Waking up in the middle of winter after a cozy night’s sleep to multiple inches of snow in the driveway can dampen a person’s mood. It’s no fun to spend the morning shoveling just so the driveway is usable, fully aware that it’s just going to happen again the next time it snows. Unfortunately, too many people consistently face this problem, but aren’t aware there’s a solution.
Heated driveways are an ingenious technological innovation that warms the ground so that snow cannot accumulate. It just melts away. There’s no need to waste precious time and energy using a shovel when technology can do the work for you.
Of course, knowing how to proceed isn’t always so simple. When researching, you’ll likely stumble across a couple of different options. The most common are heated driveway systems and their more affordable alternative, portable driveway heating mats.
Heated Driveway Systems
Heated driveway systems are split into two different categories: electrical current systems and hydronic tubing systems. Electric current systems utilize electrical wires embedded in the driveway that are heated with electricity. Hydronic heating systems use embedded tubes pumped with warm water and antifreeze to heat the driveway.
Electric systems are versatile and virtually maintenance-free. They’re cost-effective and relatively straightforward to install. They don’t require tons of extra elevation to your driveway, either. Hydronic systems, on the other hand, require a pump, boiler, and gas lines. They take longer to heat up than electric systems. They’re nearly impossible to repair if something breaks, so they require a regular maintenance schedule to keep things running smoothly.
The two systems are also split into two sub-categories: manual and automatic. Manual systems require constant attention, as the homeowner must be aware that snow is coming ahead of time and manually activate the system. Automated heating systems, on the other hand, are incredibly convenient. They run at low levels to conserve energy and heat up automatically when snow is detected.
For example, the WSM-252W is the first smart driveway heating control. In conjunction with the Warmup WSM app, the controller works with your local weather forecast to preheat your driveway, ensuring your system is running as efficiently as possible.
The most obvious benefit to a heated driveway system is that it eliminates snow and ice in the driveway. No more breaking your back in the freezing cold shoveling a path through all that snow. With an automatic system, that job is done automatically overnight, saving both time and energy, and since the driveway’s surface is heated, there’s also no ice, eliminating the need for deicing.
Another benefit of automatic systems is the fact that they’re incredibly energy-efficient. Though they are running all the time, they only run at high levels when snow is detected, which saves a ton on energy costs. Additionally, heated driveway systems require very little maintenance and can run for decades without issues.
The biggest challenge for homeowners to overcome with heated driveway systems is the cost of installation and the added cost of operation. Since the heating systems are built into the driveways themselves, it might require installing a brand-new driveway. They utilize electricity, so there is also an additional energy cost.
Heated driveway systems can be expensive to repair. Of course, it’s also important to remember that they rarely have issues. In fact, they can last for up to 20 to 30 years and require no maintenance at all.
Portable Driveway Heating Mats
Portable driveway heating mats are the cheaper alternative to heated driveway systems. They’re similar to the mats used for walkways, porches, and entryways, except they’re built strong enough to hold the weight of a vehicle. Instead of heating the entire driveway, they’re installed in parallel lines to melt the snow along the tire path.
The heating elements are sandwiched between rubber material, and they can be plugged into a standard electrical outlet. This is an acceptable alternative for a home or business that doesn’t see a lot of snow.
(These are different from Warmup’s snow melting mats, which are embedded into the concrete.)
The benefits of portable driveway heating mats are similar to the benefits of heated driveway systems. Homeowners will no longer have to shovel their driveway the morning after a snowfall. Heating mats melt the snow, leaving a path for vehicles to pull in and out of the driveway.
Of course, with portable heating mats, there are also some added bonuses that you don’t get with a heated driveway system. First, heated driveway mats are portable. So, unlike heated driveway systems, they can travel to a new location or home if you ever decide to move.
They’re also cheaper than heated driveway systems. If you decide to go with portable heating mats, the cost will be a fraction of what it would be with a built-in system. If any of the mats break or malfunction, which is much more likely than with heated driveway systems, they are simple to replace.
Of course, heating mats aren’t without their challenges. First and foremost, these mats are typically installed over targeted areas, so the entire driveway isn’t covered. This requires precise parking skills. Second, they’re installed above the driveway, which aesthetically may have less curb appeal than a built-in system.
They’re also a pain to move them in and out of the garage. They’re often heavy and cumbersome, and when it’s cold and icy outside, the last thing you want to have to do is drag mats in and out of your garage.
Heating mats aren’t as efficient under heavy snowfall. If your area experiences a lot of excess snow, then portable heating mats might not be the best choice.
The Best Solution to Maximize Driveway Utility
Choosing between heated driveway systems and portable driveway heating mats comes down to your specific circumstances. Heated driveway systems are the most effective and long-lasting heated driveway solution. They are perfect for areas that experience heavy snowfall, and are well worth the investment. However, if you live in an area that doesn’t get a lot of snow or you need a cheaper alternative, portable heating mats may be right for you.