Heated driveway systems are becoming more popular today, but many people are still not familiar with the way it works. In fact, some people would be surprised to know it’s possible to prevent snow and ice buildup without manually shoveling.
There are two types of driveway heating systems and knowing these types will help homeowners make a more informed decision before purchasing one. Learn more about how this system works in this article and know which kind would be ideal for your home.
What is a Driveway Heating System?
If you must shovel multiple times a day just to keep your home safe from snow buildup during the winter, it can be a lot of work. Even if you live somewhere that doesn’t receive heavy snow, it can be burden to do all the digging, especially if you have limited mobility. If you have a driveway heating system, you don’t have to do all this every winter.
A driveway heating system is a customizable, noise-free, and versatile system that can be installed to heat driveways and keep them ice-free. The system doesn’t need extra mechanical room or space and can be installed easily regardless of your driveway’s layout. The same heating system can also be installed in other parts of the home such as steps, ramps, roofs, sidewalks, and floors. Driveway heating systems are fully automated and surprisingly maintenance-free.
Heated driveways utilize radiant heat to warm asphalt, pavers, or concrete to help keep these areas free from snow and ice. The two types of driveway heating systems include hydronic and electric. Both these types of systems make use of heating elements installed under the driveway’s surface.
How They Work
As mentioned, all types of driveway heating systems rely on snow-melting materials that are placed beneath the driveway surface about two inches below the surface. Electric systems use twin-conductor heat cables while hydronic systems use flexible tubing and a centralized water heater or boiler that heats a combination of anti-freeze and water. Several pumps placed near the boiler circulates the heat of the warmed water using a closed loop of tubing.
The heating elements used in both systems are usually embedded under pavers or in asphalt, and concrete. The heat produced will then spread out through the tubing or cable towards the different areas in the driveway. Both systems use sensors that help detect outside temperatures as well as moisture levels to help keep the driveway warm. This is how the system prevents snow from building up in the driveway.
Pros and Cons of Electric and Hydronic Driveway Heating Systems
The installation of electric driveway heating systems is simpler compared to hydronic system installation. They can be added into existing concreate driveways, and are last longer than hydronic driveway heating systems. Thus, this option costs less to install. Electric systems are also faster when it comes to response time. This means that they can heat your driveway faster than a hydronic system since they don’t need as much time to warm up. However, over time, an electric driveway heating system will cost more to operate.
There are also some drawbacks to using electrical heating systems. One is the possibility that a house won’t have enough electrical capacity to operate the system properly. This means that it would call for a secondary source or capacity expansion for it to operate correctly. If the house is located where electrical power is expensive, it may not be a practical option.
On the other hand, a hydronic heat system would call for a mechanical room where the system components will be placed, making it more expensive to install and purchase. However, since the hydronic system operates using natural gas, the operating costs are lower than electrically-driven heating systems. Thus, homeowners who are conscious about their electrical energy consumption prefer hydronic driveway heating systems.
While hydronic systems are more cost-efficient over time, another drawback of this system is that it can’t be installed under a preexisting driveway. A homeowner can only install one if they’re planning to replace their driveway. Also, as time passes, the tubing used in the system is expected to corrode.
Compatible Pavers for Driveway Heating Systems
Concrete pavers are great for driveway heating systems. The homeowners can choose from a wide range of designs, which can easily match their home architectural style or design. After installing the driveway heating system, your driveway won’t show the heated mats beneath them. When it comes to aesthetics, the pavers on your driveway can still preserve their clean look and ability to support heavy traffic.
Permeable pavers, on the other hand, are preferable for heated driveway projects. While the heating system warms up ice and snow, water can pool if left on the surface, which will then freeze. The freezing-melting process then becomes a cycle, which defeats the purpose of the heating system.
To prevent this, permeable pavers are preferable if you want to avoid precipitation buildup. Using this kind of paver helps allow the moisture to go back into the ground instead of letting it run off into the street or walkway, which could lead to slippery ice spots.
Managing the Heating Schedule
Another thing to consider in looking for driveway heating systems is the management of the heating schedule. A homeowner can choose between manual or automated controls. A manual system is cost-friendly as it will only run when the owner turns it on. However, the disadvantage to this is inconvenience because you’ll always needs to check out snowstorm forecasts.
On the other hand, an automated system is kept running and uses more electrical energy once its sensor detects snowfall and the system starts heating. Of course, probably the biggest advantage to this kind of system is convenience, which is balanced by its drawback of consuming more electrical energy.
Regardless of the way driveway heating systems are controlled, the best thing about such systems is that they help to keep driveways safe and warm without needing to shovel ice manually.
Heating systems aren’t just for your driveways, you can also add them into your patios, decks, and sidewalks. A homeowner can determine which parts of his home receives a lot of snow during the winter. Having a heating system installed in these areas prevents the need to go out and remove the ice buildup manually.