Beating Mother Nature at Her own game: How to pick a driveway snow melter
Jan 23, 2012, 8:15 a.m.
You didn't get where you are today by being careless. Okay, maybe that's not the case with everyone -- but if you're still alive and kicking, you can no doubt claim ownership of a survival instinct that's kept you intact up 'til now. Why ruin a good record by putting your physical safety on the line shoveling ice and snow from your driveway? Especially when there's geothermal driveway heating technology that can do it for you.
Geothermal driveway heating systems are also known as snow melters or radiant heating systems. Whatever you call them, they perform the same function: To melt snow and prevent the buildup of snowpack and ice on your driveway and the sidewalks around your home. But these aren't just gizmos of convenience -- geothermal driveway heating systems prevent injuries from falls and decrease the risk of heart attack, which has been shown to spike following blizzards . Are you sold yet? If so, your next step is picking the right kind of technology. There are two types of geothermal driveway heating systems: electric and hydronic.
Electric snow melters work by installing cables either inside or underneath the cement slabs of your driveway and sidewalks. When turned on, these cables radiate heat and warm up the cement, melting snow and ice. They can be set to automatically turn on at certain temperatures.
Hydronic driveway heating systems work on the same principles, except that the heat is generated by hot water moving through pipes inside or underneath the cement.
What'll It Cost?
How much your snow melting system will run you depends entirely on the size of your driveway and who you get to do the job for you -- but the average cost installed is anywhere between $5 and $10 per square foot, with hydronic systems costing more. The cost to operate can range from 25 to 50 cents each hour for every 100 square feet. This means that if you've got a 400 square foot driveway, you'll pay $1 to $2 per hour to keep it snow and ice free. Considering you could pay far more in medical bills to heal a fractured bone or recover from a heart attack, geothermal driveway heating is a no-brainer alternative to tackling mother nature armed with nothing more than a plastic shovel.
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