Winter in the Lakes Region means the arrival of snowy and icy conditions. This arrival brings additional efforts, costs, and headaches associated with keeping your property safe and accessible. We’ve been removing snow and ice from residential and commercial properties for decades, and we know that will continue for decades to come. We also know that for some property owners, there may be a better way.
Heating your driveway or walkway is an effective way to eliminate the need for plowing, shoveling, or the use of chemicals to keep your lanes of travel free of ice and snow. Historically these systems were expensive to install, problematic to operate, and occasionally unreliable. Today we find there has been significant progress in radiant heat technology utilized for this purpose, eliminating many of those concerns and making this a viable choice for many homeowners. Here are some common pros and cons regarding heated driveways and walkways.
Property owners with these systems have the peace of mind knowing that their system will keep their property few and clear of snow and ice with little need of help or assistance from them.
Once installed, some systems such as the electric varieties require little maintenance. They have few, if any moving parts, and can last for decades.
Property owners may realize long-term savings after installing these systems versus the costs associated with hiring a snow removal contractor. Savings may also be realized in insurance rates based upon the decreased likelihood associated with slip and fall claims due to slippery travel paths.
The addition of a heated driveway or walkway is a desirable feature for property owners, resulting in greater resale value for the property.
Heated driveways melt snow and ice without the use of chemicals. This means the chemical impact from your property is significantly reduced. This is an important consideration for waterfront and watershed properties.
Your driveway may last longer. The freeze-thaw cycle is tough on hard surfaces like driveways and walkways. By reducing the frequency, or eliminating this cycle you’ll reduce stress on the surface. This will help increase how long these surfaces last.
The installation of these systems often represents a significant up-front investment. This is especially the case if a system is being retrofitted into an existing driveway or walkway, or if the driveway is particularly large. The best time to consider this upgrade is when you are installing new or performing a significant restoration of your driveway or walkway.
These systems require energy and will result in increased utility bills. Often the increase in utilities is less than the cost of snow removal services.
These systems can be expensive to repair. If the radiant heating pad, tubing, or underlayment requires repair, the system will need to be unearthed. This can be costly. Proper and careful installation is the best way to mitigate this risk. Also, be careful to understand and follow loading limits for these features to help prevent damages.
As systems age, they may become obsolete causing repairs to be difficult or impossible. This is especially common in hydronic (forced liquid) systems. Electric systems tend to have fewer parts to repair, and can be retrofitted with new parts more easily.
Who is a good candidate?
Those who tend to get the best return on investment regarding a heated driveway or walkway tend to have a number of these characteristics below.
They are considering an installation on their primary residence, or a residence they plan on using during the winter months.
The driveway and/or walkway are being newly constructed or will be undergoing a significant renovation soon.
They hire a snow removal contractor to maintain their property or are looking for a solution that eliminates the need for removing snow themselves.
Their driveway has average traffic which does not include consistent and recurring heavy machinery or trucks, especially if you utilize a hydronic system.
Other things to know
Radiant heating systems can be installed in any hardscape feature. This can include a patio space to allow safe use of your patio, fire pit, or other landscape features year-round.
Many heated driveway systems are compatible with a variety of hardscape materials. There are solutions for use with natural stone, concrete pavers, poured concrete, asphalt and more.
These systems are not for the DIYer. Correct installation will have a significant effect on the reliability and effectiveness of the system. These systems also require an electrician and in some cases a plumber (for hydronic systems).
Permitting is likely required. A quality landscaping firm can assist you in this process.
We’ve found electric systems, such as those from ProLine Radiant Heat are the best solution for both residential and commercial applications. These systems are often more durable, cost effective, and provide the expected results.
As always, Belknap Landscape will be here for our clients and their winter property needs. If you’re interested in finding out if a heated driveway is right for you, or if you require traditional winter property care as part of your proactive property maintenance plan, we can help you find the right solution. Give us a call 603-528-2798