What are Heated Driveways?

M.C. Huguelet

For many people, the worst part of the winter is clearing snow and ice from sidewalks and driveways day after day. Those who wish to lighten their shoveling workload may wish to consider installing a heated driveway. While heated driveways look just like normal driveways, they are embedded with an electrical or water-powered system which warms their surface, melting snow as it lands. Heated driveways have many benefits, including eliminating shoveling, lowering the risk of falls, and reducing salt-related damage to vehicles and flooring. It should be noted, however, that these systems do have some disadvantages, particularly their installation and operation costs.

Heated driveways can help reduce the amount of snow that needs to be removed.
Heated driveways can help reduce the amount of snow that needs to be removed.

Heated driveways are made from normal driveway material such as concrete, pavers, or asphalt, beneath which is a grid of electrical cables or water pipes. When an electrically powered heating system is activated, the cable grid begins to heat up, in turn warming the entire driveway surface. In a water-powered system, water is warmed in a boiler and then pumped through the pipe grid to heat the driveway. Depending on the particular system, the driveway’s heating controls may be operated manually or may automatically turn on when the temperature drops below freezing. In either case, the warming action of the heating grid can melt existing snow and ice and prevent new buildups of both.

There are several advantages to heated driveways. They eliminate the inconvenience of shoveling and can make driveways safer by lowering the risk of ice-related falls. This safety aspect may make heated driveways an especially attractive option for the elderly and those with mobility issues. Further, they limit the need to put corrosive salt on the driveway. Lowering salt usage can reduce damage to automobiles and to indoor flooring, which can become warped and stained when salt is tracked inside on shoes.

It should be noted, however, that heated driveways also have some disadvantages. First of all, they can be extremely costly to install, with approximate prices starting at several hundred US dollars (USD) for a very small driveway, and reaching $10,000 USD or more for a very large one. In addition, they can be expensive to operate, causing a large jump in utility bill payments during the cold months. Also, automatic-start systems may sometimes engage when they are not needed, resulting in wasted power. Overall, it is usually found that water-powered heated driveway systems are more expensive to install than electric systems, but less costly to operate than electric systems.

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Discussion Comments


Thanks for explaining heated driveways to perspective buyers. I have installed them for five years and prefer the electric heated driveway systems but can also see the hydronic systems being more practical in large areas.

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