Roof Heat Tape and Ice Dams: What You Need To Know

Ice dams and roof heat tape

What Is Roof Heat Tape?

You may think you know something about construction and then come across a product you have never heard of before.

Roof heat tape is one of those things for some home or business owners. It is not really tape. It is another term for heat cables that are actually coated electrical wire.

Heat tape is designed to be applied to water pipes to prevent them freezing and then bursting.  It can also be designed to be used along your roof’s edge to minimize ice dams in your gutters and eaves.

Ice Dams: Unbeatable Winter Scourges?

If you don’t know what an ice dam is, it is basically caused by what’s going on underneath any time you see those pretty icicles hanging from someone’s roof.

An ice dam builds up along the eaves of your home in the process of melting ice that re-freezes. Ice or snow from outside melts in the warmer air coming from inside a building or home.

The melt travels downward – as water does – and freezes again when it hits the gutters that are not heated.

This pretty natural decoration actually can cause quite a bit of hazard to a roof or home structure. It makes a dam that can trap water – which will find a way through under the shingles and into the roof or wall structure causing mold and rot.

They are also hazardous due to the sheer weight of the ice and snow.

Roof Heat Tape to the Rescue

Ice dams can be expensive to remove. In addition, they are too dangerous to remove yourself.

Roof heat tape can help minimize ice dams.

You might be saying to yourself, electricity and water? Is that really a good idea?

Note: not all heat tape is made for the same thing. Heat tape made for water pipes should not be used on a roof, and vice versa. Incorrectly chosen or installed heat tape – or old heat tape – is definitely a fire hazard.

The keywords here are insulated and updated. Your heat tape needs to be:

  1. Installed by a professional
  2. Wired by a professional
  3. Inspected by a professionally every year

If your heat tape is not installed or wired correctly, it can be a fire hazard and can also needlessly use up too much energy or cause your circuits to be overloaded.

In some cases, this could actually short-circuit your furnace, making you lose heat to your whole home. Because the wires have to stay warm enough to keep snow and ice melted, it does require a significant amount of energy to keep heat tape running.

It is also tricky to install, requiring more than one person and involving ladders and getting up on your roof. If you try to do it yourself, chances are you won’t know how to install it strategically.

An experienced roofer will be able to identify what spots on your roof will benefit most from heat tape. In addition, he or she will be able to safely install it and maintain it so it doesn’t cause a fire or shut down your furnace.

Wrapping it up

Although heat tape does not prevent ice dams, it is beneficial in minimizing ice dams which are hazardous to your whole house.

Make sure you hire a professional to install and maintain your heat cables or tape. Then, you will live in the comfort of knowing you are minimizing the potential for ice dams this winter.

If you live in Southeast Michigan, please give us a call. We would be honored to help.

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You may also like to read:

Ice dams on roofHow to Prevent Ice Dams on Your Roof

Roof ice and water shieldsRoof Ice and Water Shields & Underlayment: What You Need To Know

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