Last modified: 2019-07-02 | Approximate reading time 4 mins
For both humans and the home, winter is difficult to endure. Between the cold weather, the strong winds, the ice, and the snow, we all require a little bit of cold weather protection. While we don winter coats, hats, and gloves, the home isn’t able to dress up and thus, needs an alternative method to stay warm. One way to protect your home’s roof and facade from the wear and tear of ice and snow is by using gutter heaters.
Heated gutters work to combat many problems such as a build-up of ice and snow as well as the resulting dreaded ice dams. However, like most modern technologies, they have their pros and cons. If you’re curious about how heated gutters work as well as the way they can benefit your home, read on!
Left idle on your roof, a buildup of ice and snow will lead to serious problems. Snow and moisture can damage your home's facade as well as parts of your interior. In fact, a continuous build of snow and ice melting and freezing is a common winter problem. Called ice dams, these lead to water infiltration on various levels. This generally includes damaging the roofing material itself, the insulation below, your ceilings, floors, and furniture. Further, mould can grow and this can be detrimental to the health of yourself and your loved ones.
It is important to be aware of the pattern that creates ice dams. The process is as follows: snow accumulating on your rooftop, snow melting from a combination of the sun and heat loss from your home, melting snow moving around your roof and settling in spaces such as the gutters and lastly, temperatures dropping below freezing and the melting snow refreezing. So how do you deal with an excessive amount of snow, especially in the midst of a storm?
One way to combat the issue of ice dam formation is to use gutter heaters to eliminate the refreezing process. But, what products are available on the market and how well do they work?
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A heating cable is fairly self-explanatory and is essentially a water-proof cable that heats up. Heat cables can be installed directly into the gutter or along the ridges and edges of your roof. Heat cables work by allowing accumulated melted snow (water) to make its way off of your roof. The cable heats a small tunnel underneath the ice for the water to drain. There are two types of heat cables on the market, and these are thermostat and traditional. The main difference between the two is that thermostat cables allow you to control the temperature, while the traditional cables have one consistent setting.
Heated gutter helmets act with the assistance of a heat cable and can be used alone but rarely are. The helmets are installed directly on top of heated cables and work in two ways. Firstly, the helmets act as protection from debris collecting in your gutters and clogging them from draining. Secondly, working in tandem with heat cables, they heat up and melt the snow and ice so that it doesn’t build up and lead to the creation of ice dams.
Although using gutter heaters can aid in the melting of snow and ice, they won't be able to solve the issue of ice dams altogether. Ice dams are an internal heat loss problem, and for the most part, you’ll need to consider insulation methods as well as attic ventilation. The technologies behind heated gutters are not sufficient to fully solve a buildup of ice and snow, especially in particularly snowy climates. Heat cables and tape create only a small tunnel, and this can deal with the immediate area of ice or snow buildup alone. If there is a heavy snowfall or storm, a heat cable will not be able to combat it on its own.
Another point worth mentioning is that if excessive snowfall proceeds for days at a time, gutter heaters can actually make your ice buildup issues worse. This is because they'll cause more snow to melt and refreeze around the cable itself, and this may end up freezing the heated cable in place.
First things first, if you are going to use heat cables, you'll need to start with clean gutters. Thoroughly clean out your gutters before the first snowfall, and try to keep them as clean as possible leading up to it. This will aid in water draining on its own and will make the use of gutter cables and helmets significantly more effective. Not only this, if leaves or dry debris begin to collect on the heating cable, this can be a significant fire hazard. Also, gutter heaters or helmets can sometimes warp or disfigure the gutter depending on its material, and this can cause the entire process as well as the gutters themselves to become ineffective.
Do bear in mind that gutter heaters should be in place long before the first snowfall and before the ice begins to accumulate. Waiting until after the snow has begun to fall is too late, and might only make things more difficult.
As we mentioned, if you’re looking for long-term methods for eliminating ice dams, you’ll need to look at the interior of your home. The article we listed above has all of the necessary information you’ll need to combat this winter problem. If you’re having trouble installing heating cables or closing up places where heat is escaping, call a professional!
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