Heated Driveways - Are they practical

Is it worth heating a driveway?

(Image : Warmzone)

At initial glance the idea sounds wasteful and impractical, but is it really.
Lets look at the costs.

Some years I pay neighborhood kids to shovel my driveway, sometimes I'll pay a company to do it. Cost varies depending on how much snow we get, but let's use an average of $300 for a winter. I could purchase a snow blower for $1000-1500 that would do the job in about 45 minutes and consume about $4 gas each time. This is at today's gas prices. What is the cost of the fumes released into the atmosphere each time I run a gallon of gas thru a small, inefficient engine like that of a snow-blower? The smell alone during the process is far more noticeable than my lawnmower, and car. What am i breathing into my lungs and what price might I pay for that with my health? This does not account for the value of my time that I could be spending with my family, job, or simply relaxing. Sure the exercise is good for my health, but if its exercise I am after, shouldn't I really pull out my manual snow shovel instead.

In addition to the plowing, I'll usually go thru a few bags of salt for icy days. Salt has been going up in price just like gas, and now usually runs $6-10 per bag. I often wish I could spread half a bag or more at a time due to how much icy days we get around here, but try to use less to keep the cost down and minimize damage to the driveway. The more advanced products claim to prevent driveway damage, but run nearly double in cost. Since the freezing and thawing is what causes most of the serious damage, that is going to happen no matter which product you use. In my case, despite the amount of salt i use, my driveway and walkways are not nearly as clean as I would like.

(Image : Warmzone)

I am working on comparing the costs of heating a driveway during the winter, vs. the traditional approach above. My first thought, like yours, is that it sounds like it will cost too much and be very wasteful. However, I want to explore options and get feedback from actual installations before reaching a decision. From what I have seen so far, the idea may not be as crazy as it sounds, and if we begin to take into account the indirect costs of doing it the traditional way, the numbers might even work out in favor of a permanent built in solution.

The material costs for a heated driveway are not as much as you might think. Its mainly about circulating a liquid under the pavement to transfer heat to the driveway.. Pextubing, costs about $900 for the 15x100' drive in my example. I also need to add in about $800 in antifreeze, and about $2000 for a heat pump. Because we installed geothermal, all we need to do is add some loops to pump the liquid between the underground and driveway sections, nothing more. Total cost to run the heat pump is about $1 a day in electricity. The end result is a slow and steady transfer of heat from the ground to the driveway. We do not need to run the temperatures far above freezing either. Just enough to melt snow and ice before it gets a change to build up into heavy layers.

We will be working on additional calculations, and taking a much deeper look at this to determine how practical it is.Can we offset the costs with solar? Can we actually save in the long run with a driveway that lasts longer? Can we reduce salt run offs into the lawns, and storm drains? Can we increase personal safety by not having any slip hazards on the drive or walkways? What is the cost of 1 slip-fall and breaking a hip? We don't have all the answers, but think it's worth a deeper look before dismissing an idea that seems impractial at first glance.

Do you have a heated driveway? Share your experience and what lessons you have learned.