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Ice Dams and De-Icing Roof Cables

October 7, 2016

Living in New England is, in itself, a unique experience dealing with the four distinct seasons.  Summer can bring very hot and humid weather, while winter brings a 180° turn to frigid and article like conditions.  New Englanders are no strangers to snow. After a fresh snowfall roofs are snow-capped and look beautiful, and quite charming. But with that beauty, snow contains a great amount of weight, and the weight rises enormously when rain, ice and sleet are added to the mix.

Experts tells us that approximately two feet of snow on an average sized roof can be the equivalent of 19 tons.  At 2,000 pounds per ton, that’s a lot of weight and this weight places an enormous amount of stress on a roof and weakens its structures. Furthermore, the melting of the mass of snow can cause water leakage that can decay roofs, destroy insulation, flood attics, ruin gutters and damage the interior of a home.  With the constant melting and freezing of snow on the roof and in the gutters, there is a great chance of an Ice Dam forming.

ICE DAM  (Photo Courtesy of This Old House)

An Ice Dam forms when the roof over the attic gets warm enough to melt the underside of the layer of snow on the roof.  When it forms, the water backs behind the ice dam and creates a pool.  This pool of water can leak into your home and cause damage to walls, ceilings, insulation, and other areas.   The water freezes, gradually growing into a mound of ice forming icicles.  The flatter the pitch of the roof, the easier it is for an ice dam to get a grip. Gutters at the eaves can also trap snow and ice. If snow and ice build up high enough in the gutter, it can provide a foundation for an ice dam. 

 Those icicles hanging from the gutters, as enchanting as they may look, can mean trouble. This could be a sign of serious damage occurring due to ice dams.

 NOTE:  Before trying to remove snow from your roof, consider that clearing a roof can be a hazardous chore. Think before you decide to go on the roof with a shovel in hand to attempt doing it yourself.  Most experts don’t support the idea of people climbing onto their roofs to remove the buildup, as the weight of a person may be just enough to trigger the roof to collapse. Additionally, taking the wrong step can easily send you sliding down your roof, putting your life in danger.

 DE-ICING CABLES  (Photo Courtesy of Easy Heat, Inc.)

The best way to handle an Ice Dam is to prevent it before it occurs by using De-Icing Cables. De-Icing Cables heat the roof edge and keep it free of ice.    Installation of the cables should be done prior to winter.  De-Icing Cables are attached to the edge of the roof where ice tends to build up.  Since the cables need an exterior outlet for electricity, we recommend using a license electrician to, not only do the installation, but to suggest the best product for the application.

The only downsides are 1) the cost of electricity (which is small for a standard cable used intermittently), and 2) the routing of draining water away so it doesn't freeze and build up at the end of the downspout.  All freeze protection products can be controlled using a variety of thermostats, controllers, sensors, and control panels.

 For more information regarding ice dams, roof snow, as well as frozen pipes, icy driveways, and walkways, contact:

McCurdy Electrical Services at 781-595-7074

or email:

info@mccurdyelectric.com.

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