Heated driveways are a premium feature with a practical edge

Safety and liability issues make these ‘extravagant’ features more reasonable for some owners, property managers
(Photo: Belgard)

Few homeowners relish heading out after a heavy snow and clearing their driveways and walkways. Some owners may have mobility problems, making shoveling or snow blowing an extra challenge. An increasing number of manufacturers are entering the heated driveway market, according to Joe Raboine, director of Belgard Residential Hardscapes at Oldcastle APG Inc., making it easier to find solutions for homeowners.

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Components for heated driveways come in around $8 to $15 per square foot, Raboine said, plus installation and, usually, demolition of an old driveway. With most driveways ranging around 1,000 square feet, the cost can add up for homeowners who just don’t want to put their boots on.

“I think the perception is that these are pretty extravagant things to have, but there is definitely some practicality to it when it comes to falls and that type of thing,” he said.

The biggest market for heated driveways in Colorado is primarily large custom homes, Raboine said, as well as light commercial property owners who are “starting to see it as a liability reduction.”

He added, “When I look at Colorado, especially with all the steep inclines and elevation changes, one of the biggest factors for people installing these driveways is really the safety aspect.”

Owners with steep or shaded driveways may be particularly interested in heated driveways, especially if they’re starting a new build.

“They’re not inexpensive to install, so somebody really has to want those benefits to spend the money,” he said. Due to the cost of retrofitting an existing driveway, “it definitely makes more sense if you’re starting from scratch.”

Electric or hydronic

Driveways can be heated by electric coils installed under the slab, or by hot water and antifreeze run through polyethylene tubing.

Electric systems are a little simpler to install, Raboine said, but very expensive for the homeowner to run. Meanwhile, hydronic systems are more expensive to install, and most contractors would hire plumbing or HVAC contractor to install a boiler that can support the system.

“You need a lot of power” for electric systems, he explained. “In some cases, if it’s not new construction and you haven’t planned for it, you may even have to upgrade your entire service panel,” he said. They can be run by sensors, which will turn on the system when it detects snow, but “if you’re in an area like Colorado where they get a lot of snow or a lot of small repeated snows, it may be on quite often. Hydronic would make probably make more sense in an area like that.”

The systems can be topped with pavers, poured concrete or asphalt. With hydronic systems, poured concrete can potentially damage the tubing if it shifts over time, Raboine said, unless the system is embedded in road base under the slab. Asphalt is a little more pliable and thinner than concrete, so it doesn’t present the same risks.

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The benefit of pavers is that if there’s ever a need for maintenance, it’s fairly easy to pull them up for the repair and replace them when done, he said.

 

Danielle Andrus

Danielle Andrus is the managing editor of Colorado Builder. She can be reached at [email protected].

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