Roof Heat Tape / Ice Dam Heat Tape
What is it?
“Roof heat tape” is a term used interchangeably with several other terms used to describe cables that are installed on your roof to control the formation of ice dams.
Notice that we say ‘control’ and not prevent. In terms of ice dam prevention, roof heat tape is generally used to create relief channels in ice dams to allow for the efficient escape of water off a pitched roof. Notice that in this photo there is still an accumulation of ice on the eave. The point in ice dam heat tape is not to prevent all ice from forming but to keep ice from forming along certain pathways. Ice dams cause leaks when snow melts higher on the roof and that melt water hits a ‘dam’ of ice. With nowhere else to go, the water is forced to back up under the roofing materials and into the structure. Heat tape (aka, Heat Cables) are designed to create channels through the ice dam to let that water escape.
What kinds of Ice Dam Heat Tape Exist?
Inside the category of ice dam heat tape and heat cable, there is a wide variety of quality in terms of what one can purchase. For example, you could go to Home Depot or Lowes or Amazon and get a pre-assembled 120’ roof heat tape for around $68.00. They will be sold under brand names like Easy Heat and Frost King. Or, you could buy a 100’ ice dam heat tape assembly from us for around $300. Why on earth would you pay 77% more for the ‘same’ product? Answer: You would pay that premium if you care about quality, operating cost, effectiveness and durability.
Roof Heat Tape Quality & Operating Cost
Paying Less will Cost you More
Big box heat tape is disposable, plain and simple. They will last a season or two and cost an arm and a leg to operate during that time. Operating costs are far greater than the higher quality, self-regulating roof heat tape systems we install every day because big box ice dam heat tape systems operate at 100% capacity all the time, regardless of the outdoor temperatures. Self-regulating roof heat tape systems only draw the power they need to get the job done. When it’s warm outside, they draw very little electricity. When it’s cold they draw more.
Perhaps we shouldn’t say too many disparaging things about cheap ice dam heat tape systems. After all, we replace a bunch of those systems every year when they fail. The bummer for those poor homeowners is that the pay the same labor to install crappy heat tape systems as they do the good stuff. The result is a lot of wasted money. If you are tempted to buy and install the cheapest ice dam heat tape you can find, first do a gut check. If spending $68 instead of $300 seems too good to be true, that’s because it is. Buy quality ice dam prevention cable if your desire is to have a reliable, efficient ice management system.
To learn more about Heat Tape for ice dams, Heat Cables and the installation of them, check out our heat cable installation page. The Ice Dam company has over 2 decades of experience installing heat cables for ice dams.
Other terms People Use for Heat Cable
There are a lot of terms besides ‘Heat Tape’ that people use to describe ice dam heat cables. Some of the names we hear frequently are:
- De-icing Cable
- Roof heat coils
- De-icing Tape
- roof heater cables
- zig-zag cables
- gutter heat tape
- ice melting cables