Roth FAQ Snow and Ice-melt System

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FAQ - Snow and Ice-melt System

What are snowmelt systems or "heated driveways?"

Snowmelt systems, also called "heated driveways," are a technological alternative to shoveling, salting, snowplowing, snowblowing and other snow-removal methods. With most snowmelt systems, tubing is run under the driveway (and walkways, patios and porch steps, too, if you like). Heated water is pumped through the tubing. The water in snowmelt systems is mixed with an anti-freeze (glycol). Heat radiates up from the tubing to the surface of your driveway, melting away snow and ice. Drains catch the liquid run-off produced by a snowmelt system, channeling the water away from your driveway.

What runs a radiant snowmelt system?

A boiler heats the water in most radiant snowmelt systems, and pumps circulate it through the tubing -- a form of radiant heating, but for the outdoors! The whole process is regulated by controls, so that heat won't be wasted. Control schemes vary in sophistication. At the low end are manually operated "on/off" controls, while the more sophisticated control schemes are automated.

How do manual ice melting controls work?

Manually operated controls schemes (or “on/off� systems) are the least efficient for snow removal, although they do a pretty good job of ice melting. They rely on you to say to yourself, "Gee, I heard it's going to snow; I'd better turn the snowmelt system on." The fact that they are cold-start systems is problematic. They won't melt the snow as quickly as automated systems. If a large amount of snow has already accumulated on a cold driveway by the time you manually activate the system, only a thin layer at the bottom of the snowfall will initially get melted. The result is a dead-air space that works as an insulator. In this case, insulation is a bad thing. It will take awhile for the rest of the snow to be melted, as the dead-air space temporarily keeps the radiant heat away from the snow. Avoid manually operated systems unless time is not an issue for you.

How do automated snow melting controls work?

Unlike snow melting systems with manual controls, automated systems run continuously, at low levels –- until it starts snowing outside, at which point their controls tell them to begin operating at higher levels. Snow never gets a chance to accumulate with these systems, meaning your snow melting needs are met more quickly. Heated driveways that are automated use sensors that both keep track of temperature and detect moisture. Automated snow melting systems stand ready at all times, avoiding the problems associated with cold-starts (as with manual controls). Their sensors tell them when it's time to get into high gear. Of course, if they operated at higher levels all winter, energy would be wasted. No need for them to throw maximum heat until it is both cold and wet outside -- that is, until the conditions are right for the arrival of their archrival, the snow.

How much does it cost to operate snow melt systems?

The commonest questions people have about snow melt systems pertain to costs -- both for installation and operation. The operating costs to run snow melt systems will vary greatly depending upon factors such as the severity of the winter. Another factor is whether you choose to purchase a system with manual or automatic controls. On average an hydronic snowmelt systems costs roughly $.14 to $.25 a sq. ft. per continuous hour of operation, depending on your location. The time to melt snow off a driveway (per storm) is usually just a few hours.

What type of driveway is compatible for installation of snow-melting systems?

Concrete driveways and asphalt driveways are both suitable for the installation of snow-melting systems.