Articles & Advice

Heated Driveway

by Marcus Pickett

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Driveways & Walkways

Many home improvement projects have several benefits and can both improve the curb appeal of your home along with its design function. Heated driveways, though, have essentially one single advantage. You guessed it—snow removal. This solitary quality is no small matter for some homeowners. If you live in the northern United States, you may spend countless hours each winter shoveling your driveway. Just hearing the words "Nor-Easter" or "Lake Effect Snow" can make many Americans cringe. Having to shovel two, three, even four times in one day can leave northerners begging for a solution.

Even if you don't live in a region that gets hit with heavy snow, if you have limited mobility and have no neighborhood kids who want to earn a little extra cash, installing a heated driveway can allow you to endure the winter with safe passage to and from your home without ever picking up a shovel or firing up a snowblower.

How Heated Driveway Systems Work
Heated driveways are actually radiant floor heating systems, which can be installed both indoors and out. For outdoor use, radiant floor systems are quite beneficial to those who live in snowy climates, as they function as a snow-melting system, virtually eliminating the need for physical snow removal. When temperatures drop, heated water and antifreeze are pumped into the tubing, melting any snow that collects on your driveway. From the comfort of your home, you can flip a switch and watch the snow melt away.

If you want a heated driveway, you don't necessarily need to install a whole new driveway because sometimes the tubing can be run under your current one. Bear in mind these situations are not typical. The majority of the time the driveway needs to be ripped up and replaced because the installation process often leaves the driveway in shambles. Many factors influence whether you need to have the driveway replaced including time of year, soil compaction, trees in proximity, etc. Replacing the driveway ensures that the heated driveway system has been installed correctly. Many of the systems that are installed under existing driveways either won't come with warranties or the warranties that they do come with won't cover very much.

Cost is covered in the next section, but if cost is not the concern that safety, injury, or time lost doing this tiresome chore is, then consider having a new driveway installed and just do this right. There are definitely some success stories when installing one of these radiant heat systems under an existing driveway, but there are really just too many unknowns to be confident in this choice. Plus, you don't want to fall in love with a new system, only to have to pay for it again—plus a new driveway—when the driveway finally crumbles to pieces.

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Heated Driveway Costs
Typically, the cost of a heated driveway system is between $12-$21 per square foot. Looking at our data, the average cost of a radiant heating system installation is $3,892, with a low of $1,300 and a high of $7,500 in that range. However, this price does not include the removal of the old driveway or the cost of the new one. Unfortunately, our data doesn't show the cost to remove the old driveway, but we do show the average asphalt paving cost ($4,457) and concrete driveway cost ($3,650). The range of asphalt driveway projects is much greater at $2,000-$25,000 than concrete at $650-$7,091.

If your project falls right on the average, then you are looking at a cost of $8,594 to install a driveway heating system under asphalt and $7,542 under concrete. Shoveling snow doesn't seem so bad anymore.

So if these numbers put the project outside of your price range, consider two things. First, get estimates from professionals. The numbers quoted above are just averages and don't reflect the rise and fall of material prices or the cost of living in your particular area. So always get an accurate bid from someone who would actually do the work. Second, if you need to replace your driveway anyway, upgrading to a heated driveway system is a smart idea while your old one is already ripped out.
DIY Tip. If you're capable, rent a jackhammer and a sledgehammer, bust up the old driveway, and haul it off yourself. This is one of the most punishing tasks you could undertake besides painting the bottom of a barge. But if you need to save a little, this is the part of the process that you can do yourself. Ask your contractor to bid out the demolition part of the process so that you can see how much there is to be saved. Maybe it's not enough to get out the work gloves, but if you don't ask then you won't know.

More Options with Heated Driveway Systems
Driveway heating systems can be installed under almost any driveway surface, including patios, sidewalks, and decks. Wherever you don't want to have to shovel, you can install this same heating system under there, too, so you never have to worry about shoveling. Remember that it's best to have your boiler placed as near as you can to the driveway. Most systems will have a mechanism that activates the system when snow falls. Even when you're on vacation or away from your home, your driveway will stay clear for your return.

Marcus Pickett is a professional freelance writer for the home remodeling industry. He has published more than 600 articles on both regional and national topics within the home improvement industry.