Heated Driveway and Heated Sidewalk Systems
Radiant heat is used in heated driveway systems to keep the area you choose free of snow and ice and is highly efficient because there is virtually no heat loss. The surface of your driveway is heated via a network of resistance heating cables, an electric system that radiates warmth to prevent the buildup of snow or ice. Another option is a radiant heat driveway (hydronic heated driveway) which uses PEX tubing rather than heating cables. Both systems have three components which include the activation device (snow sensor), heating element, and UL listed contactor panel.
Layout Options for a Snow Melting Driveway
There are various options for those considering a heated driveway depending on your needs and preferences. These include:
Heat problem areas. Hills can be problematic when heavy snow or ice accumulates. For driveways with a slope, a radiant heating system can be installed to heat the specific area which enhances safety.
High traffic areas. Some prefer not to heat the entire driveway, but the area most trafficked such as a center section leading into the garage or carport.
Areas with a lot of foot traffic. Getting to a vehicle when conditions are icy or slippery can be dangerous. Heating sidewalks or sections of the driveway that are frequently walked on when getting to or from a car makes it safe for everyone, something business owners want to keep in mind to avoid potential injuries and litigation.
Heated tire tracks. For those with extra wide or long driveways, it may make more sense financially to heat 24-inch wide tire tracks instead of the entire driveway. Operating costs are lower because you use less power; this is also a popular solution for those who may lack the necessary power to heat all of the driveway’s surface.
Heat the entire driveway. Many homeowners prefer to heat the whole surface of the driveway when the necessary power is available and budget is not a concern.
How Heated Driveway Systems Work
We mentioned the snow sensor earlier, one of the three primary components of a heated driveway system. These sensors are either mounted in the pavement (in-ground), or aerial mounted. In most cases, aerial sensors are installed at the roofline in residential applications. The location of the sensor is critical to its operation and requires installation in an open area where snow has unobstructed access, away from trees, dormers or other objects.
The contactor panel component is typically mounted in the garage and will be signaled by the sensor when precipitation is detected, and the temperature falls below the set point, which is designated by the homeowner. Once the contactor panel receives the signal, power is sent to the resistance heating cable. At this point warmth spreads immediately across the area to be heated, so you don’t have any concerns about the buildup of snow or ice. Once snowfall is no longer detected by the sensor, it goes into “afterrun” at which point it runs for a brief period to dry moisture in the driveway so that no ice forms as a result of the melted snow.
Radiant Heat Driveway
Hydronic radiant heat systems work in much the same way, the difference being the method of heating. This is a more complex driveway snow melting system that operates using a boiler; our professional contractors are happy to explain the process in-depth to those in the SE Michigan area who are interested in this radiant heat driveway.
Benefits of a Heated Driveway
There are numerous benefits of a radiation heated driveway snow melting system for home and business owners in Ann Arbor and throughout Southeast Michigan. These include:
Full automation. Heated driveway systems activate on their own when needed once installed, so you don’t give it a second thought.
Energy efficient. Heated driveways activate only when needed and are fully automated, making their operation energy efficient.
No maintenance. There are no moving parts to cause problems, and with only three components these snow melting systems are very basic which eliminates the need for annual inspections or routine repairs.
Easy installation, budget-friendly. Electric heated driveway systems are easy to install when compared to hydronic systems, using resistance heat cable either in mats where the cable is pre-spaced or in spools. Many homeowners choose to install much of the cable themselves because it is easy; however all wiring must be connected by a qualified electrician, so the warranty remains valid.
Environmentally friendly. Clean, noiseless operation means no need for salt or harsh snow-melting chemicals that can be damaging to plants and the environment.
No wasted energy, enhanced safety. Virtually no energy is wasted with electric radiant heated driveway systems as about 99% of energy consumed is directed to melting of the snow. Increased safety is another benefit as the likelihood of slipping or falling on icy driveways, sidewalks or steps is significantly reduced. This is important for businesses who want to avoid personal injury lawsuits.
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