Removing Ice Dams with Steam: Roof Ice & Gutter Ice Steaming
A steamer takes regular, cold tap water and heats it to 300 degrees. This steam is forced through a delivery hose and wand where it is focused into a thin, low-pressure column used to cut through ice. The most efficient way to steam ice off a roof is to cut it into chunks and throw the chunks from the roof. This is much faster than methodically melting the ice bit by bit (which many companies do).
Here is a simple way for the novice to tell the difference. If the gun on the machine being used has a trigger, it is NOT A STEAMER. It is a high-temperature pressure washer. Why should you care? Because pressure washers take a long time to remove ice. That costs you a lot. Next, pressure washers can easily damage cold, brittle roofing materials. That costs you a lot. Get the point?
A steamer is entirely different that a high temperature pressure washer. The two are frequently confused despite the fact that they have little in common. This misclassification is done mostly by ice dam removal companies that use pressure washers in place of ice dam steamers for their jobs. A high-temp pressure washer is identical to what one might find at a self-service carwash with warmed water in the system. Steamers are expensive, specialized machines and, unlike pressure washers, have few uses other than ice removal. Nothing is faster or safer to use than a true steamer when it comes to getting rid of unwanted ice.
Here are some of the differences between high-temp pressure washers and steamers:
High Temp Washer
- 3-5 gallons per minute forced through a very small orifice at the end of a gun
- Operate at 120-180 degrees
- Use 1000-3000 psi
- Rely on force/pressure to remove ice (not heat)
- Generates a lot of water during the ice removal process, can damage shingles, can force water up under roofing materials
- .5-1 gallon per minute of water used pushed through an open wand
- Operate at 250-300 degrees
- Use 250 psi
- Rely on heat to remove ice
- Generates far less water during the process, doesn’t damage shingles
Gutter Ice Steaming
There are many ways to remove ice from a roof. Just use your imagination and someone has most likely tried it. Chain saws, sand blasters, hammers, axes and picks. These are collectively referred to as mechanical methods. They rely on mechanical force to move the ice. There are only two non-mechanical method of ice removal; ice-melt compound and heat. Ice-melt compounds, including sodium, calcium and magnesium, are an effective way to manage ice under some circumstances. For example, such agents will not harm cedar roofs. They can and do cause harm to a variety of secondary surfaces, however. Aluminum, copper, concrete, and a variety of leafy plants can be damaged severely by ice removal compounds. It is always best to measure the costs versus the benefits when considering the use of ice-melt chemicals.
The second non-mechanical method of ice removal is dry heat. In the case of ice dams on roofs, steam is the fastest, most effective and safest to the home. This is why we prefer roof ice and gutter ice steaming.