Snow days at home are exciting, but the roof and gutters can differ. Heavy snow causes accumulations, which can mean severe damage. This is why so many homeowners invest in heating cables for roofs and gutters.
Ice dams form when snow freezes on the roof or in the gutters. Rather than waiting for the heat to melt them, heat cables heat the dams and melt them in a timely fashion, draining them from your home. Seasonal damage is minimized, helping to extend the life of your roof.
Ready to manage ice dams this season? Check out our buying guide for heating cables for roofs and gutters. We include our best choice, Grip Clip’s Heat Tape Pro, which offers the industry’s best five-year warranty and is made from commercial quality materials.
List of Roof De-icing Cable | Bestsellers
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Top Roof Heating Cable – Reviewed
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How to Eliminate Ice Dams
Giving nature control over getting rid of ice dams is not a good idea since it’ll be months before they’ll begin to thaw. Luckily, there are several methods we can implement to get rid of ice dams, though their levels of effectiveness vary.
Steaming and Scraping
The classical method of getting rid of ice dams is by shooting heat directly at the ice dam and chipping it away using an aluminum scraper. This is one of the most effective ways of eliminating ice dams, but let’s be honest; it’s a pain in the neck to do, and you don’t want to risk your life by balancing on a ladder in the middle of winter.
You make your own melting socks by placing calcium chloride ice melt into long nylon socks. You then place them on your roof and/or gutter to prevent snow and ice from building and creating ice dams. It’s a rather cost-effective way to prevent ice dams for forming, but there’s hardly any way to place them in downspouts without clogging them up.
Attic Thermal Insulation
Materials like glasswool and insulation spray foam can help you reduce cooling costs significantly during summer. Whatever cold air is in your home and attic will not be able to penetrate the insulation, allowing you to keep your AC off for most of the day. However, these are not foolproof, and oftentimes you’ll find cold air escaping through any spots you’ve missed or cracks in old glasswool.
The main issue is during the wintertime when warm air floats upwards, passing through the insulation and slowly melting away the snow accumulated on your shingles. Unless you do regular checks on your insulation, this method is far from being even remotely effective at preventing and eliminating ice dams.
Radian barriers use reflective surfaces that bounce away heat rather than conducting it. This is much more effective at reducing cooling costs, but when it comes to dealing with ice dams, this is definitely not the thing you want. Since it bounces light away, it can shoot beams of light and heat upward toward your ceiling and roof. Unfortunately, the heat that it produces doesn’t surpass how quickly melted snow refreezes and collects.
Although radiant barriers are installed to reflect light and heat upwards, you can also place the barriers to shoot heat down. During winter, this would be the better solution, and you can simply scrape off the snow from your roof. Unfortunately, this means you’ll actually be introducing more heat into your homes.
A de-icing cable – also known as roof heating cables, electric roof de-icers, and heat tapes – is an electric heat cord that gets clipped onto the top of your roof. These cables are set up in a zigzag pattern and fed through the gutter and downspout. During a snowstorm, you simply plug in the cable into an indoor or weather-proof outdoor outlet and the electricity will cause the cords to heat up. As the cords rise in temperature, they will begin to melt away at the snow and forming ice, sending water into your gutter and through the downspout.
This is one of the most effective solutions at getting rid of ice dams. As long as the de-icing cable is constantly plugged in, the melted snow and ice won’t have a chance to refreeze. This minimizes the risk of water damage and leaks from ice dams in your attics and ceilings.
Pros and Cons of Heat Cables
Pro- Properly Installed – When installed in the right way, heat or deicing cables can work well, but if you’re expecting to see every bit of snow and ice come gushing down your gutters, that usually isn’t the case, as these cables won’t completely melt all the areas of ice and snow, but they do clear out any that is in the immediate vicinity of the cables and will allow enough space for any water to empty into the gutter. This is a positive action even if ice dams form as the flow of melted snow from a roof won’t be blocked from leaving the roof and the roof will remain protected.
Con- Not a Catchall for all Snow and Ice – Whatever the profile of a roof, ice buildup may occur in areas other than an overhang or the eaves. With that in mind, additional heat cables will probably be needed. They should be placed on other trouble-spots on a roof, or alternative ways found to deal with those specific problem areas. Heat cables are not going to completely clear a roof of snow and ice. They can’t be expected to perform miracle snow and ice removal over an entire roof.
