FAQ - Outdoor Applications

Here are some questions we often hear.

(for the answer just click on the question)

If you have a question that isn't answered here, please contact us.

Can I Melt the Snow On My Walks and Driveway?

 Electric snow melting is the most cost effective, environmentally friendly method of automatic snow removal. Britech snow melting systems can be installed in any sidewalk, driveway or wheelchair ramp. The low installed cost of electric versus hydronic, (hot water/glycol), systems makes this system less expensive to install and operate. The system only operates when required, automatically, thus ensuring an ice and snow free area that is safe and clean. No more salt, sand, snow plows or shovels are required. No back breaking labour, noisy plows or dirty remnants from salt and sand. No more pollution from plows, salt or snow blowers is required.
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How much does it cost to operate a Britech snow melting system?

To illustrate the low cost of operation we’ll use Ontario Hydro rates of 10 cents a kilowatt. A 100 sq. ft (9 sq. m area) uses 35 watts per sq. ft per hour to melt snow. So 100 sq. ft x 35 watts = 3500 watts or 3.5 kilowatts. That cost 35 cents per hour at 10 cents a kilowatt. A 1000 sq. ft area would cost $3.50 per hour to melt snow, ice or freezing rain per hour. The system only operates when needed automatically. A 10 hour storm would cost you $35.00 to melt snow or ice on a 1000 sq. ft. driveway.
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I heard that there is a lot of maintenance involved with snow melting systems. How much is that going to cost me?

Be prepared to spend no time or money to maintain your Britech snow melting system. Unlike water/glycol systems (hydronic), there are no pumps, solenoid valves, sophisticated controls, tubes, heat exchangers or boilers to monitor. Nothing to leak, fill, lubricate, or worry about. No expensive technicians to hire.
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Do I have to hire professionals to install an automatic snow melting system for my home?

The Britech snow melting system is easy to install by any handyman. Electrical installations should always be performed by a qualified electrician. Full wiring diagrams, installation instructions and warranty information are included with every order, as well as a Canada-wide toll free line for technical support and assistance.
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What is the difference between a boiler system and an electric system? How do I decide which one to use?

Boiler systems, commonly referred to as hydronic systems use a dedicated boiler to produce hot water that then passes through a heat exchanger to heat a glycol mix. (glycol is similar to the antifreeze in your car). The glycol is pumped continuously through a series of pipes or tubes under the surface to maintain a temperature high enough to melt snow and ice. The system runs all winter, even when there is no snow, drifting or freezing rain occurring. It must be kept running to make sure that sub zero glycol does not enter the heat exchanger which will crack with the temperature difference of sub zero glycol and high temperature hot water. The system also includes make up water valves, air eliminators, return and leaving liquid temperature controls, manifolds, multiple pumps, etc. glycol should be tested frequently and changed regularly to make sure it is of a good quality so it does not freeze. You, as a homeowner will be responsible for making sure the glycol is disposed of in an environmentally safe manner. You will also need to have a service company make sure that the pumps, boiler and other items are in good condition, don’t leak or waste energy and will be available to use when needed. Besides wasting energy to keep the outdoor surface warm when its not needed, there is also wasted energy from the heat radiating off the boiler and pipes. Most boilers operate at about 85% efficiency and produce NOx, COČ and condensation.

Electric snow melt systems use a heating cable, an automatic snow sensor and a ground sensing thermostat. The cables are laid in a series of “S” loops directly under the interlock or in the asphalt or concrete surface. The system only operates when the snow sensor detects freezing rain or blowing or falling snow, it come on automatically, stays on for the duration of the storm and then shuts off, leaving a clean, dry surface. It uses no power when in the automatic wait mode, does not pollute, is 100% efficient, silent and very cost effective. It also ensures that when you come home from work or a holiday or going to work in the morning you’ll have a clean dry surface to walk or drive on.

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Isn't it dangerous to have an electric snow melt system outdoors?

All electric snow melt systems in Canada be installed on a GFCI, (ground fault circuit interrupter) to meet Canada's electrical code. Britech snow melting systems are CSA approved to be installed in wet areas such as driveways, walkways, roofs, gutters bathrooms, showers, kitchens and basements. They can even be installed to provide a heated seat in the shower at home.
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How much does it cost to install this system in my kitchen?

