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Low-cost ways to melt snow on steps and walks

September 19, 2018

It is only September but some areas of Canada have already seen snow and soon all of us will. It may be time your clients begin thinking about installing a snow-and-ice melting system for their home’s steps and driveways.
There are a number of solutions, from always-on radiant and electrical grids installed in new driveways or retrofitting into existing ones, to manually operated systems and low-cost mats that work well on steps and walkways.
The goal of these solutions is to melt snow and ice before they build up and present health hazard due to a lot of shoveling and scraping.
The most expensive option is always-on hydronic packages that embed radiant straight-laid elements beneath a new driveway. The elements contain an anti-freeze mixture that is continually warmed, with sensors that raise the temperature when the weather becomes colder. These work well, but with energy costs as they are in many areas—including Ontario—they can be expensive to operate over an entire season.
The other option is a manual system that the homeowner switches on when the snow begins falling. The drawback here is that if the system is not switched on in time, an accumulation of snow and ice takes a long time to melt.
In all of these systems, installation is crucial because repairs can require the driveway to be torn up to fix any issues.
As for cost, manual control systems can run to about $15 per square foot, installed under an entirely new driveway before the concrete or asphalt is laid. Some manufacturers have radiant and electrical systems that can be retrofitted into existing driveways and walkways, which can cost even more for labour.
A cost-conscious option is electrically heated, portable mats that can be laid down in specific areas, such on steps or walkways or driveways. Manufacturers such as HeatTrak and HotFlake offer snow melting mats that included heated walkway and stair mats for residential use. The mats, available through distributors across Canada, melt up to two inches of snow per hour. A 120-volt portable strip that is two feet wide and 20 feet long will cost around $1,600, but shorter mats cost less than $400. At the other end of the price spectrum is a 240-volt, 30-foot-long version sells for approximately $2,500. There are also smaller mats that can be used for stairways or specific entrances.
When handling home renovations this fall, talk to your clients about snowmelt systems. It could extend your contract and even help your crews access the worksite easily and safely during the winter.


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