Beat the Freeze
With winter around the corner it’s time to think about winterizing the home, and the roof is a good place to start.
Each winter, snow and ice builds up on roofs and along roof overhangs. Ice dams occur when the snow and ice on the roof melts from interior heat, travels down the roof and freezes again as it reaches the unheated overhangs.
Over time, this frozen melt-off builds up into a dam barrier that causes ice and water to back up under the shingles, causing damage to interior ceiling and wall surfaces; and the sheer weight of ice dams can damage the roof overhangs and gutters.
One possible solution to this problem is roof heat tape–not to be confused with the heat cable used to insulate pipes to prevent them from freezing, roof tape prevents ice build-up.
Heat tape consist of hot wires that run up and down your roof to melt snow and prevent ice buildup on your roof and overhangs. It melts a channel in the underside of the packed snow on your roof which gives water a route to drain out. Heat tape installed in the gutters and downspouts allows water to drain away from the roof, rather than getting plugged up by a dam of ice.
While heat tape is certainly a worth-while investment for a homeowner, the process of installing it can be challenging. Hiring a professional roofing contractor may be best since they are well versed in the installation and will ensure proper placement, as well as electrical safety. If the heat tape is installed incorrectly or if the wrong type of heat tape is used, there could be possible fire hazards.
Although the benefits of using heat tape mostly outweigh the potential problems, it is good to know the negatives.
Even very good heat tape may add about 20% to your energy bill – all depending on how often you power it on.
The melted ice is supposed to roll down the slope and end up on the ground. In many cases, the melted ice ends up refreezing along the edge of your overhangs, or refreezing just above the heat cable.
Heat tape strung over the roof is not a pretty site. Think of those Christmas lights still hanging on the house in June. They’re just a bunch of wires. Unlike Christmas lights, heat tape is not something you’ll remove and reinstall; it’ll will have a prominent place on your rooftop 365 days a year.
If you have had problems in past years with ice, the benefit of installing Heat Tape may outweigh the negatives that go along with it.
Always consult with a roofing contractor to determine which option for preventing ice dams is best for your home. If you should find that heat tape is the best solution, make sure it is installed properly, functions correctly and is inspected regularly.