Selecting Gutter Heaters for your Roof and Gutters
The safest way to keep ice dams from damaging a property is by using gutter heaters to prevent them in the first place. Most homeowners recognize the importance of removing snow and ice from their roofs before it does considerable damage or turns into a hazard to people on the sidewalk. Only a few options for removing ice dams are available, however, and some can be dangerous to the person attempting to do the work.
Ice dams form when snow on the roof begins to melt as heat comes through the attic and warms the roof. The bottom layer of snow melts and runs into the rain gutters. Because the gutters are much colder, the snowmelt freezes on contact, clogging up the gutters and forming an ice dam. As it continues to build, the ice can push the lower shingles up, allowing water to run into the home, damaging attic insulation, walls and ceilings.
Benefits of Gutter Heaters
Previously, the only way to get rid of the ice and snow was to try pushing or shoveling the snow off the roof before it could melt and refreeze, or once it did freeze, chip away at the ice with an ice pick or an axe. It is obvious that these methods posed a danger to the homeowner, the roof and the gutters. Thankfully, there are now good gutter heaters on the market that are inexpensive and easy to install.
The cable for gutters is sometimes referred to as heat tape for gutters or gutter heater cable or simply heat tape. It is an electric cable that is installed on the edge of roofs, in the gutters or along the gutter guards. It is best to run it through the downspouts as well. The heating cable is sold in different lengths and includes clips to fasten it to shingles. Many homeowners can install it without difficulty or too much time spent. For those who cannot, professionals are available who can quickly hook up the gutter heaters in the proper manner.
Once gutter heaters are properly installed, they will prevent the melting snow from the roof from refreezing in the gutters and causing ice dams. Gutter heaters offer more than the practical side of ice prevention, as they also provide peace of mind in knowing that the water will continue to flow through the gutters without causing a hazard on the roof or spilling down the side and making a skating rink of the sidewalk.
Before buying gutter heaters, measure accurately for the entire length of roof and downspouts that need protection. If you live in a climate that gets heavy snow or extremely frigid temperatures, plan on using a double length of cable along the gutters and order extra lengths. People who have run the double lines of cable report much greater success in severe weather. It can also be used in valleys on the roof and anywhere that ice dams had been a problem in the past.
Gutter Covers Offer No Protection From Ice Dams
Some people mistake gutter covers for ice protection. After installing the best covers on the gutters, they believe ice will not form and cause ice dams because nothing is clogged up in the gutters. This erroneous belief catches many homeowners by surprise when they find ice forming and causing the same problems they thought were avoided.
It does not take much snowmelt to flow over the roof’s edge and refreeze when it hits the icy cold gutters or gutter covers. While gutter covers are a real asset, they are meant for keeping leaves and debris from clogging the gutters and downspouts. They do nothing to prevent ice from forming. On the contrary, having gutter covers can work in the opposite way of a home with gutter heaters, since the gutters do not need to completely fill with ice to cause an ice dam. Once even a thin layer of ice is frozen over the covers, the water has nowhere to go but continues to freeze into multiple layers of ice until a huge ice dam forms. Gutter heaters are the only sure way to prevent ice buildup.
Types of Gutter Heaters
Two types of gutter heating systems to prevent ice dams on the roof and gutters are heat tapes or gutter heaters. One type consists of electrical heat tape wired into the home and is designed to turn off and on as a self-regulating system. It operates at 120 volts and turns on when the outside temperature drops below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Another model has an automatic feature that can be programmed with a timer to set the running time. It also has controls so that the device can be turned off and on with a switch. The installation for these systems should be done by a professional contractor or licensed electrician to be sure the wiring is up to city code and safe. For maintenance, the system should also be checked at the start of the winter season by the installer to be sure the wiring is not cracked or frayed, which could present a fire hazard.Gutter heaters are a more flexible type of cable sold in different lengths and can be found online or in home improvement stores. Clips are included to connect it to the roof and it plugs into an outside electrical outlet. It can easily be installed by the homeowner or someone who is able to safely climb a ladder.
The cable is laid in a zig-zag line at the edge of the roof. As the waterproof wire is heated, it melts the snow and causes little streams to flow into the gutters. The cable should also be placed in the gutter or across the gutter covers to heat them and prevent the snowmelt from refreezing.
When searching online for gutter heaters, be sure to read customers’ reviews to get an idea of which systems work as advertised and would best suit your needs. If snow and ice are already on the roof, it obviously must be removed by roof ice melt or ice melt salt pellets before attempting to install the gutter heaters