Gutter Heater Heat Tape

Gutter heat tape is a necessity in every location where heavy snow and ice formations are prevalent. The gutter heat tape or cable is used on rooftops to ensure that they properly cared for and so that ice dams do not form on roof surfaces, in gutters, or downspouts. Here is what you need to know about installing it:

What is Gutter Heat Tape Used for?

The gutter heat tape or cable is run in special patterns across roofs, in gutters and along downspouts where ice usually forms, collects and eventually creates what are known as ice dams. Installing gutter heat tape is meant for the prevention of the ice dams, not for getting rid of them once already formed. This product is also not meant for clearing the roof of ice or snow, but merely for creating a clear pathway for already melted snow and ice to drain to the ground.

When Do You Need To Install it?

The best time for installing gutter heat tape is during times when there is no snow or ice on the roof. This will allow you to best determine where to install the cabling and ensure that you do this effectively. So, how do you know where on the roof you need the deicing cable? Well, it is usually where ice dams form on the roof and you can figure this out by looking at where the sun hits the roof the most, the prevailing wind direction and the shape of the roof. The ice dams normally form where snow melts on the upper parts of the roof and then collect on ice and snow underneath that has not melted yet. So, this means that around dormers, on certain sides of the roof edges, and sometimes under skylights are potential problem areas that need to be addressed.

Electrical and Roofing Requirements

Although installing the gutter heat tape does not require any professional skill level, you might want to consult a professional if you are worried about working on roof tops and if you are concerned about the various electrical requirements that you should follow in order to be safe whilst you are doing this job. Some people decide to call in an electrician or roofing contractor to help with this project. If you want to go it alone, here are the main electrical and safety requirements that you need to adhere to:

  1. Firstly you need to use a 120 Volt A/C receptacle that is classified for outdoor use.
  2. This must be grounded.
  3. It must have ground fault protection.
  4. It must be on a circuit with the correct ampere (current) rating.
  5. The receptacle must have an on/off switch as well as an indicator or pilot light.
  6. It must be fully protected from the weather.
  7. It must be within 6 feet of where the cable starts on the roof.
  8. You should not use an extension cord with the gutter heat tape.
  9. Ensure that the heated part of the cable does not touch another part of the cable or overlap in any way, as this will cause it to overheat.
  10. You should not operate the cable when the weather is above 50 degrees Farenheit (10 degrees Celsius).
  11. Don’t install the cable near to any heating sources like a chimney or exhaust vent.
  12. Do not alter or cut the cable or modify it in any way, including paint it, use chemicals on it or use adhesive on it.
  13. Keep all combustible items away from the heat tape including pine needles, seeds, leaves or wind-blown trash, and similarly do not attach the cable to any combustible part of the roof like wooden eaves.
  14. Make sure that there is a half inch space between any gutter guards and the gutter heat tape.
  15. Don’t use any damaged tape, which includes tape that is cut, brittle, discolored, charred or that has exposed wiring.
  16. You should only install gutter heat tape on inclined roofs that are made using asphalt shingles and that have plastic or metal gutters and downspouts.

What Other Materials Do You Need for the Installation?

Before you start your installation job, you must make sure that you have all the materials and items you need to get the job done. Every gutter heat tape kit should contain the cable, the cable spacers, shingle clips, and labels for the circuit breakers and the on/off switch. Other than this kit you will need a ladder, tape measure, putty knife for prying the shingles, marking chalk to mark the pattern of the cables on the singles, weighted string which is used to measure the downspouts and also pull the cable through the downspouts, and a file to remove any sharp edges.

Estimating How Much Cable you Need?

Due to the fact that you can’t cut and reattach, or alter the cable in any way, you must ensure that you accurately estimate the amount that you will require.

For a typical roof you will work out the amount of cable you need as follows:

Measure the length of the overhang. Now, you will need to first calculate the overhang multiplier using the measurement you just took. If the measurement is less than 12 inches or 30 centimeters use the multiplier, 4 for a roof with a gutter and 3 for a roof without a gutter. Then you will multiply this by the length of the roof. The rest of the overhang multipliers are as follows:

24 inches = 5.3 multiplier for roof with gutter and 4.3 for roof without gutter.
36 inches = 6.8 multiplier for roof with gutter and 5.8 for roof without gutter.
48 inches = 8.1 multiplier for roof with gutter and 7.1 for roof without gutter.
60 inches = 9.6 multiplier for roof with gutter and 8.6 for roof without gutter.

For any measurements that are not listed, simply estimate according to what is shown here.

To estimate the amount of cable you need for dormers all you have to do is measure the distance around a dormer and multiply this by the number of dormers (provided that all the dormers are the same size).

To estimate the amount of cable you need for the valleys, measure the number of valleys and multiply this by 6 feet or 1.8 meters.

