Universal Design and Accessibility
Universal design is a building principle that stresses the importance of “usability” for the widest possible range of users in construction projects.
This can be seen in building features like accessibility ramps, which can be used by almost anyone.
However, for any outdoor project, snow and ice can have an adverse effect on the surface, making it hard to use safely.
By including a WarmlyYours snow melting system in the construction of an accessibility ramp, you can greatly extend the usability of the ramp in unfavorable weather .
Design Guidelines: Accessibility Ramps
Accessibility ramps are designed to permit people with mobility devices, like wheelchairs or walkers, to more easily access a building. An accessibility ramp is an inclined plane installed along with, or instead of, stairs and must be carefully designed in order to be useful as well as safe.
Many jurisdictions have established minimum widths and maximum slopes. A steep ramp is difficult to climb and can be very dangerous because of the risk of tipping backwards.
In very wet or icy climates, less steep ramps and rougher surfaces may be required to prevent wheel slippage. Make sure to check local codes and the National Access Board guidelines regarding these projects.
What is a Snow Melting System?
Have you ever seen snow fall on an already warm car? It melts instantly.
This is the essential idea behind snow melting systems—a heating element is embedded in your walkway or ramp and it melts the snow that falls on it.
Like any outdoor surface, an accessibility ramp can benefit from installing a WarmlyYours snow melting system (available in both mats and cables). Designed to install directly in concrete, asphalt, or in mortar beneath pavers, our cable snow melting systems ensure that driveways, patios, walkways, ramps, or stairs stay ice and snow free, allowing for safe passage.
When to Install a Snow Melting System.
Because the snow melting system is embedded within the surface itself, the best time to install a snow melting system is when a walkway or ramp is either being created for the first time, redone, or expanded.
These kinds of projects are typically undertaken from late spring to late fall. This is because it’s important that the ground temperature is above the freezing point.
Start Smart with a Free SmartPlan.
Perhaps the most important stage in installing a snow melting system is getting a good installation plan.
WarmlyYours provides a free, no-obligation SmartPlan that includes an installation plan, an electrical plan, and an itemized quote, all of which is prepared by a highly skilled team of engineers.
All you have to do to take advantage of this service is to provide WarmlyYours with a sketch of the project that includes dimensions and other relevant information, like where power will be most readily accessible.
Within typically one day of providing this information, you’ll receive your free SmartPlan. You can get started with an Instant Quote here. The itemized quote included in your SmartPlan will also include MSRP pricing so that you can properly budget for your project.
Cross-sections of Snow Melting: Concrete Ramp
The thinness of an electrical snow melting system means it has a minimal impact on the overall depth of the ramp. These snow melting systems can be used not only with concrete, but also with a variety of different surface types, like pavers and asphalt.
Each surface type will have a different cross section with suggested depths, check out our Snow Melting & Slab Heating Application Cross Sections guide for more details.
Test your System at Every Stage of Installation
Testing your snow melting system with an ohmmeter at every stage of installation will allow you to be certain that the heating element is functioning properly.
Completing these tests, and recording your readings accurately, will also qualify your project for WarmlyYours’ 10-year warranty.
Make sure to consult your WarmlyYours snow melting installation manual for more information.
Installing a snow melting system, step by step
Step 1: Slope and Rise
For a snow melting system to function properly, it must be located 2-3” from the finished surface throughout the entire heated area. This means you’ll want to make sure that your snow melting system will be installed in such a way that it matches the slope of your ramp.
In this example, the installer used bricks and rebar as an elevating base to make sure the wire mesh holding the heating element would be at the proper angle.
Step 2: Laying Down New Rebar or Wire Mesh
For snow melting cables, like the ones used in the projects featured in this guide, it’s important to include a rigid framework for the cables to attach to. This ensures the heating system will maintain the proper spacing and depth in the finished project to function properly.
Often, installers will use a rebar frame or wire mesh that is secured so that it lies flat. Then the cables can be attached to the framework with zip-ties.
Step 3: Start Laying Out Snow Melting Cables
If you want optimal results from a snow melting system, maintaining the proper spacing of the heating elements is key. The heating cable or mats should be attached to the framework using ties to maintain proper depth and spacing, 3” (76mm) for free-form type cable.
