Once reserved for high-end luxury homes, heated driveways are becoming more common in regions where it snows heavily in the winter. A driveway heated by electric or hydroponic coils embedded in the concrete allows homeowners to flip a switch to melt accumulated snow rather than having to go outside to shovel or blow snow off the driveway. Depending on the specific region, installing a heated driveway costs between $14 and $24 per square foot, which is is at least two or three times more than putting in a standard concrete driveway. A standard 1,000-square-foot (20x50 feet) heated driveway could cost as much as $14,000–$24,000.
Installing a heated driveway where there was none before costs less than adding heat to an existing driveway. Joe Pilson, owner of Complete Concrete in Denver, Colorado, estimates that his company charges about $20 per square foot to install a new heated concrete driveway—$14 per square foot more than a standard concrete driveway. Pilson’s prices typically include removal of an existing driveway, but that’s not the case with all contractors.
Most heated driveways either have electric radiant heat, such as that used in heated floors, or hydronic systems that circulate heated water in embedded pipes to warm the concrete and melt snow. Pilson of Complete Concrete says hydronic systems are more powerful and better suited to outdoor systems such as heated driveways. However, hydronic systems cost 30 percent to 50 percent more than electric systems and may require installation of a new boiler unit or water heater. The distance between the embedded cabling or tubing and the electrical hookup also affects the total cost of installing a heated driveway. The farther away the utilities are, the higher the installation and operating costs will be.
The most budget-friendly way to heat a driveway is to purchase heating mats and place them in the path to be cleared for driving in and out. Large heated mats cost $700–$1,500.
Manual versus automated controls
As with home heating systems, homeowners can add a control system to their heated driveway. Some systems allow homeowners to turn the heated driveway on manually using a switch or dial. Others can be programmed to come on automatically in the winter months. Programmable control systems cost about $250–$600 more than manual systems.
As with a standard concrete driveway, custom design elements such as stamped patterns and borders increase the overall cost of installing a heated driveway. Adding a stamped border to a 500-square-foot driveway, for example, costs about $800–$1,500 extra.
In some cases, concrete contractors can retrofit an existing concrete or asphalt driveway to be heated. The contractor installs an electric system into the driveway after making a series of saw cuts and adding new hardscape material over the newly added electric cables. Average costs to retrofit an existing driveway are $7–$8 per square foot, depending on the size of the project and amount of work required. Retrofitting an existing driveway using electric cables is easier than doing so with a hydronic system because electric cables are thinner in diameter.
When installing a heated driveway, it’s important to have adequate drainage for melted snow. If drainage is poor, the contractor—or another professional—will need to dig a trench or install a proper drainage system, which will increase the overall cost of the heated driveway installation.