Okay, I have have seen it all now. I’ve kept quiet for the last two years but I can’t do it any longer. I just spoke with a woman whose roof was scarred up by a ‘professional’ using a ‘steamer’. The only catch was that the guy wasn’t using a steamer; it was a pressure washer . A number of companies are using high-temperature pressure washers instead of steamers to remove ice from homes. At first glance it might sound like a distinction interesting only to ice geeks. But alas, it is a pretty big deal. In short, pressure washers rely on pressure to remove ice (go figure), not on heat. ‘High-Temperature’ pressure washers operate at slightly higher temperatures than a typical water heater (120-170 degrees). A steamer is an entirely different machine. It converts cold tap water into true steam, which can only be achieved at 250 to 300 degrees. Again, why care? In short it comes down to the fact that steam remove ice much, much faster than high-pressure water. This translates in to time and money (less of both if you use a steamer). Steamers are not only the fastest choice, they are the safest. It doesn’t take a genius to understand that using high-pressure water near frozen roofing materials may not be the best plan. Invariably, regardless of the user, such machines strip off the granules on asphalt composite shingles. This voids manufacturers warranties and it reduces the lifespan of the shingle.
We own three high-temp pressure washers but would never consider using them to cut ice. To the average dude they don’t look much different than a steamer. Use one to cut ice and the difference becomes clear right away. For this reason, conscientious, ethical contractors use actual steamers. Besides The Ice Dam Company, there are a number of outfits in town that use true steamers, including Garlock-French and Absolutely Clean Window Washing. I’ve been around this industry for over 20 years and I have never heard a complaint about those shops. My point is, no matter who you hire to remove your ice, make certain their machinery is as advertised. It must be running at a minimum of 250 degrees over the entire course of the job to function safely and efficiently.
Here’s a great image taken by out friend Reuben Saltzman of Structure Tech, showing what kind of damage a pressure washer can do to an asphault roof when it’s used to remove an ice dam: