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How Does Heat Tape Prevent Ice Dams?

Snowy Roof

Image via Bryn Pinzgauer on Flickr

With winter almost here, you can bet ice dams will be a major nuisance for the homes in your neighborhood. Perhaps your home frequently falls victim to this cold-weather occurrence. Ice dams form right at the eaves of homes where the roof overhangs the walls because they are not getting the heat from the attic underneath like the main part of the roof. In those spots, water tends to accumulate and freeze here in the winter months under dense piles of snow. To combat ice dams, many homeowners use heat tape to line their gutters and roofs and melt snow before it can build into ice.

Here is some more information about ice dams and how to combat them on your roof.

Why are Ice Dams Bad?

Ice dams are bad for your roof because they essentially block water from getting off the roof and into the gutters, leading to back-ups that cause water to leak and damage your walls and ceilings. In addition to leaks, your home will suffer from cold air infiltration as well. Leaks get into your insulation, resulting in lower overall heating efficiency in the home. The Family Handyman points out that after a snow storm, the snow slowly melts when it lands on the roof thanks to warm air from the attic. When it gets to the roof’s edge, however, it refreezes because it’s colder there. The water then gets trapped by the ice dam and has nowhere else to go than through the roof, under the shingles, and into the house.

What Does Heat Tape Do?

Because of this, heat tape for gutters is a good solution for your roof in order to prevent ice dams from forming in the first place. Heat tape for gutters is also referred to as heat cable. This is basically a heated, coated electrical wire that you weave along your roof line and secure in place with fasteners. Just keep in mind this isn’t the same thing as heat tape meant to wrap pipes within your home. Ask for assistance when at the hardware store to ensure you get the right kind for your roof and gutter system. You’ll need to measure the perimeter of your roof line, as well as eave and the length of the downspouts, so you know how much cabling to get. Through a simple exterior switch, you can turn on the heat cables when freezing rain and snow hit.

Heat tape can be placed right above the gutters at the roof line in a strategic up and down pattern so as to melt any accumulating ice as it happens. If you allow ice dams to build up near the edge of the roof, the weight of the ice can pull down on your gutters and cause them to become loose. This is a safety concern that every homeowner should avoid. In addition to heat tape, you can improve your attic’s ventilation, add more insulation to the attic and seal up any air leaks.

Before you get on the ladder DIY-style, ask a professional for a quote to install your heat cables, as it’s a dangerous job to get up on the roof yourself. There are many local installation professionals who can help with heat cables. If you need more information on how heat cables are beneficial for your gutters and roof, contact LeafGuard of SE Wisconsin.

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