Snow Melt SystemsNorthbrook, IL, Glencoe, IL, Wilmette, IL, Lake Forest, IL, Deerfield, IL & Winnetka, IL

The truth about the annual operating cost of snowmelt

If you have a job that requires you to be able to get out of your driveway, have a sloped driveway, have an extremely small footprint of yard with no room for plowed snow to be pilled, or if you have invested in a high end driveway surface that would be damaged by plowing, installing a snowmelt system is an extremely viable option to consider. Many people hesitate or eliminate snowmelt as an option though because they believe the annual operating cost for running the snowmelt system is too high. It is true that the overall cost of installing a snowmelt system is high ($10 – $20 / sq ft depending on the size of the system), but if you factor in the costs associated with why you considered snowmelt, then understanding the operating costs is important factor in swaying your decision toward snowmelting.

Once installed the annual operating and upkeep of a snowmelt system is actually very reasonable. We have generated the following operating cost analysis to demonstrate the average annual operating cost of a residential snowmelting system. In many cases the annual operating cost of operating a properly controlled and installed snowmelt system is less than the cost of an annual plowing contract.

  1. The snowmelt design is based on typical standards and practices for this area. The snowmelting system design and operating costs are based on the following
    The snowmelting system is designed to melt up to 12” of snowfall / day, and is based on snowfalls happening between 20 – 32F, and is designed to melt up to 98% of the snowfall in these ranges. Snowfall rates of more than ½” / hour will create snow build-up, but the snowmelt system will continue to perform under the snow. Snowfalls below 20F outdoor temperatures may take longer to melt, and would have higher heat loss rates.
  2. Snowmelt systems have a start-up time that varies depending on the outdoor temperature, and the temperature of the slab. {Snowmelting systems are not a “Spectator Sport”; heat up and melting times can vary greatly, but none of them are short}. To minimize snowmelt build-up, manual “Jump Start” should be used on the snowmelt control. Manual start of the snowmelt system will allow the slab to get up to a melting temperature before the snowmelt event starts, or at a minimum will reduce the warm-up time once a snow event starts. Manual “Jump Start” is generally programmed for 8 hour run time. If nothing happens during that time, the system will simply shutdown, otherwise if a snow event happens during that time frame, the main snow sensing controls will take over and run the system in it’s typical operating procedure. Manual “Jump Start” does increase energy usage on the snowmelt systems, but reduces snow build-up.
  3. A properly maintained and operated snowmelt system should be able to be operated in this area during a typical winter snow fall season (30 events / 40” snow total) for approximately
    1. Fully Automatic Operation (Snowmelt only at snow event) – $0.35 – $0.40 / sq ft of snowmelt area annually.
    2. Fully Automatic Operation and frequently used Manual “Jump Start” (Snowmelt at snow event + approximately 30 8-hour manual operations) – $0.60 – $0.85 / sq ft of snowmelt area annually.
    3. This cost does not take into account annual boiler system upkeep a $250 / year additional costs, nor does it take into affect snowfall seasons beyond the normal outlined above.

In total a 1,500 sq ft snowmelt system would have an annual operating cost of approximately $800 per year. Sure you can pay the kid down the street $20 per snowfall, but do you have the time to wait till he’s done playing video games to start your project? Why not just install a radiant snowmelt system, let the driveway and sidewalks clear themselves, and let the kid down the street not clean your neighbors driveway.

Snow Melt Systems • Glencoe, IL

Northbrook, Glenview, Highland Park, Lake Forest & Winnetka, IL