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Affordable SnowMelt Solutions

By Ann Robinson and Annie Schwemmer

December 21, 2007

Snowmelt systems are designed to take the sting out of Utah winters.

Last week we discussed a permanent system to keep snow and ice off your driveway. The system, which can be expensive, features electric cables or hot water pipes running under your driveway.
Today we’ll discuss some other options that may add convenience to your winters without sending you to the poor house.

The first option is to use an electric cable system, but to install it judiciously, heating only critical areas. For instance, instead of heating an entire driveway, you could heat only narrow strips corresponding to the wheel base of an automobile.

This would allow vehicular access in and out of a garage without having to shovel the entire area until a more convenient time.

Portable heated walkway mats are one of the less-expensive options for melting snow and ice.

Perhaps you are concerned about the safety to the walkways around your home. Portable snow melting mats are one solution. The mats are designed to lie on top of existing surfaces as opposed to being imbedded in the walkway. The electric units can be placed in any area where snow and ice accumulate and work on the same principle as other snowmelt systems, continuously melting snow as it comes in contact with the warm surface.

The mats are manufactured with an electrically operated heating element sandwiched between two protective surfaces of nonslip rubber. They are durable and provide a much more secure footing for pedestrians. They are not appropriate for use in driveways.

Portable snowmelt mats operate by plugging them into any outlet. They come in either 110 or 240 volt options and in sizes ranging from 2 feet by 3 feet up to 3 feet by 25 feet. Several mats can be hooked together to achieve a configuration to suit your situation.

The cost of a 2-foot-by-3-foot mat is less than $200, while the 3-foot-by-25-foot version is more than $2,000.

Snowmelt mats come only in black, but there is another option if you already have a mat or outside rug. You can purchase an underlay mat that functions the same way as a snowmelt mat, but it only features a heating element without the rubber surface.

Stairs pose another concern. Electric rubber treads have the same slip-resistant surface as the mats but are sized to fit one to a stair tread. Sizes range from 9 inches by 2 feet ($125 each) up to 11 inches by 5 feet ($205 each). The treads are wired together and operate from a single plug.

There is also a more permanent (though pricey) solution to icy stairs. Heated aluminum stair treads can replace the steps of an existing stairway or be used in constructing a new exterior staircase. These range in cost per tread from $255 for a 9-inch—by-2-foot tread up to $510 for an 11-inch—by-5-foot tread. While the aluminum option is permanent, the mats and rubber stair treads are seasonal — just roll them up and put them away in the spring.

Portable snow mats and stair treads come with the option of automatic moisture and temperature sensors so they can respond automatically to the climate if you are not home to plug them in. They offer the same convenience and safety as a full-blown snowmelt system without melting away all your funds.

Article written by Ann Robinson and Annie Achwemmer the founding principals of Renovation Design Group, a Salt Lake City based architectural firm specializing in residential remodeling. See examples of Home Renovations on their website. This article posted on heatizon.com with written permission from Renovation Design Group. © 2005 Renovation Design Group. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Renovation Design Group.

Radiant Trak Portable Snow Melting Mats


OSHA the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the US government’s enforcement arm for safety and health issues has been tasked with overseeing professional independent testing laboratories. The best known of all independent testing laboratories is Underwriters Laboratories, UL.

UL was established by insurance underwriters to find ways to reduce unsafe hazards in the marketplace, thereby reducing dramatic insurance claims. Since its inception, UL has, been involved with writing standards of safety acceptability in the United States. They have been one of the premier developers of safety standards but they have not been the only group to write standards. Groups like NEMA, IEEE, and ANSI have also contributed to the development of standards. Similarly UL is not the only independent testing laboratory.

OSHA has become the certification agency for independent testing laboratories in the United States. A group of engineers who decide to do testing as a business must qualify through OSHA to function as an independent test facility. Further-more, they must show competence in specific areas, fire testing, for instance. Once they have demonstrated competence in the area of fire testing and have shown that they possess the facilities and equipment to do fire testing, OSHA will certify them as a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) to do fire testing. Factory Mutual, FM, is one such NRTL for fire testing, Southwest Laboratories is another.

