Snow is unavoidable in Canada, whether you reside in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Kamloops, British Columbia, Windsor, Ontario, or Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Once it’s here, you have a few alternatives for getting rid of it.

Snowmelt systems are a common commercial technique of snow removal, especially when avoiding litigation. They are becoming more popular in residential applications. Two types of driveway heating systems: electric and hydronic driveway snow melting systems. For this article, the emphasis will be on the hydronic system.

Hydronic driveway snow melting systems typically include PEX tubing, manifolds, heat sources, including the boiler (condensing boiler or not), water heater, controllers, heat exchangers, insulation, and mixing equipment (variable speed injection or modulating valve).

The tube circulates a hot glycol mixture isolated from the boiler loop by a heat exchanger, warming the slab. Water and propylene glycol mixture has a higher heat capacity than oils and works well in various heaters.

hydronic driveway heating

What Is Hydronic Driveway Heating System?

A hydronic driveway snow melting system differs from an electrical system in that it heats the driveway using warm water circulated through the tubing. Once installed, a boiler will serve as the warmer, heating the water in the system.

The temperature of the water is predetermined and entered so that the boiler knows how hot the water should be. The heated water can achieve temperatures ranging from 60 to 80 degrees Celsius.

Once the water has been warmed, a circulating pump will circulate it through a series of pipes, evenly warming your driveway. The tubes are installed beneath the driveway’s concrete or asphalt surface.

what is hydronic driveway heating

Your new hydronic driveway snow melting system will keep your paved driveway warm. If you leave the system running after the snow has melted, any fresh snow will melt and drain to the runoff on your street.

Hydronic driveway snow melting systems are typically more expensive than electric snow melting systems but are far more durable and efficient. You will discover that you do not need as much electricity as you would with a standard system, and the snow melts quickly.

Hydronic Driveway Snow Melting Systems Pros and Cons

Every product has its advantages and disadvantages so do the hydronic driveway heat systems.

Pros of Hydronic Driveway Heating Systems

There are various advantages to installing a hydronic driveway snow melting system in your driveway, and many homeowners do so since it is simple to maintain and highly recommended. The hydronic driveway snow melting has several advantages, including:

  • Can efficiently heat large regions of space, resulting in efficient snow melting
  • Tubing will distribute the heat evenly
  • It can be utilized with existing boilers in the home
  • Snow melts rapidly
  • It can be used in residential, commercial, and industrial settings
advantages of hydronic driveway heating systems

Cons of Hydronic Drive Way Snow Melting

Just as there are advantages, there are also disadvantages to the hydronic driveway snow melting as well. Some of the drawbacks are as follows:

  • The hydronic driveway snow melting system cannot be built in conjunction with an existing cement driveway. (The driveway would have to be removed before the system could be installed and the driveway replaced.)
  • Tubing can deteriorate over time and may require replacement.
  • If the tubing breaks, the system may become inefficient.
  • Even pros may find it challenging to install.
disadvantages of hydronic driveway snow melting systems

Controlling the System

Fluid temperature control is crucial; too low, and the snow will not melt, but too high, and the slab will be destroyed by thermal shock if the temperature difference between the glycol mix and the slab is too large.

A snowmelt system can be operated in three ways: manually, semi-automatically, or entirely automatically. A manual system completely relies on human interaction to turn it on and off. This is uncommon and should be used only when the surface to be heated is dirt or gravel.

Manual control is impossible for hard surfaces such as paving stone, concrete, and asphalt due to the need to avoid thermal shock. In idle mode, semi-automatic systems keep a certain heat level in the slab.

To start the melting cycle, humans must intervene. If no one is home to “press the button,” the driveway will be buried in snow.

hydronic driveway snow melting controlling

A completely autonomous system will always keep the slab in a “ready” state and initiate the melting cycle when needed. Sensors in the slab detect snowfall and gradually activate the melting system. It may take some time for the snow to begin melting.