Lastly, to see how much cable you need for the downspouts, measure the length of the downspouts and times this by 2 (because you will double run the cables in the downspouts) and then times this by the number of downspouts. You will use the same formula for calculating the amount of heat tape required for the gutters.

The gutter heat tape is sold in kits ranging from 20 feet or 6 meters to 240 feet or 73 meters and it is recommended that if you have a large area to cover or there is a significant distance between areas on the roof, that you purchase 2 or 3 smaller kits instead of 1 large kit.

Heat Tape For GuttersHow to Arrange and Attach the Gutter Heater Cable?

Once you have worked out how much you require, all that is left is installing the gutter heat tape according to specific patterns. Basically you will lay the cable in a zigzag or triangle pattern with the base of the triangle being about 15 inches, and the height of the triangle being measured according to the length of the overhang. For an overhang of 12 inches or less the triangle height should be 3 shingle rows. This increases up to 13 shingle rows where the overhang is 66 to 70. At the bottom of each triangle, the cable is hung slightly over the edge and clamped to form a drip loop.

For a skylight the triangle pattern is also used, but the triangle height will just be lengthened to reach the skylight. For valleys, the cable will be run up and then back down again, and for downspouts this is the same.

With these tips, you will be able to work out just how much cable you need to purchase and installing gutter heat tape on your house will be easy.

Ice melt for walks, roofs, and gutters

Once winter arrives, most homeowners who live in a snowy, cold climate give at least a passing thought to the best kind of ice melt to have on hand. Another concern is the need for removing ice dams to prevent roof and rain gutter damage.

Ice dams occur when snow lays on the slant roofs of houses that do not have adequate ventilation and enough insulation in the attic. Because there is heat in the house, and warm air rises, the warmth comes up through the attic and warms the roof, melting the snow.

The water from the melted snow runs down the roof and into the rain gutter. Since the area of the rain gutter is colder than the rest of the roof, it refreezes and accumulates as ice on the gutter. As more snow melts, it cannot drain through the ice covered gutter, and it keeps freezing and building as layers of ice, creating a dam.

Danger to People and Property

Any water trapped behind the ice dam can back up under the shingles and leak through the roof into the home. It can damage the roof itself by rotting the wood and ruining whatever insulation is there. It can even go through the roof and stain the ceiling or eventually cause it to become waterlogged and collapse. Water running down walls can cause electric wiring to short out and start fires. This alone shows the importance of removing ice dams.

Not removing ice dams promptly with ice melt or some other method poses a danger if the water drips off the edge of the rain gutters and freezes into icicles. If they get large and heavy, they can break off and fall, which can be dangerous for a passerby. The blanket of snow can also break loose and slide from the roof in an avalanche. Because it is heavy and has ice underneath it, this can also be a danger to anyone walking close to the building.

While there are several ways of removing ice dams, many of them risk injury to the person attempting it or to the roof itself. Stories abound each winter of people who have fallen off roofs or ladders while in the act of removing ice dams or trying to push snow off roofs. Instead of relying on an ice melt product, some people try taking an axe or an ice pick and chopping away at the ice accumulation as a way of removing ice dams. Many do not discover until spring just how much damage they have done to the roof or the rain gutters.

Selecting the Best Ice Melt Product

Using ice melt would seem to be a better way to eliminate the problem. When using ice melt on a roof, however, it is important to do a bit of research to find the exact right kind for the purpose. While some people like using rock salt on their sidewalks, for instance, that is not the right ice melt for roofs, as it is likely to stain the shingles because of its iron content.

Almost all ice melt products are made from one of five materials, alone or in a blend of various combinations, which are urea, magnesium chloride, potassium chloride, sodium chloride and calcium chloride. The difference in the various ice melt products is the temperature at which they work and how quickly they melt ice and snow. They work by either absorbing heat or releasing heat on contact with the snow or ice.

The exothermic ice melt substances release heat on contact, are the fastest working and are effective in a wider range of temperatures. Solid calcium chloride tablets, for example, release heat and work effectively to minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit. Solid sodium chloride, on the other hand, absorbs heat and works at temperatures down to around 20 degrees Fahrenheit. When the ice melt is a blended product, then its performance depends on how much of each chemical is present.

The price of the ice melt is usually determined by its performance factors. If a product works fast at very low temperatures, it will generally cost more, but should only be used in areas where it is necessary. Magnesium chloride or calcium chloride, for instance, should only be needed in areas where the temperature drops to zero degrees or lower.

One method of removing ice dams from roofs is by filling cut off legs from panty hose with calcium chloride or an ice melt blend. Place the hose vertically on the roof so it crosses over the top of the ice dam and hangs over the gutter. Use several at about two feet apart and they will melt through the snow, making a channel for the water to run off the roof and into the gutters. Calcium chloride may be best overall for melting ice dams and will not harm the roof.

A product that is specially designed for removing ice dams are ice melt tablets that melt through the snow and ice and cause little rivulets for the water to run into the gutters. The manufacturer’s instructions state the tablets can be tossed onto the roof where the ice melt in them will melt the ice dams without damage to the roof or gutters.

