A heated driveway can greatly benefit a busy homeowner. Heated driveways reduce or eliminate the need to shovel snow and one can even be extended to include a heated walkway, so there's no need to shovel at all during the snowy winter months. However, a heated driveway is not a project for do-it-yourself beginners and requires knowledge of radiant heating systems, concrete pouring and basic construction skills.
To begin, estimate the square footage of your new driveway. If you are simply reusing the same design as your existing driveway, use that square footage amount. Once you know how large your driveway is or will be, establish a budget. Check with local contractors and retailers on the price of a radiant heating system, concrete and other supplies. On average, expect to pay between $12 and $21 per square foot (see Reference 1).
If you have an existing driveway, the first step will be to remove it. Removing a concrete driveway is a huge task and will require the rental of a large trash removal bin, a jackhammer and of course, some help from friends and family. Once the old driveway has been removed, level out the area to ensure a smooth surface.
A heated driveway can use either a hydronic system or an electric system. A hydronic system uses water and must be left on at all times to prevent the water from freezing, while an electric system can be turned on and off as needed. Both are effective in melting snow or ice on a driveway, but electric systems are often easier for those installing the driveway without the help of a professional. If you install a hydronic system, it involves installing plumbing within your driveway such as mixing vales, a boiler system and uses chemicals like antifreeze (see Reference 2).
To install, begin by insulating the ground. A vapor barrier is laid down first, followed by a radiant insulator that is at least 1 1/3 inch thick. Once insulated, lay down a grid to strengthen the concrete. Next, the heating coils are laid down and placed at least 2 inches apart to prevent crossed wires, which can cause electrical issues and destroy the driveway (see Reference 2).
The coils should be taped down with special tape specifically for use with heated driveway systems. This will help hold the coils in place as the cement is poured into place. Smooth out the driveway as you would with a standard driveway installation and allow to fully dry before use. Once the snow falls, simply flip a switch to turn on your heated driveway until the snow melts. After the snow is gone, turn the heated system off to prevent wasting electricity (see Reference 2).