The advantage is that if you already had to slab pre-heated, the snow will melt faster when it does fall. The position of the sensor is essential. Contractors must consider vehicle traffic and parking; if not, a car will be parked directly on top of the snowmelt sensor.

Freeze Protection

The heating fluid is a glycol combination to keep the pipes from freezing. The amount of glycol solution required is determined by how cold it is outdoors. In Alberta, where temperatures can drop below -40 degrees Celsius, the glycol solution might be as high as 50%.

In some areas, such as southwestern Ontario, you might be able to get by with 25% to 30%.

Because glycol deteriorates over time, it should be examined regularly. If the glycol deteriorates, it may cause the pipes to freeze or allow microbial development. This is where you may notice black spots in the pipes.

freeze protection of driveway heating

Class System

Hydronic driveway snow melting systems are classified into three types: level one, level two, and level three. Each level represents the number of BTUs required for proper system operation.

Level one, for example, is typically a domestic or warmer temperature application that requires between 125 and 150 Btu per square foot per hour. This class often includes installations in the Niagara Valley in Ontario or the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia.

Level two might be found in colder climates or bigger residential applications. More demanding applications will require 160 to 190 BTUs per square foot per hour. Places like Calgary and Quebec City are frequently in the level two range.

Level three addresses the most demanding heating requirements. This category includes critical facilities that must be heated at all times, such as emergency entrances to hospitals, fire stations, and helicopter pads. This class requires between 200 and 220 BTUs per square foot per hour.


Depending on the installation, the hydronic driveway snow melting system’s tube sizes range from 12 to one inch in diameter. Loop lengths are affected by pipe size. They are often kept as brief as feasible.

A 3/4-inch pipe can see a length of roughly 300 feet, while a 5/8-inch pipe should see a length of 200 to 250 feet. The larger the pipe, the longer our loops can be.

Laying the pipe in alternate hot and cold directions is ideal, utilizing a double serpentine, reverse-return, or double spiral model. This will evenly disperse the radiant heat; otherwise, specific portions will melt, and a “sugar cane” scraping effect may develop.

hydronic driveway snow melting specifications

Snowmelt systems can be installed under various slab materials, including but not limited to asphalt, concrete, and sand bed.

The piping must be protected during the paving process if asphalt is used for the slab. When paving with asphalt, you may need to pump cold water through the system to keep the pipes from overheating when they lay down hot asphalt.

Helium is frequently used to detect leaks. The system is drained, and helium is added. We next use a helium detector to locate the leak within one foot because helium molecules are the tiniest and can pass through concrete.

The other important factor is drainage. To avoid a skating rink at the end of the driveway, the snowmelt water must go somewhere.

How Much Does a Hydronic Driveway Snow Melting System Cost?

The cost of a heated driveway is determined by several factors, including square footage, control system installation, labor, and whether you’re creating a new driveway or adding to an existing one.

On the other hand, heated driveway snow melting systems cost around $10 per square foot, with typical sizes for residential driveways ranging from 600 to 750 square feet.

Operating Costs

At current natural gas prices, an average driveway of 1,000-2,000 square feet will cost around $100 per snow event. With hydronic snow melting systems, the driveway surfaces, landscaping, and lawn will be protected, and the home’s resale value will be higher.

hydronic snow melting systems cost in Toronto


The advantages of outdoor in-floor heating for driveways continue beyond the driveway heating system. As a matter of fact, an underfloor heating system can be placed beneath your sidewalk, stairs, and deck to prevent snow and ice accumulation.

Because the surface area of these locations is smaller, these solutions are also quite economical. Many believe system design will shift away from in-slab sensor systems and link your equipment to the internet, which will operate your system based on a forecast.

It may be less expensive and less of a headache to have a hydronic driveway snow melting system getting rid of all the snow and ice rather than employing someone for snow removal.

Blue Diamond Plumbing offers the highest quality driveway snow melting systems in Toronto to help you get rid of the annoying ice and snow during cold Canadian winters. Contact us if you need our help.