What building owners and contractors need to consider before installing these systems.

Electric snow-melting systems are typically installed in areas such as driveways, parking lots, sidewalks, outdoor steps, wheelchair ramps, bridges and many other applications. Photos courtesy of Danfoss.

Electric snow- and ice-melting systems use heating cables that are installed directly into the asphalt, concrete or sand below pavers to ensure even heat distribution in a desired area. The cables heat the desired area over a period of time and ensure that snow and ice are fully melted. Cables typically have twin conductors, single-point connection and a flexible exterior. The conductors are generally insulated with Teflon and have an outer casing made of PVC or similar substance.

Loose cables allow for greater customization, but mats that come preassembled with the cable woven through it ensure optimal spacing and quick installation. Most cables are designed to produce 30 to 50 watts per square foot.

Investing In A System

Electric snow- and ice-melting systems can be used in both commercial and residential applications. To ensure safety and avoid liability concerns throughout the winter months, building owners use these systems to melt snow and ice off commonly travelled areas of their property, especially access points such as ramps that allow easier accessibility to those with disabilities.

These systems are also considered an affordable luxury for residences and help to increase the resale value of a home. An investment in this kind of system will eliminate labor-intensive and time-consuming shovelling, chemical use that could be harmful to the environment, and the need for expensive snow-removal machines or services.

Danfoss GX cable and box.

Costs Involved

A variety of factors determine the cost of using snow- and ice-melting systems. Most manufacturers recommend taking into account not only the size of the area to be heated and the expected snowfall, but also local utility costs and amount of watts per area. Local utility costs can vary significantly from one region to another and are subject to change depending on the laws in that given area. Electricity can be a more affordable option than other energy options such as oil, propane and natural gas.

If the area being heated is large in size, the owner might consider using multizone controllers or break a large area into smaller sections and monitor them independently or on a priority basis. It is also a good practice to consult manufacturers or competent professionals when selecting a snow-melting system to ensure that the cost of electricity and availability of power are taken into account.

On average, it costs less than $10 per snowfall to operate these systems. The following information is generally required for a proper price assessment to be made:

  • Area to be heated; and

  • Voltage available.


Snow-melting cables are typically installed in areas such as driveways, parking lots, sidewalks, outdoor steps, wheelchair ramps, bridges and many other applications. The most common surfaces for these applications are concrete, asphalt and stonework. Normally, the heating cables are covered with a minimum of 2 inches of concrete or asphalt or 1 inch of compacted sand below the pavers. It is strongly advisable to follow the manufacturer’s installation manual as well as to follow all applicable electrical and building codes.

For all applications, special care must be taken to ensure that the cables are not damaged when using sharp tools, wheelbarrows, heavy machinery, shovels, rakes and other paving equipment. As with any heating system, insulation is always preferred because it increases the efficiency of the heat transfer.

Danfoss GX electric snow-melt mat.

Controls And Sensors

Snow-melting systems can be controlled either manually or automatically. The most basic form of manual control is an off/on switch with a timer. This is the least expensive option but an operator must activate the system. If the operator forgets to activate the system, snow and ice accumulation can occur.

Automatic controls have sensors, which allow for greater flexibility because the user does not need to be present for the system to operate efficiently. The sensors will determine when to turn the system on and off based on the measurements of both temperature and moisture.

Aerial sensors are the most cost-effective approach to automatic controls as they are mounted above ground. It is important to ensure that the controller is placed in an area that is not affected by overhangs, trees, drifting snow coming from the roof or other local conditions. Some of these controllers have features such as manual override, remote control and adjustable trigger temperature.

More advanced snow-melting controls use snow sensors installed directly into the pavement. These sensors are able to collect more accurate information than aerial sensors. The controller balances the job of clearing snow and ice while minimizing energy consumption. Some also come with an option to control a few zones either independently or on a priority basis when there is reduced power availability.


When it comes to the installation of any electric ground heating system, the most important point to remember isdo not cut or shorten the cable under any circumstances.The majority of manufacturer warranties will not be activated until a number of test readings are completed throughout the installation process to ensure the cable was not previously damaged or became damaged during installation.

If the cable is accidentally cut, contact the manufacturer for a repair kit, which can be used to mitigate the problem. In the event that the damage is not discovered until after the cables are installed, manufacturers have special equipment available that can precisely determine where the damage is located in the concrete or asphalt.

For more information on Danfoss GX Electric Snow and Ice Melting Systems, visit www.lx.danfoss.com or call 866/676-8062. Danfoss is a leading manufacturer of electronic and mechanical components and control systems for refrigeration and air conditioning, heating and motion controls. Danfoss operates in more than 100 countries, employs more than 20,000 people and holds more than 1,800 patents on a wide range of products.