If you have ever had to deal with busted up shingles and roof leaks due to an unchecked ice dam, you have probably considered roof heat cables. Roof heat cables, for those who haven’t ever had to think about them, are pretty much exactly what they sound like: lengths of cable, tape or wire that is installed on top of your shingles that heat up to prevent water from freezing on your roof.
It sounds like an innovative and clever way of preventing ice dams from forming on your roof. But before you haul off and pay someone to install them for you, take a minute to peruse our list of reasons why roof heat cables are actually not a great idea.
1) They Can Be Dangerous
Think about it; you are putting heated pieces of wire on top of your roof. According to a Washington Post Safety notice citing a Consumer Product Safety Commission report, roof heat cables are responsible for around 2,000 structure fires every year and over 100 injuries. So are roof heat cables dangerous? They absolutely can be. But roofing safety isn’t the only concern related to this de-icing method.
2) They are not a Cure-All
A lot of people who start to shop around for roof heat cables have the same misconception: they think that they will clear off all the ice from the roof. That isn’t how roof heat cables work. Roof heat cables only melt snow and ice directly around them. When they are working, you will usually see thin streaks that are the clear paths that roof heat cables melt in the snow and ice. Their function is simply to clear enough space and melt enough ice to prevent ice dams and provide a channel for the water to flow to the gutters. That being said, roof heat cables will not protect your roof if your gutters are clogged, and they will certainly not clear all the snow and ice from your roof.
3) They are an Added Utility Expense
If you have an average-sized roof then you will be looking at an average cost of $7.25 per day to run your roof heat cables. In the winter months when you will most likely need to run your roof heat cables all day for days at a time, that adds up to a lot of extra money. Now the argument can be made that $7.25 per day may still add up to less money than repairing a collapsed roof, which is true. But in most cases, homeowners don’t actually need to install roof heat cables. Some regular maintenance and a bit of due diligence are enough for most homes to avoid dangerous ice dams in the winter. For instance, raking your roof (safely) when snow accumulates on it is an effective and cheap way to protect it against ice dams.
4) They Require Precise Installation
If the contractor you hire to install your roof heat cables doesn’t have a lot of experience and the utmost investment in the project, your cables can very well become more of a problem than if they were never installed at all. That’s because the ice that they melt can simply refreeze again on other portions of your roof if they are not installed very cleverly and strategically. They need to be placed in such a way that they channel all melted ice to the ground or gutters.
5) They are a Bad Look in the Summer and Spring
Unless you live in the Arctic Circle you aren’t going to need your roof heat cables year-round. While the snow covers most of the cables up in the Winter, in the Summer and Spring months, the cables are on full display to the neighborhood – think broken Christmas lights are strewn atop your roof all year long. And roof heat cable uninstallation isn’t exactly DIY work. In short, it isn’t worth it to take your roof heat cables down every year and then having them installed again every winter – especially when the average cost for roof heat cable installation in the US is $400-$700. So you may want to avoid the eyesore altogether.
6) There are Better Ways to Address Ice Dams
Perhaps the most important reason why roof heat cables are ineffective for preventing ice dams is that there are much better ways to prevent them. In most cases, ice dams are caused because heat is escaping from inside, melting snow on top of the roof and the melted snow runs down to a colder area of the roof and refreezes. Fixing these heat leaks is the most effective and beneficial way to prevent ice dams – and lower your heating costs to boot.
Roofer’s Guild Can Help
So are roof heating cables worth it at the end of the day? In most cases, no. But here at Roofer’s Guild, we can put you in contact with a professional roofing contractor who will be able to solve your ice dam problems guaranteed. Our roofers are rated among the best in the United States and have the licenses to verify it. Find a roofing contractor in your area today.