Reference the WarmlyYours custom SmartPlan installation plan, provided free with every quote, so that this process goes smoothly.
Step 4: Preparation for Handrails (if applicable)
For installations in stairs and ramps that will include handrails, it is strongly recommended that the installer put in pre-sleeves for the posts to avoid as much drilling of the surface as possible.
The heating cable must be routed around these sleeves or posts to avoid any direct contact with them. It is the responsibility of the electrician and the installer to coordinate their efforts so they avoid saw-cutting or drilling through heating cables that are no longer visible beneath the surface.
Note: Avoid allowing the heating cable, or metal framework, from making direct contact with the posts or any other metal fixtures.
Step 5: Pouring Concrete
Concrete or cement installs can be done in two different ways: 1-stage pours or 2-stage pours.
For 2-stage pours, the installer will pour an initial base layer of concrete and then, while the first layer is still wet, lay the framework (with attached heating element) on top. Then, the second 2-3” layer of concrete can be applied
For 1-stage pours, the framework (with attached heating element) must be propped up so that the heating element will be 2-3” below the finished surface. Once that is done, the concrete can be poured on, around, and over the framework.
See the WarmlyYours snow melting installation manual for more info.
Step 6: Making Sure the Manufacturer’s Splice is Embedded in Concrete
The power is carried to each cable by a “cold lead,” which is connected to the heating cable on via a manufacturer’s splice.
One of the most common snow melting installation mistakes that people make is leaving this splice, and some of the heating cable, outside of the concrete or sand (sometimes people leave it in the conduit or simply leave it exposed). This can cause the splice, which is half heating element, to overheat and fail.
By simply making sure that the splice is embedded, you’ll ensure that it has an appropriate medium (concrete, sand, or stone dust) to prevent overheating.
Step 7: The Control for Your Snow Melting System
WarmlyYours offers a wide variety of controls for our snow melting systems—from a manual option with a timer that will only activate when you turn it on/off, to an automatic option that will turn on when it senses snow is falling.
These controls (with the exception of the manual option) are able to function with the use of sensors. There are two main types of sensors: slab and aerial. Slab sensors are installed along with the heating element (but never touching it) and they can measure the conditions at the surface (slab sensors are not recommended for use with pavers). Aerial sensors are installed in the open and are actually able to detect whether or not it’s snowing.
For more information about the variety of snow melt controls and sensors available from WarmlyYours, check out this comparison chart
The Finished Accessibility Ramps (Concrete)
Once your ramp is completed, it’s ready to be used. Just add snow! Make sure to monitor your system and control throughout the first couple of snowfalls to see if any adjustments are required.
Snow Melting System in Action
Most WarmlyYours snow melting systems will continue to run past when the snow stops falling. This will typically evaporate the water left behind, and in its place, you’ll find clean, dry pavers or concrete. Snow melting systems like this allow you to do away with chemical melting agents, which will be easier on your pets and your vehicles. It will also be much easier on your body when you can officially retire the snow shovel.
Here's a video showing a snow melting system in "tire tracks" format melting snow in a residential driveway. Typically, a snow melting system would be installed in an accessibility ramp to provide full coverage.
For more information about the snow melting systems available from WarmlyYours visit our snow melting section or call (800) 875-5285.
Snow Melting System Costs: Scott’s Concrete Ramp
It only cost $5,529 for the entire snow melting system used in this concrete ramp (437 sq. ft.).
Snow Melting Cables
3 x WHCA-240-0428 WHCA-240-0377 WHCA-240-0086
|Controls and Relays|
Economy Snow Melt Control
Snow Melt Slab-Mounted Sensor
Relay Panel Large
Snow Melt Plaque
*All pricing information is MSRP.
Heating System: 240V Snow Melt Cable
Total Amperage: 85.53 Amps
Total Wattage: 20,524
Breakers needed: 4 x 30Amp 240V GFEP, 1 x 15Amp 240V GFEP
System Electrical Consumption
The operating cost for a snow melting system in a typical driveway is only $1.64 per hour.
This calculation is based on the national average of $0.08 per kWh, but consumption may vary based on individual conditions.
Get your snow melting project started with an instant quote right now!