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Pros and Cons of Installing Heat Cables to Combat Ice Dams

Posted by: Shawn Hedrick on December 1, 2014 12:21 PM

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Heat cables can be installed to minimize ice formation and retention on roofs. With them you can prevent a lot of damage to your roof that can result from the buildup of ice dams. While it may seem like the perfect solution to ice dam formation, heat cables come with quite a few disadvantages as well. Unfortunately, this solution may not be as worry-free as you might have first assumed. 

Heat Cables for Ice Dams

Ice dams can pose many problems. They form when snow melts in warmer areas of the roof, sending water running down toward the edge. When it reaches the eaves, where the temperature of the roof is colder, the water refreezes. As more and more water melts down the roof and refreezes at these locations, ice builds up and forms a blockage (or dam). This blockage can lead to water leaking into the roof or home, and ruining insulation, siding, drywall, etc. This water damage can lead to mold, mildew, rot, deterioration, and poor indoor air quality. 

The most common areas of the home for ice dams to form are

  • In valleys of the roof
  • On low-angle roofs
  • Around chimneys and skylights
  • At the eaves of the roof (by far, the most common spot for ice dams)

Heat cables, also known as heat tape or roof ice cables, are often the first things that come to mind for homeowners attempting to deal with ice dams. First and foremost, it is very important to understand that heat cables do NOT prevent ice dams from forming or get rid of them altogether. Heat cables merely melt channels through the formed ice dams to minimize the amount buildup. In order to prevent ice dams, you need to target the source of the problem. To learn how to do this, read our post, Preventing Ice Dams from the Start.

 

Advantages of Installing Heat Cables

  • If heat cables are correctly and professionally installed, they can be very useful in minimizing water buildup behind ice dams.
  • Heat cables are a much cheaper solution than fixing the source of the problem by sealing air leaks in the attic, installing adequate insulation, and creating proper ventilation.
  • Heat cables can protect your gutters from filling with ice, breaking off, and harming your roof.

 

Disadvantages of Installing Heat Cables

  • They take electricity to operate. If left running all winter long, your electric bills are sure to increase.
  • They detract from your home’s curb appeal.
  • They are covering up an underlying problem, not dealing with the source of the problem.
  • They need to be monitored to prevent overheating and unnecessary power usage.

 

Heat cables are usually installed in patterns along the eaves, in gutters, and in downspouts. Their purpose is not to entirely eliminate ice along the eaves; it is to provide a clear path for melted water to flow through the ice, off the roof, and onto the ground.

 

If you would like to have heat cables installed on your roof, contact Hedrick Construction today. If you want to address the underlying problem or to learn more about how to do so, call us at 515-597-ROOF (7663). To receive more information on our Huxley roofing services, to schedule an appointment, to or receive an estimate, click the link below. We proudly serve Ames, Ankeny, and the surrounding areas.

Contact Hedrick

Topics: home maintenance, ice dam prevention