Let it Snow, Let it Snow

Taking the lead from radiant floor heating in the home, many new homes and commercial buildings are taking advantage of outdoor radiant heat for walkways and driveways.  The system makes sense in cold climates such as Michigan. It’s a great alternative to introducing salts and chemicals into the environment when trying to melt snow and ice to keep family members and visitors from risking slip and falls due to icy driveways and walkways.

Outdoor radiant heat can also be a great advantage for professionals such as doctors, who may need to get out in an emergency, and don’t have time to shovel the driveway or wait for a plow service to arrive.

Installing an Outdoor Radiant Heat System

There are two systems used in installing heated walkways and driveways. Electrical cables or a hydronic heating system are installed under the paving. The hydronic heating system uses copper tubing or cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) filled with a liquid treated with antifreeze to warm the driveway or walkway. The glycol solution is heated with a boiler, operated with either manual or automatic controls for ease of use.

The hydronic system is undoubtedly the way to go in a system such as this, because the use of electrical cables to heat a driveway or walkway to 38-40 degrees can be costly in terms of electrical usage.

Considering the nature of this system, the best time for installation would be during a new home construction project, or a major landscaping change to the property. If old, cracked walkways need replacing, then this would be the time for this type of installation. Also, if your driveway needs repaving, the time is ripe for this type of install.

Be sure to give a lot of thought and do research before installing outdoor radiant heat, because many contractors are not familiar with the proper setup. You should consult with not only HVAC and heating specialists, but also the paving installers. Care must be taken when installing the system to insure that the tubing is not damaged, or that the load of the asphalt or concrete is not too heavy for the tubing, In this case, a barrier would need to be installed to protect the tubing.   

The Benefits of Heated Sidewalks and Walkways

If the installation is done properly by a profession installer, the advantages and benefits of having heated walkways and driveways, is enormous. The environment is protected from chemicals and salts, there is no arduous snow shoveling to do, and you can get out of your driveway easily in an emergency. Avoiding the use of salt or snow-melt chemicals also reduces the damage to concrete caused by the freeze/thaw cycle.  Probably the biggest advantage of all is to the safety of family and visitors to your home from slip and falls.

It would be wise to check with your insurance agent when installation of a radiant heat system is complete. Who knows? They may give you a break on your premiums.  Other benefits include increasing the value of your home and prolonging the life of your driveway.


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