Preventing Ice Dams on Roofs

Since ice dams on roof are caused by heat rising through the attic and warming the roof, the way to prevent this is to stop the heat from escaping. This is done by having adequate insulation in the attic to keep the heat in the living area. Proper ventilation also helps because it will keep the roof colder and prevent the snow from melting rather than evaporating in the sun. Once the snow and ice build up, however, then removing ice dams with ice melt is the best way to prevent damage.

Another way to keep ice dams from forming is by installing gutter heaters. The newer systems can be regulated to use less energy by turning them on only as needed. They cost about the same to operate as a hair dryer, although they run day and night. A dollar or two extra on the electric bill is well worth preventing roof damage or personal injury by removing ice dams, and offsets the cost of buying ice melt, as well.

Gutter Heater Heat Tape Cable

Heat tape for gutters is the primary cable in your gutter heaters system.  You can’t set up your weather proofing unless you have the right kind of gutter heaters.  They also extend the lifespan of your gutters and roofs.  They prevent damage to your house, therefore, saving you the cost of repairs.

Heat tape for gutters is used for De-icing the roofs and gutters of your home.  They can be installed in the gutters or loops on top of your roof.  They keep the ice and snow, when it melts, from building up long icicles. Icicles that can damage not only the roof of your house, but the inside of your attic and walls of your house.  They are the best way to prevent build up of ice and snow in the heavy snow storms. They can also save you a lot of money in repair bills come spring time.

Heat tape for gutters comes in lengths of 30 to 150 feet long.  They automatically turn on when the temperature falls below 40 degrees.  To understand how they work, you have to know how icicles and ice build up on your roof.  When it snows and sticks to the top of your roof, it then starts to melt due to the heat from your house.  As the snow melts and drips down the eaves and gutters, where there is no heat to keep melting it, it freezes and forms icicles. As it keeps melting, the water creates dam like area and prevent water from running off.  It forms icicles that may be pretty hanging from your house, but they also put a lot of pressure on the roof of your house.

Preventing Ice Dams with Heat Tape For Gutters

If they get too large, they will damage your house and the underling structure of your roof.  As it warms up, the icicles melt down the side of your house, but Heat Tape For Guttersthey also melt into your attic, causing water damage. You’ll have to replace the insulation to prevent further damage.  When you use heat tape for gutters you don’t have any of this type of damage because it prevents the icicles from forming. Therefore, saving you the cost of repairing your attic and roof.

To prevent more heat lose from the attic; install more insulation to keep it cooler, so it doesn’t melt the snow.  Look for hidden air leaks that let heat into the attic and under the eaves.  Seal them to prevent warm air into the top of the house.  Hidden leaks can be found around fan housings, electrical fixtures, and where plumping goes up to the next level. You also find them around stairways and heat and cooling ducts in the crawl spaces.  Either use caulk or Sheetrock and insulation to prevent more warm air into the top of the house.

After you’ve taken care of stopping as much heat as you can to the top of your house, then install heat tape for gutters. They will prevent icicles from forming along the top of your house, along the eaves, and roof valleys when the snow melts. They are specific designed to keep ice from forming along the eaves of your house.

Heat tape for gutters or gutter heaters are specifically designed to prevent ice dams that damage your house. As the winter progresses, the freezing and thawing will cause all kinds of damage to your house if you don’t have a way to keep the water from freezing as it drips off your house.

The cost of gutter heater cables depends on how big your roof is and how much heat tape it will need to prevent ice from forming.  You should have them run the entire length of your gutter systems.  If you can, you should have them running along the eaves, as well. That’s what prevents ice dams from forming.

Selecting and Installing Heat Tape For Gutters

You can have heat tape for gutters installed professional or install them yourself.  If you’re the type of do-it-yourselfer, then you won’t have any problems installing them on your roof and under the eaves.  They’re not that hard to install.

There are different brands of heat tape for gutters. It depends on what’s in your area and to a certain extent, how much you want to pay for them.  Of course, they all do the same thing; some are just better made than others.  That doesn’t mean they won’t keep the ice from forming, they will, it means they will last longer and are more efficient than some brands.  Of course, the less expensive brands don’t last as long and are more expensive to run.  They pull more electricity than energy efficient heat tape for gutters.

Installing heat tape for gutters will keep the damage to your house at a minimum.  It’s not the icicles that cause the damage, it’s the ice and water you can’t see that will cause you the most problems.  If you don’t have gutter heater system, sometime during the winter you’ll notice water leaking from the attic into your living room.  That will be from the ice and water that has worked its way passed all the insulation and found a crack to follow.  The small drip will be nothing compared to the water damage that you will find in the crawl spaces and the attic.  Heat tape for gutters not only keep your house free of ice and snow, but will save you a lot of money in repairs once winter is over.