Many independent testing laboratories have NRTL status. Most are relatively specialized and limited in their scope. The three major testing laboratories that operate in the United
states that have a wide scope of testing qualification are, UL, CSA, and ETL. They are certified by OSHA as NRTLs.

NRTL status tells all customers that the services performed by these companies, to list or to label products, is reliable and legally binding throughout the United States. ETL, originally known as Edison Testing Laboratories, is an old, respected, nationwide testing group with credibility equal to UL or CSA. Therefore an ETL listing label is legally binding nationwide and should instill equal consumer confidence in the manufacturer that they have cared enough to submit their products to the rigorous safety compliance process and achieved the right to apply a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory label that certifies compliance assurance.

Benefits of Radiant Heating

The Benefits of Radiant Heating:

How Do They Compare With Other Heating Applications

Some of the benefits of radiant heat:

Comfort: Let your bare feet soak up the warmth of soothing heat without the dust and noise associated with other heating sources. Enjoy evenly distributed heat throughout your home kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and basement.

Custom Designed: Whether for supplemental floor warming, or total space heating, every system is custom designed to fit all rooms independent of their shape or size. These systems will heat under any surface including marble, slate, carpet, hardwood and tile. The compact Control Box will hang on the wall of your garage or in a utility room. No heating vents or ducts will be seen, and no furnace or boiler is required.

Perfect for Remodeling and Additions: The simplicity of the low voltage heating element makes this system incredibly easy to install in your remodeling or room addition application. No floor buildup is necessary and no additional construction costs are incurred. The unique heating element can also be installed in between floor joists to heat an existing floor or room.

Safe: So safe, in fact that nails, water, and even touching the heating element during operation will have no harmful effect! You will have peace of mind while loved ones play as the systems are tested to UL standards and run on worry-free, low-voltage energy (8 to 32 V.).

Reliable: The solid-state heating systems are virtually maintenance free and the heating element is backed with a 25 year industry-leading warranty. With no moving parts and advanced self-diagnosing technology, there is no need for yearly maintenance or service checks.
Efficient: Radiant heat is the most efficient form of heat available. Significantly less operating time is required to maintain the desired warmth compared to furnaces and other radiant heat systems, keeping operational costs to a minimal. Low-voltage radiant heating systems run 98% to 100 % efficiency at any elevation as they evenly heat every area of the room.

Convenient: Our accurate thermostats allow you to easily adjust the floor or air temperature of your space heating or floor warming system. You also have the option of programming the exact time of day you want your system to operate. Simply relax, enjoy the comfort, and know that your system will work for decades to come.

So lets compare to other heating applications. Radiant Heat versus other applications:

Radiant Heat vs. Hydronics at a Glance

Both electric and hydronic radiant heat systems have certain advantages for specific applications. The following highlights the advantages low voltage radiant heat systems have:

A Boiler Room is required to run a hydronic radiant heat system. A 17″x12″x7″ Control Unit is required to run low voltage radiant heat system.

Gypsum or concrete slab is required for installing a hydronic system. It is estimated that it costs approx. $4.00 or more per square foot to install a hydronic in-floor heating system than it does to install a in-floor heating system.

The ZMesh heating element is installed directly under the floor surface without any floor buildup. The 12″ wide ZMesh is rolled out over the area to be heated then nailed and/or stapled to the wood subfloor.
Electric radiant heat warms your floors evenly because it uses 100% of the system’s energy. A hydronic system, however, heats the floor less the further away the hot water gets from the boiler (see illustration below). Hydronic systems use only 65-85% of the system’s energy. At higher elevations, electric radiant heat still is 100% efficient, where as hydronic systems are even less effective than at sea level.

Radiant Heat vs. Forced Air at a Glance

A room with floor Radiant In-Floor space heat will have a very uniform temperature from the ceiling to the floor. Heating a basement floor is the ideal application for our radiant heat systems. If you’ve lived in a house with forced air, you can crank the heat up, but the basement floor is still chilled. Installing a floor warming system will add comfort and warmth to your lifestyle.

A room heated with a forced air furnace will have cold floors and the warmest air at the ceiling. Although the air may be heated, the floors will be chilled and uncomfortable, especially for children playing on the floor.

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