A hardy snowfall is often the best part of winter, giving a lively touch to the dreary landscape. But when it comes to clearing snow and ice from your driveway and sidewalks, it suddenly becomes a major nuisance. And due to the extreme hazard of an icy path, the labor of shoveling snow or spreading salt is a must.
In our opinion, snow melting mats are the best solution to your wintery woes. This technology takes indoor floor heating systems outside with a variety of designs, from rug-like mats to coils or tubing systems that are installed within the pavement.
Homeowners are often discouraged by the high price of heating mats, but the benefits of the investment are certainly worth considering. Not only do they increase safety and eliminate laborious shoveling, but they also significantly reduce surface cracks and the erosion caused by salt or ice-melt chemicals.
Doing a little research on the types of heating mats out there will ensure you get the most out of your investment. However, due to the wide variety of heating systems to choose from, deciding what’s best for you can be a bit daunting. So, to help you get started, here’s some handy info and a list of the 6 best snow melting mats currently on the market.
Above Ground Heated Mats VS Below Ground Driveway System
First of all, it’s important to know that there are two distinct types of heating systems: above ground mats, and below ground cables. This guide will focus more on above ground mats because of their popularity, but the list does include one option for below ground cables if you’re interested in exploring that route.
Above Ground Heated Melting Mats
Above ground mats are made of mesh wires encased in durable rubber, providing evenly spaced heat for optimum snow melt. Most mats are used for targeted areas, such as two strips where your car tires meet the pavement, or the center of walkways. For this reason, it’s uncommon to use mats to cover an entire driveway or large surface area. Because they cover a limited area and typically melt snow at only 2” per hour, they tend to work best in regions that receive moderate snowfall; too much snow, and they might struggle to keep a clear path.
These mats are the popular choice because they’re very easy to install and can be stored away during warmer months. The biggest downside is that their rectangular shape lacks flexibility for winding paths or curvy driveways. They can seem costly at first, and they have a reputation for breaking down quickly (a year or two, compared to the 10-year lifespan of a below ground system), but in the long run, the minimal installation cost makes them the cheaper option.
Also, some options are designed for walkways only and won’t be able to handle the weight of your vehicle, so be careful when choosing a mat for your driveway.
Below Ground Melting Mats/Cable System
Below ground systems usually consist of individual cables that are installed within the concrete of your driveway or walkway. They are conveniently out-of-sight and they provide greater flexibility for sharp angles and curves. And because they aren’t exposed, they tend to last considerably longer than above ground mats and they require less maintenance.
There’s a wider variety of below ground systems to consider, including hydronic water-based systems and various electric systems.
The biggest drawback to below ground systems is that existing surfaces (driveways and walkways) have to be completely removed and replaced in the installation process. This type of overhaul is usually unappealing to most homeowners, but if you’re building a new home or constructing a new walkway, then now’s the best time to go with this option.
And of course, installation is usually left to the professionals, adding to the overall cost. However, for the DIY savvy looking to save, here’s a video of how it’s done.
6 Best Driveway Snow Melting Mats
1. HeatTrak Heated Snow & Ice Melting Driveway Mats
HeatTrak has been around since 2004 and is known for meticulously designed products that are effective, efficient, and durable. Their driveway mats are designed for tire tracks ranging in length from 10 to 30 feet. Keep in mind, you’ll want to order two mats for both tire tracks of your vehicle.
As a plus, HeatTrak offers accessories for convenient operation, including basic remote control, a Smart Home Wi-Fi device, and a thermostat-activation system.
2. SnowMeltz Heated Driveway/Walkway System for Concrete/Asphalt/Pavers
The SnowMeltz is a popular below-ground system with a simple, electric coil design. The roll-out coils are two feet wide and come in a variety of lengths, and they can easily be configured to fit different shapes and curves. This below-ground system makes the list because it’s one of the easiest to install.
Also, the hands-free automatic activator, which operates on moisture sensors that detect snow-fall, is a unique and popular feature.
3. Summerstep Home Residential Snow Melting Heated Walkway Mat
These walkway mats are perfect for residential applications. They’re effective at melting moderate snow and ice (about 2 inches of snow per hour). And to solve the problem of hazardous snowmelt, a tacky, anti-slick tread on the durable rubber surface provides excellent traction underfoot, making this an excellent choice for ramps or sloping surfaces.
Keep in mind, for this product, you’ll need to buy the 120-volt power cord which is sold separately.
4. RHS Heated Walkway
Similar to Summerstep’s products (but with a higher price) the RHS walkway mats are effective and durable. Not only do their non-slip diamond-shaped treads provide added safety in wet conditions, but a clever, yellow strip along the edges are perfect for safely navigating your path at night.
They’re 15’ inches wide and range from 10’ to 20’ in length. Perfect for moderate snowfall. Also, hardy grommets line the edges for extra stability.
5. VEVOR Snow Melting Mat, 10ft x 13in
VEVOR uses PVC material for their mats, making them highly durable in rough conditions. Their thin, lightweight design makes them easily portable, and they’re flexible enough to be fitted on outdoor steps (a feature that many other mats don’t include).
While the VEVOR mat lacks the option of remote operation, this product comes with a 6’ extension cord and easy power connection.
6. HeatTrak Heated Snow Melting Walkway Mat
HeatTrak walkway mats are just as dependable as their driveway mats, complete with all the hands-free operation accessories. They come in a variety of sizes to meet your needs (the link below lists the short-length option, but longer mats are available).
Also, all mats are fitted with power connectors at either end, allowing for multiple mats to be connected together; this allows for greater flexibility for long walkways and tricky curves and turns.
Snow melting mats have been around for a while but have only recently gained in popularity, largely due to recent developments in above-ground systems which are now significantly cheaper and easier to install. Also thanks to recent technological developments, these systems are much easier to operate and maintain.
Anyone living in a region with snowy or icy winters will relish in this alternative to the arduous shoveling and messy salting that they’re used to. Not only do these systems save on time and labor, but they significantly decrease the risk of injury and/or automobile accidents.
As mentioned before, above-ground heating mats are the popular choice. While they’re still considered by some homeowners to be too expensive, this opinion is steadily changing as more and more people opt for the investment. And for those willing to take on a major renovation, a quality below-ground heating system will certainly improve your winter woes for years to come.