If this winter is like most others, we can expect a few very heavy snowfalls.  That means clearing the driveway yourself, or hoping the plowing service shows up.

But what about your roof?  Ice dams and icicles can form on the roof.  If they have no place to go, they can cause extensive and costly damage to roof and gutter systems.  That is why many people opt to install heating cables on their roof and inside their gutters.  While they may not be aesthetically pleasing, these cables provide a few benefits, especially when an insulation or air sealing project is impractical:

  • They provide a direct path for ice and snow melt off the roof, reducing the risk of damage to the roof and home.
  • They prevent ice and snow melt from collecting and freezing in gutters and downspouts.

A licensed electrician comes to your house and installs the system, putting an outlet by your downspout.  A switch can be installed in your garage to turn the system on and off.

Here are a few things to consider if contemplating these cables.

  • First and foremost, they are not an alternative to a properly constructed and functional roof.  The system will not prevent future leaks due to the existing roof condition, its construction and design.  This is also true if you are in a newer home with a roof that has lots of valleys and shaded areas from which water cannot flow.  In these instances, you need to call a roofing contractor.
  • Second, you should only install self-regulating heating cables, as opposed to series heating or parallel resistance cables.  There are four advantages to self-regulating heating cables.
    • Self-regulating cables can be cut to any length, minimizing waste and increasing installation flexibility
    • Unlike other cables, self-regulating cables produce more heat when cold, and less heat when warm, making them more energy efficient
    • You don’t need a thermostat, as the cables “know” how much heat to produce, based on the temperature
    • The cables can overlap without risk of overheating
  • You should turn the system on when the first precipitation accumulates on your roof, and leave it on until you are relatively certain there will be no more snow.  If you turn the system off, you might forget to turn it back on.  And given that the cables are self-regulating, they are only using as much energy as needed.