Heated Driveways and Snow Melting Systems

It's Never too Late to Install a Driveway Heating System

Whether you’ve been living comfortably in your house for years or you are building a new home, installing a radiant heated driveway is a viable option for you. Certainly it is more practical to install a radiant snow melting system during the initial construction phase of a driveway, but unknown to some homeowners is that both asphalt and concrete driveways can be retrofitted with electric radiant heat systems.

Hydronic Snow Melting Systems

There are two types of driveway heating systems available today: hydronic systems and electric systems. Hydronic snow melting systems utilize a mixture of water and propylene glycol (anti-freeze) that circulates through a closed-loop network of flexible polymer (Pex) tubing that is installed in the concrete or asphalt. The liquid is heated by a water heater/boiler and then circulated through the Pex tubing by a pump to heat the driveway and melt snow. The condensing boiler (water heater) can be powered by any energy source, including natural gas, electricity, oil, wood, or even solar collectors. Because of this, hydronic systems can offer a slightly lower operating cost than electric systems, especially for large snow melting applications.

Electric heated driveway in operation. Warmzone hydronic snowmelt systems feature highly efficient condensing boilers with an Energy Star Rating as well as industry leading pumps, valves and tubing. Unfortunately, when it comes to retrofitting a driveway with hydronic radiant heat, the only way to accomplish this is to tear out the old driveway and install a new one.

Electric Heated Driveways

Electric radiant snow melting systems are easier and cheaper to install than their hydronic counterpart. The systems can be installed in all popular surfaces, such as concrete, pavers and asphalt. Existing concrete and asphalt driveways can also be retrofitted with electric radiant heat.

Electric snow melting systems utilize specially engineered ClearZone heat cable that is available on spools or pre-spaced in mats that can be easily rolled out during installation in concrete, asphalt or under brick and stone paver driveways and sidewalks. The ClearZone cable is UL listed and consists of a twin conductor with FEP/XLPE insulation and polyolefin jacketing that provides flexibility and excellent UV protection. The heat cable is rated at 220°F and has a minimum 10-year warranty. Designed to produce 30-50 watts per square foot, ClearZone radiant heat cable has one of the quickest response times (time to heat the driveway upon system startup) of any snow melting system on the market. Because electric snowmelt systems do not rely on heating water heater before pumping the liquid through PEX tubing, the response time is considerably less than that of hydronic systems.

Fully Automated Snow Melting Systems

The fully automated electric driveway heating system features heat cable, a control unit / contactor panel, and a high-performance snow sensor (activation device). One of two types of sensors (aerial or pavement mount) can be installed, depending on the project. Aerial-mount sensors are typically used for residential heated driveways while pavement-mount snow sensors are more commonly used in large commercial snow melting applications.

When the snow sensor detects precipitation and temperatures are below a designated set point (usually set at 39°F), the sensor signals the master control unit, initiating startup of the snow melting system. While the driveway snow melting system is fully automated, it can also be activated manually. The controller includes a manual override function for times when snowdrifts or ice forms because of wind or shaded areas. Another especially attractive feature of electric heated driveways is that the systems do not feature any moving parts, so they are virtually maintenance free and extremely reliable.

Installing an Electric Radiant Snow Melting System

To install a ClearZone snow melting system in concrete, the driveway is first prepared for the concrete pour, including the placement of rebar or remesh. The durable heat cable is then secured to the wire remesh or rebar with zip ties and then the concrete is poured. Concrete seats or “Mesh-Ups” are often used with wire remesh to ensure proper positioning of the cable.

In addition to the heavy stress of fresh concrete pours, ClearZone cable is also designed to withstand the extreme temperatures of hot asphalt applications. The cable is laid out and then the asphalt is applied on top and then compacted, resulting in a discreet, maintenance free asphalt heated driveway. You can lay out the mats or space the cable yourself, but it’s important that a qualified electrician connect the wiring for the snowmelt system. (ALWAYS FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS IN THE INSTALLATION MANUAL.)

Retrofitting Existing Driveways with Radiant Heat

To heat an existing asphalt driveway, the process is surprisingly simple. The cable is laid on top of the old asphalt and then the new layer of asphalt is applied on top and then compacted. Retrofitting a concrete driveway with radiant heat is a more tedious affair. Using concrete saw-cut technology, grooves are cut in the existing concrete, and the heat cable is then placed in the freshly cut grooves. An epoxy topcoat is then applied to seal the newly embedded heat cable. A sand broadcast can be applied to the surface before the epoxy cures for additional traction and safety. Saw-cut technology can also be used for retrofitting asphalt driveways with radiant heat if desired.

Radiant Snow Melting System Options

There are several options when it comes to installing a radiant snow melting system. For example, you can heat the entire area of a driveway, or perhaps just an 8-foot strip in the middle or just a pair of 2-foot-wide tire tracks. Radiant heated driveways and snowmelt systems can be tailor made for virtually any of your snow and ice melting needs. The applications are limited only by your imagination, and the experts at Warmzone will work closely with you to determine the best radiant heat system for your needs.

Eliminate the need for the use of harsh snow melting chemicals and prolong the life of your driveway with an environmentally friendly radiant snow melting system. Not only can installing a radiant snow melting system increase the value of your home, but it will also increase pedestrian safety. So enhance your safety and peace of mind by calling Warmzone and learning about the options of installing an automated radiant snow melting system today.