With colder weather on the way, homeowners across the United States are already dreading shoveling ice and snow off the driveway – whether they're planning to do it themselves or pay someone else to do it for them. And some are even taking the plunge and installing heated driveways to avoid the hassle. But many homeowners wonder whether the benefits of a heated driveway will outweigh the cost of having one installed.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A HEATED DRIVEWAY?
Heated driveways keep the pavement warm enough to melt snow on contact and prevent ice from building up on the surface. This not only negates the need for snow shoveling, but it also makes for a much safer walk to the car. What's more, a heated driveway will not have to be treated with salt and other snow-removing chemicals. And this will not only reduce the amount of damage your cars and driveway surface will sustain in the winter months, but it will also prolong the life of your driveway.
HOW DO HEATED DRIVEWAYS WORK?
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There are two types of driveway heating systems available, both of which generate radiant heat under the driveway's surface to keep the pavement warm. The first heating method uses an electric current to generate heat on a wire or across a mat, in almost exactly the same manner as most indoor floor-heating systems. The second method uses a series of tubes and pumps to move hot water directly underneath the driveway to warm the surface above.
HOW MUCH DOES A HEATED DRIVEWAY COST?
There are a number of cost factors associated with the installation of a driveway heating system – including the type of system you're installing, the cost of materials in your area and whether an existing driveway will need to be demolished to make way for the new heated driveway. If you'll have to demolish an existing driveway to install the heating system, the cost will be around $14 to $24 per square foot. In this scenario, a 20-by-50-foot driveway typically costs more than $15,000.
Of course, there's also the cost of operating the system. Water-based systems are usually a little more expensive initially, but you'll recoup those costs over the longer term as they will operate using less energy than electric-based mat and wiring systems. You'll also have the option of installing an automated sensor that turns the system on when it starts snowing, which can add to both installation and operational costs.
WHO SHOULD INSTALL A HEATED DRIVEWAY SYSTEM?
Given the cost of a heated driveway system – as well as the physical labor and expertise required to properly install it – this is typically a project best left to the professionals. Professional driveway installers have much more experience with heating systems than the average homeowner. And most are so proficient at removing and reinstalling the actual driveway that the project could take weeks less than it would in a do-it-yourself setting.
IS THERE A CHEAPER ALTERNATIVE?
If a heated driveway isn't feasible, heated mats may be a good alternative. You can place heated mats over your driveway and also over sidewalks and entrances to prevent snow accumulation. Prices vary based on the size of the mat, with larger mats costing around $1,000.
Megan Alderton is a reporter for Angie's List, a trusted provider of local consumer reviews and an online marketplace of services from top-rated providers. Visit AngiesList.com.