How Much Does a Heated Driveway Cost?
Heated driveways may seem like a luxury option, but they can save you time and headache once winter rolls around. Heated driveway cost ranges from $1,300 to $7,500, with the national average at about $3,900.
- Typical Range: $1,300 to $7,500
- National Average: $3,900
For homeowners who deal with snow year in and out, the idea of eliminating winter shoveling is an attractive one—and a heated driveway can make that idea reality. Functioning like radiant heat flooring, these snow-melting driveways can save you from a dreaded chore, and they can be a practical advantage for older residents or people who struggle to clear snow on their own. Imagine flipping a switch and watching snow melt on your driveway from the comfort of your living room, as opposed to donning heavy clothing and boots to remove snow manually.
While the cost of a heated driveway can start as low as $1,300 and will typically top out at $7,500, the national average heated driveway cost is $3,900. Although costs rarely dip below the bottom of the typical range, they can certainly go higher for longer or oddly shaped driveways. In general, expect to pay between $12 and $21 per square foot for heated driveways, including materials and installation. Installing a heated driveway will often cost two to three times as much as a regular driveway.
Factors in Calculating Heated Driveway Cost
When budgeting for the cost of a heated driveway, simply considering the national average of $3,900 may not be enough. There could be regional disparities in pricing due to the cost of labor, access, or your home’s location, if remote. There will certainly be variances in the cost that correlate to the size of your driveway, but other factors can impact the cost of a heated driveway.
Driveway heating systems can cost from $12 to $21 per square foot, including materials and installation. Longer, wider driveways with greater square footage will cost more than smaller, one-car driveways. Driveways with curves or irregular shapes will also cost more than straight driveways.
The type of driveway you have can determine the price of heating it. Asphalt driveways tend to be more expensive than concrete driveways without snow-melting systems, so it makes sense that an asphalt heated driveway would also be more expensive. The cost of installing a heated concrete driveway averages $7,550, while a heated asphalt driveway ranges from $2,000 to $25,000, with the average installation costing $8,600.
Type of Heating System
You may be familiar with radiant heat as a system commonly used under tile floors. Similar systems can be used to heat your driveway. An electric system relies on electricity to heat coils beneath the driveway surface to melt snow. A hydronic system uses boiling water flowing through embedded pipes to heat the driveway. A hydronic system costs 30 to 50 percent more than an electric system and may also require the installation of a new boiler unit or water heater at additional cost.
As the snow on your driveway melts, it needs to be channeled somewhere to prevent refreeze as hazardous black ice, defeating the purpose of the entire snow-melting system.
The driveway should slope away from the house, but if there’s not adequate draining, you may need to dig a trench to allow for runoff or even install a drainage system at an additional cost of $1,000 to $4,000. It may also be necessary to heat the pipes and gutters used for drainage to prevent ice blockages.
Labor, Installation, and Materials
Materials and installation costs can also affect the overall cost of a heated driveway. Large-scale extenuating events like labor shortages or shipping delays could impact the price, but keep in mind that your geographic location will also affect how much you pay. Metropolitan areas typically have higher installation rates because of the higher cost of living, but some remote areas may add a surcharge for distance traveled by the crew. If the installation includes demolition of the existing driveway, the total operation will be more expensive. Installation costs will also increase if the electrical connection is far away from the embedded cabling or tubing.
Additional Costs and Considerations
If you’re asking yourself, “How much does a heated driveway cost?” it’s essential to consider your specific situation as well as your options. Does the heating system you selected require you to remove your old driveway and install a brand-new one? If so, that will add to the cost. If you choose automatic controls, you’ll most likely pay more than if you select a system with manual controls. Certain design elements can also jack up the price.
New Driveway vs. Retrofit
Including heating elements if a driveway doesn’t yet exist is a fairly straightforward installation process. If you already have a driveway, you could rip the whole driveway out and install a new one, but it’s not always necessary. Ask your contractor if it’s possible to retrofit a system into your existing concrete or asphalt driveway. (It’s easier to retrofit an asphalt driveway than a concrete one.) It involves making several saw cuts along the driveway into which the heating elements are placed. After the heating elements are connected to the system controls, the contractor will seal the slots, cover them in asphalt, and add hardscaping to conceal the cables. This job typically starts at $7 to $8 per square foot and is more easily done with electric systems than hydronic ones since the cables are thinner.
