Heat cables, heat tape, heated mesh & heated pans
Before we plug for heating cables, there are some things you should know.
First off, there are many terms that are used, sort of interchangeably, when you speak about heating cables. Heating cables, heat tracing cables, heat tape, heat tracing tape, self-regulating cables, roof and gutter de-icing cables are just a few of those names. Often times, these types of products are the first thing that homeowner’s turn to when they are trying to prevent or remove ice dams. In reality, heating cables (while they can be affective), should be the last course of action in terms of preventing ice dams. Why? Because heat cables do NOT prevent ice dams. Heating cables melt away small channels along the roof, so that melted snow and ice can have a clear path to the ground. Heating cables are not meant to prevent ice dams.
Heat cables, when installed and functioning properly, help to minimize the likelihood that water will build up behind an ice dam and cause a leak. If you truly want to prevent ice dams, you need to go to the source of the ice dams. What is causing them? More often than not, you will find that the answer will be a combination of lack of insulation, insufficient ventilation and an overabundance of warm air bypasses into the attic space. If you can address the ventilation, insulation and warm air bypasses, you can greatly minimize the likelihood of ice dam formation.
If possible, we will always encourage the homeowner to take the necessary steps to properly deal with and eliminate the sources that are contributing to ice dam formation on your roof in the first place. If that can be done, there would be no need for heating cables. Whether it be the sealing of warm air leaks into your attic space, adding more insulation, or providing proper ventilation for your unconditioned spaces, there are certain things that can be done with your home to minimize the likelihood of ice dams and prevent damage to your home. Before you consider heating cables, it is important to inspect your conditioned spaces (attics) for such issues and deal with these problems prior to resorting to the installation of heating cables. Put quite simply, heat cables are a good option, but they should be the last option consider.
All this being said, am I saying that I would not recommend heating cables? Absolutely not! Last year alone, we installed over a mile of heating cables in the Minneapolis/St Paul area. Sometimes, it is far too invasive or expensive to properly air seal, ventilate and insulate the conditioned spaces of your home. Heating cables definitely provide a legitimate alternate course of action. While they do not stop the conditions that contribute to ice dams, they do help to minimize the ice build up and help to channel water off and away from the roof. In this way, they can prevent damage to the house caused by ice dams.
Why use Kuhl to estimate/install your heating cables?
Put quite simply, we are pros. We will assess your situation with diligence and figure out proper courses of action. We do thorough inspections of your living spaces and attics, and can determine whether not an insulation/air sealing project is a legitimate option or not. If not, we can give estimates for heating cables and install those for you. Did I mention that we are pros? Seriously, we are professional roofers. Our crews install and work with all roofing materials (cedar, asphalt, metal, slate, etc) and when they are not installing heat cables, they are installing the roofing materials. Therefore, they know how the roof is put together, the do’s and don’ts for each material and how to properly attach the heating cables without causing damage to the roof.
Below is some more information you should know prior to having heating cables installed on your house/building.
What type of heating cable does Kuhl use or recommend?
While there are a lot of different types and manufacturers out there. Kuhl most commonly installs a 120v/240v, commercial grade, self-regulating heating cable system. See below for more details
Heat Cable Specifications
|Voltage (depending on cable length)||120v, 240v|
|Watts||10-12 per lineal ft. when wet/cold (increased output)|
|Heat Output (approximate)||50-70°F|
|Heat Cable Warranty (Manufacturer’s)||3 Years|
|Approximate Size of Heat Cable||1/4″H x 5/8″W|
|Minimum Bend Radius||1-1/8″|
Quick Pros and Cons list for heating cables:
- When an insulation/air sealing project just isn’t practical or possible, heating cables provide another means to help avoid damage from ice dams.
- When installed correctly, heat cables can be very effective at providing a direct path for ice and snow melt off of the roof and not damage the home.
- Heat Cables can keep your gutters and down spouts from collecting and freezing with ice and snow melt.
- Heat Cables are not entirely aesthetically pleasing.
- They cost money to operate.
- High upfront materials and install cost (for good heat cables).
- They are a band-aid solution, and are only recommended as a last resort.
- Heat cables only work when properly monitored and/or plugged in.
Quick Fact or Fiction section that might be good
Fact OR Fiction #1:
If I have heating cables, the eaves of my house will be completely clear of ice and snow.
Heating cables often to not clear the entire eave. They are usually installed in tracing patterns along the eaves and in the gutters and downspouts. The heating cable is not meant to clear the entire eave of ice and snow. The purpose of heating cables is to provide and maintain a direct path to the ground for melted snow and ice on your roof. More than likely, you will still see some ice build up and some icicle formation.
Fact OR Fiction #2:
The heating cables that I can purchase at Home Depot, Menards, or another big box store are just as good as the commercial grade heating cables.
There are many different types of heating cables, roof melting systems, and heat tape that homeowners can purchase for their roofs. These different products also range widely in price. At Home Depot, you can purchase a 50′ heating cable for $49.99. That’s $1 per foot uninstalled, approximately. If you purchase a self regulating, commercial grade, 240v heating cable, installed from a local contractor, this can be close to $12 per foot. So which is better? Unfortunately, it greatly depends. Some of the newer commercial grade cables (if installed correctly) have longer warranties, run more efficiently,
It is important to know that there are several different kinds and manufacturers of heating cables. There are benefits and downfalls to each type. Some are constant wattage, while others are self-regulating. Some have good mounting brackets/clips/plates, while others rely on flimsy clips that fall out easily. Some are meant to be permanent installations while others are meant to be removed annually or periodically. Some last 5-10 years, while other only last a couple years. It is helpful to ask questions, do your research, and get multiple estimates for the cables.
Fact OR Fiction #3:
I will notice an increase in my electrical bill when my heating cables are left running all winter.
Depending on the kind of heating cables installed and the number of feet of heat cables installed, you will definitely notice an increase in your energy consumption.
Fact OR Fiction #4:
Heat cables prevent ice dams.
Heating cables do not prevent ice dams. They merely melt small channels along the roof in an effort to provide a path for melted ice and water to run off of the roof. Often installed in a tracing pattern along the eave of a roof, it is often common to see ice and snow build up between the traces and above the heating cables. It is also not uncommon to still see significant icicle formation along the eaves, even if heat cables are installed.
Fact OR Fiction #5:
If I have completely air sealed all of the attic by passes, insulated properly, and provided sufficient ventilation to my attic space, I should not get ice dams.
This is partially true. If properly insulated, air sealed, and ventilated, the potential for ice dams is very low. However, there are still some situations, where ice dams will form, regardless of the insulation, air sealing and ventilation. These types of ice dams are caused primarily by the individual homeowner use of the building and by the sun. As a homeowner, you can control how you use your space. Don’t put a heater in the attic. However, in terms of the sun’s influence, there is little you can do to prevent melting of snow and ice from the sun. Large umbrellas maybe?