Taking their lead from radiant floor heating in the home, many new buildings are taking advantage of outdoor radiant heat for walkways and driveways. The system makes sense for cold climates - it's a great alternative to introducing salts and chemicals in to the environment when trying to melt snow and ice, and family members and visitors aren't at risk of slips and falls due to icy walkways.
Outdoor radiant heat can also be a great advantage for professionals such as doctors, who may need to get out quickly in an emergency, and don't have the time to shovel out the driveway. Especially long driveways are benefitted by radiant heat in the same way. It can take a great deal of time to clean out a 200 yard driveway, and if there is any emergency, a heated driveway can melt the snow and provide an easy exit.
Patios can be complimented by the addition of a radiant heating system, giving a more aesthetic appeal to the home, and allowing homeowners the opportunity to enjoy their patio more on warmer winter days. Imagine having a barbecue in the winter, enjoying the time outside cooking on a patio with a heated deck!
Installing an Outdoor Radiant Heat System
There are two systems used in installing heated walkways and driveways. Electrical cable can be installed under the paving, and a hydronic heating system is also available. The hydronic heating system uses copper tubing or cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) 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 project, or major landscaping changes to the property. If old, cracked walkways need replacing, then 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 before installing outdoor radiant heat, because most normal contractors are not familiar with this setup, and 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 instance, a barrier would need to be installed to protect the tubing.
The Benefits of Heated Driveways and Walkways
If the installation is done properly by a professional installer, the advantages and benefits of having heated walkways, driveways, and patios is enormous. The environment is protected from chemicals and salts, there is no pesky snow shoveling to do, and you can get out of your driveway easily in the case of emergency. But probably the biggest advantage of all is to the safety of family and visitors to your home. If your walkways and driveways are heated, ice and snow will be melted, and there will be no danger of slips and falls.
It would probably be wise to check with your insurance agent when installation of a radiant heat system is complete. Who knows? They might give you a break on your premiums for installing heated walkways and drives. And you will no longer have to worry about your expensive carpeting being ruined by tracked in salt and chemicals, or pets and children possibly becoming sick from the tracked in materials.
Alden Smith is an award winning author and regular contributor to DoItYourself.com. He writes on a variety of subjects, and excels in research.