Con- Increased Utility Costs – Since heat cables require electricity to produce heat, the process can be costly. Some systems do regulate themselves as they can produce heat as temperatures decrease, or they can be programmed to go on and off when needed, which is of some help with a utility bill, but these heat cable systems can be expensive to buy as well as install.
Pro – Savings can be made – In spite of increased electric bills, savings can be made when a roof is freed up from ice dams. If ice dams are continually occurring, then appropriate placement of heat cables can be a wise investment as they can protect a roof and prevent potential damage to the interior of a home. So, in spite of the initial expense, heat cables can rescue a roof from the constant presence of ice buildup.
Pro- Variety of Forms for Easy Installation – With heat or deicing cables available in a number of forms, installing certain varieties of cables can be less difficult. One form, ice tape, which is actually an adhesive coil, makes for a less difficult installation. If you are comfortable on a ladder, you can, with caution, easily install it yourself.
Con- Only as Effective as its Installation Again, heat or deicing cables are only as effective as their installation. If you think you are incapable of doing the installation yourself, just don’t have the time and patience, or are simply plain wary of ruining a set of cables, it may be in your best interest to hire a qualified contractor who has references and has regularly completed a number of heat cable installations. It is always to anyone’s advantage to install deicing cables before harsh weather sets in and ice has had a chance to build. In order to speed up the process, a professional is likely more prepared to get a hat cable installation done quickly and efficiently.
Pro- Functional in Certain Temperatures – Heat cables only function well under certain temperature conditions. They do well in warmer situations, during less frigid weather. Ice dams are actually formed when temperatures are at the level of snow melting, which is right around the freezing point. Ice buildup is not going to be as much of a problem during severe cold as the ice remains intact. When melting occurs, the temperature will be higher and the heat or deicing cables will be more effective. Some would think that cables that only function at certain temperatures would not be effective when, in fact, the cables are designed to work when the ice is at the melting point and any accumulation of melted ice is more easily removed from the roof.
Other Solutions to Ice Dams
In addition to heat cables, there are other solutions to removing accumulated snow and ice dams. There are other products that can be of help and include:
- Roof Snow Rake
An aluminum roof snow rake is lightweight yet sturdily designed in a fashion to remove snow from the edges or eaves of a roof before any snow freezes and creates ice dams. The strategy is to eliminate as much of the snow as possible without digging into any shingles or other roofing materials. The rake has rollers on its bottom edge along with plastic sheeting to help catch a majority of the snow, so no damage occurs to shingles.
- Ice Melt Socks/Stockings
Ice melt socks/stockings can be easily made, and roofing specialists or electricians are usually not required in the process. Supplies will be needed in the form of nylon stockings, ice melt product (Calcium Chloride)and a pair of scissors. Simply cut the foot area off the stockings and fill them with several pounds of the ice melt. Once filled, tie up both ends of the stocking.
Installation is fairly quick. Simply place the socks/stockings in a vertical fashion with one end towards the gutter and the other toward the roof slope. Space them at three foot intervals. The socks/stockings will form a groove or channel in the snow or ice that will help the melting water to run off the roof, rather than forming along the edges and creating inside leaks.
- Zigzagged Roof Deicing
This type of ice melting heat cable is one that is more widely used but may require the help of an electrician or roofing specialist. It will have to be placed in a zigzag pattern on the lower part of a roof and possibly along the gutters.
If the heat cable is going to be placed without anyone’s assistance, be sure that the roof is clear of snow. A ladder with a stabilizer should also be used to prevent any slippage. In addition, watch that no short circuit occurs. A power or plug in source should be away from any water and should be located under the overhang of the roof. If you have no outlet, an electrician should be called in to run the necessary connections for you.
When the cables are installed on the roof, make sure that there are fasteners placed under any overlapping shingles. This is done to avoid any possible holes occurring in the roof and creating subsequent leaks.
Heat cables and some of the other ideas presented have both advantages and disadvantages. If you have a roof that experiences winter woes with snow, ice and ice dam accumulation, it might be wise to further investigate heat cables as well as other solutions. If you aren’t sure what is best for you and your roof, complete the online contact form and an expert will get back to you with the answers you need to securely protect and winterize your roof.
