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Question DetailsAsked on 7/10/2013

Is a heated driveway worthwhile in Michigan and how much would it cost when installing an 800 square foot driveway (concrete or asphalt)

Thinking of putting in new driveway and exploring the efficiency and cost of heating it.

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2 Answers


Here is an Angie's List article on that very question -

General cost to install a heated driveway, assuming you already have a driveway with suitable subbase so only the driveway needs removing, not the materials under it to be ready to install the heating system and replacement driveway, is about $10-25/SF - usually near the $15-20 range. This is about 2-3 times the cost of a normal driveway without heating.

It is also possible to install it by cutting into the existing driveway, but generally that results in a lot of cracks in the drive along the cut lines, so it really shortens the driveway live.

Hydronic systems (heated antifreeze) running off natural gas are generally more energy "efficient" (if you want to use that term for pouring energy $ into the ground and air) than electric.

Operating cost estimates vary a lot - for cold climates like most of Michigan, estimates run from $10-25 per storm to melt your driveway using a manual control system (usually on a timer so you do not forget and leave it on) depending on energy cost, so this can be $150-500 per year operating cost.

Life span can be highly variable - some systems develop breaks in a year or less, some last 10 years before developing multiple failures. You can count on much higher maintenance cost than for an unheated drive, because of repairs, and the frequent heating and cooling promotes frost-heave and freeze-thaw deterioration of the driveway so you have to replace the driveway in 5-10 years instead of 20+ years.

A word of caution - do NOT hook the system directly to your household baseboard heating furnace, because if you get a leak you then drain the household heating system too. Also, do not use a water-filled system, as you have to leave it on all winter to prevent freezing (and have no power outages of more than an hour or two), and even then just one kink in the tubing can cause freezeup and pipe bursting. If using a huydronic (fluid-filled) system, use one that runs non-ethylene propylene glycol anti-freeze - the kind that is used in RV's and cabins to prevent water system freezeup when not in use, as it is less destructive to concrete if it leaks, and is not highly poisonous to dogs and less poisonous to csts than ethylene glycol.

Also, do NOT use on steep drives unless buried at least 4 inches below the paving (which wastes more energy in heating ground rather than pavement) unless the paving is installed with specifically design shear keys into the subgrade, as the paving tends to gradually creep downhill over the years, which will tear the heating system apart. By putting the loops below the paving rather than in it and unsruing the loops go from side to side rather than up and down the hill risk of breakage is reduced. Placing it in the bedding below the paving has the added advantage that, if very careful, the driveway can be torn up and repaved without replacing the heating loops, but it is less efficient and melting response is delayed by an hour or two because it has to heat the base material first, then the pavement, and more heat is lost into the ground. This type of installation is common for slabs that are kept heated throughout the winter, like at building entrances and entrance walkways.

Check your local regs also - in a few locales, new heated driveways have been made illegal unless approved as necessary for medical reasons (extremely aged or infirm occupants in house, or sometimes only for public access facilities like entrance ramps for nursing homes, schools, hospitals and such) as an energy conservation measure, so check with your building permit department first.

Answered 7 years ago by LCD


Answered 5 years ago by barbarajmeyers

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