A heated driveway is a radiant heating system.
The two main types are electric and hydronic.
A heated mat is a mat with an electric heating element.
Expect to pay from $1,300 to $7,500 for a heated driveway.
Heated driveways are best for harsh, snowy climates.
Do you live somewhere with harsh, long, snowy winters? Are you tired of shoveling snow? If so, it might be worth it to invest in a heated driveway. Determining whether a radiant heating system is right for your driveway will depend on the type of winters you endure, as well as your specific needs, lifestyle, and budget. Learn the pros and cons of installing a heated driveway.
What Is a Heated Driveway?
A heated driveway is a form of a radiant heating system—it works the same way that a heated floor does. Either electric coils or thin tubes filled with warm water and antifreeze are buried under the driveway’s surface. This raises the temperature enough so that snow and ice melt away.
What Are the Different Types of Heated Driveways?
There are two types of built-in heated driveway systems: an electric system and a (water-based) hydronic system. You can automate them or turn them off manually, depending on the system you choose. Or, the alternative to a built-in system is a portable heated mat. Here, we’ll take a closer look at each type of heated driveway and examine their pros and cons.
Hydronic heated driveways systems use flexible polymer tubing to melt ice and snow. Heated water is pumped through this tubing and mixed with antifreeze. Then, the heat radiates up from the tubing to the surface of your driveway.
Conveniently, you have options with a hydronic heating system. You can choose between manual and automatic; plus, hydronic boilers can be used with a variety of power sources. Hydronic heating systems also melt snow quickly and can be used to heat up large areas.
You do have to install a pump, boiler, and gas lines. Hydronic heating systems also require periodic maintenance—if they break, they're very difficult (even near-impossible) to fix. Heating can be uneven, too.
Electric heated driveway systems use a grid of heating mats and cables to generate heat. They tend to last several decades, and maintenance is minimal. They’re also relatively easy to install since you don’t have to purchase a boiler. And, electric systems tend to be more energy-efficient than hydronic systems.
They only use one source of power, so they’re not as versatile. And, though they’re usually less expensive to install than hydronic systems, operating costs tend to be higher.
Portable Heated Mat
As opposed to a built-in heated driveway system, a portable heated mat is a rubber mat with an electric heating element that sits on top of your existing driveway. Portable heated mats are much more affordable and less invasive than built-in heating systems. They’re also easy to set up and very versatile.
A heated mat doesn’t cover the whole driveway. So, it’s generally not the best option for harsh winter climates that see a lot of snow.
How Much Does a Heated Driveway Cost?
Evaluating the cost of a heated driveway should be a major part of the decision-making process. (Just keep in mind that, if you live somewhere that only gets a few light snowfalls a year, a heated driveway is likely not worth the cost.)
Expect to pay anywhere from $1,300 to $7,500. On average, heated asphalt driveways cost $8,600, while heated concrete driveways cost $7,550.
The exact figure will depend on:
The type of system you choose (electric or hydronic)
The size of your driveway
Whether you need to remove your old driveway first
Whether you opt for an automated or manual system
The Advantages of a Heated Driveway
In addition to learning more about the different types of driveway heating systems and factoring in cost, it can be helpful to consider the pros of having a heated driveway.
1. No Manual Labor Necessary
You don’t have to spend time shoveling the driveway, which means more time in the warm indoors and less time doing manual labor in the cold.
2. It’s Safer to Walk On
Because heated driveways prevent ice accumulation, they’re much safer to walk on. You don’t have to worry as much about people slipping and falling.
3. The Driveway Surface Will Last Longer
When water freezes on a driveway, this can eventually lead to significant cracks. A heated driveway melts snow and ice before the water does any damage.
4. No Need for Salt or Chemicals
Using ice-melt chemicals and/or rock salt can cause erosion of asphalt and concrete driveway surfaces. Salts and chemicals can also be dangerous to pets and nearby plants. So, a heated driveway system can help protect the surface and structure of your driveway, as well as the surrounding area.
5. They Have a Long Lifespan
Heated driveways generally last anywhere between 15 and 20 years.
The Disadvantages of a Heated Driveway
As with any major home renovation, there are some general disadvantages of installing a heated driveway. Here are the cons to consider before moving forward with this project.
1. The Existing Driveway Will Likely Need to Be Removed
In many cases, the existing driveway will have to be demolished before a radiant heating system can be installed.
2. Cost May Be a Concern
In addition to the driveway removal cost, you can expect your utility bills to increase overall. And, if the heating system malfunctions, you may need to remove all or part of your driveway to fix it. All of which goes to say: A heated driveway might not be a cost-effective endeavor for all homeowners.
3. Expert Installation Is Required
Installing a heated driveway isn’t a DIY project. It requires professional tools and experience, and the installation process can be very challenging and physically taxing. You’ll need to contact a local driveway company to install the system for you.