Manual vs. Automated Controls
Manual heated driveway systems are self-explanatory: Homeowners turn the system on when they want to melt snow or ice. An automated system senses when it needs to turn on, which can benefit people who have to leave early in the morning for work. An automatic system can also make getting into your driveway easier if it snows when you’re away. Automated systems cost more to purchase and install—about $250 to $600 more than manual systems—and incur higher energy bills, especially when they’re installed in asphalt. This is because greater care must be taken due to the heat of the asphalt pour and the abrasive application process.
Some homes have driveways with design elements such as stamped or stained concrete. Adding one of these to a heated driveway could cost an extra $4 to $8 per square foot. A border of stone or brick pavers will run an additional $10 to $17 per square foot.
One-time costs like purchase price and installation go away, but operating expenses go on forever. Depending on electrical costs where you live and how much snow you get, it can cost $120 to $600 per winter season to heat a 1,000-square-foot driveway. The national average is $0.08 per kilowatt per hour. That translates to about $1.60 an hour per snowstorm. Some radiant heat systems are energy efficient.
If the driveway heating system was installed correctly, there’s very little ongoing maintenance. Electric systems, in particular, have a reputation for being maintenance-free. However, you may need to replace the electrical control board down the road at a cost of around $200. If you have a hydronic system, have the boiler inspected annually. If the tubing ruptures and starts to leak, you’ll have to dig out the relevant section of driveway to repair or replace it.
Heated Driveway Cost Types
There are two types of heated driveway systems: electric and hydronic. Both systems rely on heating elements underneath the driveway. Both can be automated with sensors that detect temperature and precipitation as well.
An electric system features a grid of electric cables installed below the driveway surface that, when turned on, use radiant heat to melt snow. They are typically easier and less expensive to install and run (depending on local utility rates) and can be retrofitted in an existing driveway. Electric systems also heat up quickly. However, if a winter storm knocks out the power grid or some other interruption to the electrical supply line, the system won’t work. The system may also require an upgrade to your home’s electric panel, which can add costs. Electric coil systems operate silently and are customizable. They can be configured in a variety of forms and patterns to suit curved driveways.
A hydronic system utilizes a dedicated boiler system to pump heated water and antifreeze through a closed-loop PEX tubing grid embedded in or inserted beneath the driveway to melt snow. Hydronic radiant heat systems are more powerful than electric ones, but because they require an indoor mechanical room to house the components, they are usually more expensive than electric systems. Operating costs can be lower because the system can run on multiple forms of fuel, such as propane, natural gas, electricity, wood, or oil. However, a hydronic system typically costs 30 to 50 percent more than an electric system and may require installing a new boiler unit or water heater for an added cost.
Benefits of Installing a Heated Driveway
There are multiple reasons a homeowner might benefit from a heated driveway. Possibly the most obvious is that you won’t have to shovel your own snow. Or, if you pay for a snow removal service, compare how much you pay over several years to the one-time cost of a heated driveway. Snowy or icy driveways can be a safety hazard, especially to those who struggle with mobility. Heated driveways can also help elongate your driveway’s life.
If your driveway clears itself through the use of a radiant heat system, there’s no need to shovel snow. This saves time as well as physical effort. It’s also comforting to know you don’t have to shovel snow in the dark, either before leaving for work or after returning home late at night. Particularly for older homeowners or those with mobility issues, not having to shovel snow offers peace of mind and safety. If you pay for a snow removal service, you’ll also be saving money in the long run because a heated driveway will last for years to come with few maintenance costs.
By melting snow and ice on your driveway and sidewalks, heated driveway systems ensure a measure of insurance against slip-and-fall injuries. Vehicles won’t slide off icy driveways or struggle to gain traction in heavy snow, making driving safer and easier. By removing the need to shovel, homeowners avoid the physical risks from overexertion, such as sprains, muscle strain, lacerations, and even heart attack.
Rock salt and other de-icing chemicals can damage concrete, landscaping, and even vehicles over time. A snow-melting system replaces the use of these products. And, because it can keep the entire driveway (as opposed to just the section you might shovel) clear of ice and snow, it can help protect both concrete and asphalt from damage due to freeze-thaw cycles, including cracking, chipping, potholes, and crumbling.
Little to No Maintenance
When a system is installed correctly, there’s virtually no routine maintenance necessary. Although they tend to be a bit more expensive to operate, electric systems have a reputation for being maintenance-free. If you choose a hydronic system, you’ll probably want to have the boiler inspected annually. As long as you don’t park heavy equipment on your driveway, you shouldn’t have to worry about maintenance.
