrading the paving to create a fresh landscape.

Demolition is a significant part of the project cost, and in certain cases, can be handled by the homeowner. It may be hard and back breaking work and disposal costs cannot be avoided, but you will save some money by handling the heavy work yourself.

Consider the age of your existing driveway. Replacing an asphalt driveway often damages the heated driveway system, as the temperature of the hot asphalt often warps or burns the piping and cables. If your driveway will need to be replaced in the next five to eight years, upgrading can save money. Calculate the costs over a ten-year period and weigh your options.

Upgrading to another type of paving is not necessary. Heated driveway systems can be installed under any type of driveway, including poured concrete and interlocking paving stones. If you were considering an upgrade, install both at the same time. Be sure to hire an experienced contractor or ask your paving contractor to sub out the heated driveway to a reputable company.

Warranty Issues

Most heated driveway systems come with a solid warranty. Be aware that coverage may not be extended to products installed under existing driveway systems (without replacing the driveway materials). Talk to your contractor and read the enclosed warranty information carefully.

Some systems also limit the coverage for DIY installations. Although simple electric heated driveway systems are designed to be installed by the homeowner, be sure that all components will be covered under the warranty. Contractor warranties often cover the installation process, including the controllers and activation devices.

If you are dreading the idea of winter maintenance or are looking to create a safer entrance, heated driveways provide the perfect solution. Costing anywhere from a few thousand dollars to $10,000, depending on the size of the driveway and the product installed, this home improvement project adds value to your home and improves daily living. You may not need to upgrade your existing driveway, although it makes sense in most cases.

Homeowners replacing an asphalt driveway or installing a concrete driveway should consider a heated driveway. Do your research and ensure your full warranty coverage by hiring a reputable contractor. Whether you opt for an electrical system or a hydroponic system, a heated driveway works well with any type of paving. Enjoy the snowfall and keep your driveway clear and safe this year.

Posted by: diana
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