Roof De-Icing Cables Buying Guide
If you’re interested in investing in a good roof de-icing cable, then you should know that there are several factors to pay attention to. The following segment will provide you with a quick rundown of the different specs and features available in roof de-icing cables and what to look for.
De-icing cables can be as short as 20 feet and as long as 240 feet. As we mentioned earlier, many people who complain about their de-icing cord’s inability to thaw ice and snow usually pick up a cord that’s either too short or not hot enough (more on this later).
The first thing you need to do is measure how long your gutters are, the side of your roof, and the entire length of your downspout. There are free calculators online that can help you determine how long a de-icing cable you need by calculating the edge of your roof, how many roof valleys there are, the overhang of your roof, how many downspouts there are, and the distance to the nearest power outlet.
One thing about de-icing cables that you need to understand is that they can consume a lot of energy. Unfortunately, this means that if you choose to get de-icing cables, you may need to babysit the power outlet to ensure that the cords aren’t on when you don’t need it. However, you can, to an extent, reduce the total energy consumption of your de-icing cord by choosing a model that has a lower wattage rating.
You may come across de-icing cable models that use 10 watts of energy for every foot of the cord’s length. Although more watts mean more heat which translates into more effective destruction of ice dams, they’re not the most cost-efficient. There are several models that use half as much power as these and perform admirably well during the winter.
Temperature and Moisture Sensor
Apart from checking out the wattage rating of a de-icing cable, you can also invest in temperature and moisture sensor. This ingenious little box gets placed outside, preferably on your roof and near to where you install the de-icing cable. The sensor will use two variables to determine whether to supply energy to the cables or not – temperature and the presence of moisture.
Basically, this two-variable measuring sensor checks whether the outdoors has reached a certain temperature (freezing, for instance) and the presence of moisture from snow and ice. If, for example, it has reached the desired temperature, but there is no snow, ice, or water, the sensor will prevent energy from flowing through the cables. This little tool could save you a lot of headache since a) you don’t need to babysit the cord, and b) it’ll automatically turn on and off, saving you quite a bit of money in the long run.
Since de-icing cables are going to be exposed to moisture from snow and ice, it’s imperative that the cords are completely waterproof and able to withstand freezing temperatures. Oftentimes, we see cheap knock-offs on the market not lacking the ability to melt snow, but basically breaking down within the first few months of use due to cracks caused by the cold. When this happens, and melted ice and snow find their way into the sensitive inner components of the cable, you can kiss your cords and warranty goodbye.
Gutters and Downspouts
You need to be aware of what materials were used to make your home’s gutters and downspouts. There are basically only two options: PVC piping and aluminum. Both of these materials are used for their natural ability to withstand extreme temperatures, non-corrosiveness, and lightweight. However, not all de-icing cords are made for use on both plastic and metal. Just be sure that you read the label clearly so you can get the right cable for the right job.
De-icing roof cables are one of the most effective ways of eliminating snow buildup and prevent ice dams from forming. Any homeowner knows that ice dams – an accumulation of melted snow and ice that refreezes over to build a Fortress of Solitude on your roof – can wreak havoc on your attic walls and ceilings, potentially leading to hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in repairs.
Of course, there are several methods that homeowners can implement to prevent ice dams from forming, but de-icing roof cables have proven to be one of the best ways to do it.
When looking at potential de-icing roof cables for your home, it’s important that you choose the right model that fits not only your roof but also your energy bill budget.
This means taking the following factors into consideration: the length of the cable, how many watts it uses per foot, investing in a temperature and moisture sensor for auto-turn on and –turn off, and the unit’s ability to withstand frost and rain.
You also need to the materials used in your gutters and downspout (plastic or aluminum) and check whether a prospective de-icing cable is compatible.
To help you make a quick purchase decision, we’ve included five different de-icing cable models for you to consider. Although they all attach similarly, there are several things – including the clips and mounts – that can really make or break a cable.
Of all the cables we’ve looked at, we feel that you get the most value out of the ADKS-300 from Easy Heat. Even though it’s one of the shorter models in the company’s line of de-icing cable series, it’s somehow the most effective at doing its job.