Added Value to Home
In areas where snowfall is heavy, heated driveways may increase your home’s appeal to potential buyers. They can also add to the fair market value of your home, depending on where you live and the age of the system, since the average life of a driveway heating system is 15 to 20 years.
Heated Driveway Cost: DIY vs. Hiring a Professional
Installation of a heated driveway system is a complicated project. Experience and knowledge of plumbing, electrical, and paving are necessary to do a good job. When dealing with electrical projects, it’s always wise to hire an electrician—and, in fact, depending on the system, it may be necessary to have a certified electrician install it for the warranty to be valid.
Some installations require the existing driveway to be torn out first, which requires heavy-duty equipment and time. Pouring a new concrete or asphalt driveway may also be beyond your capabilities. Using a resurfacing technique to install a radiant heating system over an existing driveway might also void the warranty.
Professional installers have the tools, know-how, and experience to do the job more quickly and efficiently—and often for a better price than it would cost the homeowner to DIY. The pros can save time and avoid costly mistakes. It’s also probably safer in the long run, and you’ll know the job is done right the first time.
How to Save Money on Heated Driveway Cost
There are several ways to save money on heated driveway costs. One is to invest in heating mats instead of installing a radiant heating system. You can place mats on your driveway where you need them for targeted snow melting. Although they are cheaper, they are not as powerful or as reliable as a radiant heat system, and they don’t cover as much area. If you invest in a radiant heat system for your driveway, there are still a few ways to save money.
- Do the demo yourself. If you’re planning on ripping out your driveway and starting from scratch, you may be able to do the first part of the project yourself. If you have time on your hands and feel comfortable using a jackhammer, you can save some money on labor. Keep in mind that you’ll have to haul away the material.
- Skip the sidewalks. Most homeowners don’t have long sidewalks or walkways, so they’re easy to shovel without a lot of time or effort.
- Heat only one lane. If you have a wide driveway but you only use one part of it regularly, you can opt to heat only the part that receives the most traffic.
- Just heat tire grooves. If you don’t see regular heavy snowfall but still want to get your car in and out easily when there is snow, consider heating placed right under where your tires would rest when the vehicle is parked.
Questions to Ask About Heated Driveway Cost
When considering having a heated driveway system installed, it’s natural to have questions about the cost, the process, the results, and the installers themselves. Here are some questions to ask when getting estimates.
- What type of system do you recommend for my home?
- Does the estimate include materials and labor, or are there additional fees?
- What is your payment schedule?
- Does this project require permits, and if so, who is responsible for obtaining them?
- Are you licensed, bonded, and insured? (Some states require contractors to be licensed, while others do not. Check with your local laws.)
- Do you have references?
- How long will the project take?
- How many people will work on the project? Do you use subcontractors?
- Do I need to be home while you’re working?
Heated driveway systems are becoming more prevalent in colder climates; no longer are they reserved for high-end neighborhoods. They can save countless hours of shoveling snow or the hassle and cost of hiring someone to do it for you. While this guide has provided almost all there is to cover on heated driveways, you still may have some lingering questions.
Q. How long does a heated driveway last?
When installed correctly, a heated driveway system should last 15 to 20 years. Over time, it may need some repairs, such as replacing the electrical control board or boiler, depending on which type of system you have.
Q. Can I heat my existing driveway?
In some cases, it’s possible to retrofit an existing concrete or asphalt driveway to add a radiant heating system. The installer would make a series of saw cuts, into which the cables are inserted, and then cover it with whichever material the driveway consists of. It’s typically easier to retrofit a driveway with electric cables than a hydronic system. Retrofitting can cost more to run due to the lack of insulation underneath.
Q. How much snow can a heated driveway handle?
Heated driveways can melt up to 2 inches of snow per hour. The melt-off will not refreeze as long as the system is on, keeping snow and black ice off your driveway.
Q. How much does it cost to run a heated driveway?
The average operating cost to run a heated driveway is $120 to $600 annually for a 1,000-square-foot driveway, but that depends on the type of system you have and energy prices in your area. Broken down, a hydronic system generally averages $120 to $250 a year, while an electric system typically costs $250 to $600 to run each winter. Electric systems cost about $0.08 per kilowatt per hour.
Sources: HomeAdvisor, Angi, HomeGuide, Thumbtack, HomeServe