Send us a layout with full dimensions of your walks and driveways. We will fax or e-mail a quotation by the next working day.
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My front steps are dangerous in winter. How can I fix them?

Britech snow melting systems can be installed on top of existing concrete steps. Simply fasten down the cable with our “clip strip” fastening system and install granite, marble, slate or exterior, non slip, tile over top. Should there be a problem of water or ice falling on the steps because of snow and ice on the roof, we can also solve that problem with our roof and gutter de-icing system, call us toll free to discuss a cost effective solution to your problem.
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I don't like to waste energy, do I have to have the snow melt system on all of the time?

Britech snow melt systems are sold with an automatic snow sensor to operate your driveways, ramps or walks automatically. The system is designed to only turn on in the presence of freezing rain, snow or blowing snow, It will not operate above a set temperature, usually 2-3 degrees C. and it must have precipitation as well as cold temperatures to operate. We also include a ground sensing thermostat, usually set at 5-6 degrees C, to cycle the heating system on and off when the snow sensor calls for melting. Thus you only actually use the amount of heat required to melt the amount of precipitation that is falling, at the current outside temperature, It truly is an environmentally effective, safe solution to your snow removal needs.
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I'm not very handy, do you do installations?

Britech is not a contractor. Any reasonably competent handyman, contractor or renovator can properly and safely install our products. We include comprehensive instructions and phone support, if needed, on our toll free phone lines. We do advise, and the Canadian Electrical Code insists that all connections be made by a licensed electrical contractor.
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Is this system safe?

Britech snow melt systems are certified safe to install and operate by CSA or Underwriters Canada Limited. They have passed rigorous tests to ensure they are safe and will perform for years to come. Every Britech product is shipped with 100% quality. control. Again, we insist that all electrical installations be thoroughly inspected and installed by a licensed electrician. Britech snow melt systems are used by major builders, industries, engineers, building owners and home owners world wide. Nexans, the manufacturer of the heating cables is the largest cable company in the world, with annual sales of 18 billion US per year. Nexans invented this type of heating cable in 1927.
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How can I be sure I am ordering the right products and quantities for my home or building?

We would be pleased to provide an estimate, in writing, to ensure you have purchased an adequate amount of cable to cover the area(s) you want warmed or heated. We also include engineering data with every quote and we use published heat outputs as determined by National Research Canada.
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How do I know what the best way to lay the cable? Our comprehensive instructions are easy to follow and personal assistance is available on our toll free help line. Simply fax (toll free), or e-mail your floor plan to us.
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Will the cable fit into small spaces? Britech will only provide cables suited to what your requirements are. We can even make custom cables to suit any space.
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What happens if the system fails five-years from now?

Britech heating cables come with a full non-prorated 10 year warranty. Should there be a problem it can be located and repaired, quickly and easily.
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I have a very long driveway at my country home, can you make it safer for me and my wife. ?

Where very long driveways, with their hills and valleys, may cause problems in winter Britech can make the driveway safe and easy to navigate in a cost effective manner. By installing two tire tracks the length of the driveway and have them operate automatically you’ll always be able to access your home. Should your area get a tremendous amount of snow it make be necessary to occasionally have a plow clear the centre ridge of accumulation.
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Do I need a snow sensor and thermostat?

The system can be operated on a simple on-off switch, however our experience has proven that most people buy a system to have a continually clean safe walkway or driveway. Automatic snow sensing keeps the area clean and dry, automatically, the in ground sensor helps to save energy. It’s a proven system that works!
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I have interlocking stones at my entranceway. Is the heat from the cable strong enough to penetrate the stones and keep the snow and ice away?

Nexans cables can be sized to suit any snow melt or ice control requirement, whether it is a sidewalk, emergency route, driveway or wheelchair ramp. It can be installed under interlock pavers, asphalt , concrete or soil. Automatic ice and snow control systems are available to operate your areas, even when you're not home!
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Can I use the same system on my roof?

Britech manufactures roof and gutter de-icing systems for residences, commercial buildings and institutions. All systems are engineered for maximum safety and energy efficiency. Link to roof de-icing
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