Heat cable, heat tape, heat wire…they’re distinct names that mean something similar. They’re hot wires that run up and down your roof to melt snow and prevent ice buildup in your overhangs and in your valleys.

Heat cable has its place in the world (more on that in a minute), but I typically don’t advocate it to my customers, for a few reasons:

Heat Cable Problem #1: It’s often a Band-Aid.
90% of the time that difficulty is fixable, and it begins with a quality home energy audit from someone who understands ice dams, venting, and insulation. You’ll likely be urged to seal spaces where warm air is creeping into your attic – like around light fixtures, outlets, etc. up These places that allow air-escapes into your attic are called “loft bypasses.” Your energy auditor could also tell you to double down on your own insulating material, or to boost your ventilation, or both

Heat Cable Issue #2: It’s an energy-drainer.
Even very great heat cable may add about 20% to your energy bill – all depending on how frequently you power it on. That on your wallet than it really is on the surroundings. (If I’m going to incur the wrath of Al Gore, at least I’d desire it to be because I’ve got the showiest Christmas lights in the area.)

Some homeowners forget to switch off the heat cable. This also wears out your heat cable much faster. Most heat cable doesn’t even continue long to begin with; the typical life of heat cable seems to be around 3-5 years. Again…this depends on several factors.

But I don’t trust most technologies that just came out of the lab, and even in the event the heat cable shuts off in the springtime it still poses difficulties in the wintertime.)

Heat Cable Problem #3: It melts snow that may just refreeze.
Whatever melts snow in your roof can cause an ice dam. The cables will create lots of zig zagging channels of melted snow across your roof. Well, it’ssupposed to roll down the incline of your roof and wind up on the earth. But in many cases it ends up refreezing along the edge of your overhangs, or refreezing only over the heat cable. Just how do I am aware this? Because not only did we install heat cables we’d remove dozens of ice dams on houses with heat cable many years ago, but in addition every year.

Heat Cable Issue #4: The guarantee is a joke generally.
Sometimes by telling you there heat cable installers will attempt to sell you on heat cable ’s a “ guarantee that is terrific!” What they don’t tell you is that guarantee generally pertains to parts merely, and that the parts (the cable and tape) are dirt cheap. The labor makes up most of the installation price. Look for a parts-and-labor warranty. There’s a good chance you’re not going to find it, because heat cable inherently doesn’t continue long, particularly with heavy use.

Last but not least, ask the installer what happens when the heat cable doesn’t function and you end up with ice dams. (Their answer may just prove my point.)

Heat Cable Issue #5: It’s awful.
It’s not still beautiful even should a heat cable worked perfectly. While you’re at it, you may as well wear Crocs.

Why do people take down their Christmas lights each year? Since your house looks depressed and disheveled if you’ve a bunch of fresh cables hanging all over it.

But unlike Christmas lights, heat cable is not a thing you’ll each year remove and reinstall. It’s semi permanent.

Homeowners asked us about heat cable all the time, in the early days. Everyone desired what looked like a rapid, simple, affordable solution to the ice dam issue.

But we needed to stop. We simply had too many difficulties with heat cable – the ones I’ve told you about. Like offering any service that doesn’t provide high value for the money, I don’t, and we got out of it completely although it was quite a prosperous business.

In the company of helping my customer solve issues, I’m as an ice dam removal pro, and in several situations difficulties were being created by heat cable.

When is heat cable appropriate?
You may have noticed I said, if you were reading quite closely “ I rarely recommend heat cable.” Believe it or not, occasionally it’s the only option, also it can not be ineffective.

Some dwellings have design flaws, and sometimes the price to correct the design flaw is merely too high. If that’s the case, heat cable can assist you to keep problem areas clear of ice and snow.

However, you likely don’t live in that house. You only ought to attempt heat cable as a last resort. This means you’ve done the energy audit, you’ve had the insulating material guys out, had your venting checked, you’ve, you’ve sealed up any air flows into your attic, and you’re raking your roof whenever the snow begins to pile up. A roof that is cool and clean is the best strategy to prevent ice dams.

On the off-chance you’re still getting ice dams after all that, then yes, maybe you should have heat cable professionally installed on those problem areas. Just know that it ’s a last resort, and still doesn’t constantly do the trick.

We remove more ice dams per year than probably any other company in the world. Many of those ice dams are on dwellings with heat cables. I can’t in good faith propose you install heat cables on your own roof, unless you’ve tried every other prevention measure first (which will probably work).

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