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The costs to operate snow melting systems vary widely depending on the size of the area being treated, local utility costs, the average total hours of snowfall, and how fast the system user wants to melt the snow. Obviously, the larger the area being heated and the more snow there is, the higher the operating cost. Also, a system used in a colder climate may require a higher wattage (for electric) or more Btu (for hydronic) than a similar system used in a warmer climate.

Watts Heatway, a supplier of hydronic systems, says annual operating costs range from 12 to 25 cents per square foot. So on average, it would cost $120 to $250 each winter to melt snow off a 1,000-square-foot driveway.

Depending on local utility rates, electric systems may cost even more to operate. EasyHeat, a supplier of electric mats for snow melting applications, says that the seasonal cost to heat a 1,000-square-foot slab at 50 kilowatts will run about $276 in areas of light snowfall (50 inches per year or less) and $692 in areas with average snowfall (50 to 100 inches). Those estimates are based on an average kilowatt cost per hour of 6.92ยข.

Material and installation costs vary widely too. For Warm Floor Centers electric system, the materials alone run $4 to $6 per square foot, according to Blackburn. Lee Hydronics system runs about $5 to $10 per square foot installed. "The biggest variable is how far the embedded tubing is located from the power source," claims Bailey. The farther away the utilities are, the higher the installation and operating costs.

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