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The Issue with Gutter Heaters

April 18, 2016
Amanda Curry
Read Time
3 minutes

Ice and snow can cause many different issues, including ice dams, during the winter. Many times, homeowners fall victim to the most common solutions to ice dams that have been floating around for generations – including zig-zag heated cables for modern gutters. Unfortunately, these solutions may not be the best and homeowners can end up investing a lot of time and money in a product only to find that ice dams and icicles return anyways!
Read on for more information about how ice dams are caused and for solutions.

Ice Dam Formation 101: Why Ice Dams Exist

If left neglected, ice dams can cause serious problems. Water can enter into the interior of your home, warping your hardwood floors, causing mold, and ruin your family’s belonging. Your modern gutters can begin to pull around from your home, and you may experience soffit and fascia damage. Icicles can even endanger the safety of your family!

So, what do you do?

In order to understand how to prevent ice dams, it is important to realize how ice dams form in the first place. Ice dams occur from the following pattern:
• Snow accumulates on your rooftop
• Snow begins to melt from solar heat and heat loss from your home
• Melted snow runs down to the surface of the roof, settling along overhands and gutter lines.
• Temperatures drop below freezing and the snow melt refreezes, causing an ice dam.

Gutter Heaters Don’t Prevent Ice Dams

As you can see, ice dams are an internal heat loss problem. If you are experiencing ice dams, it may be a ventilation and insulation issue within your home. Homeowners may think that zig-zag cables, which may also be known as heat tape for gutters, on the roof and gutters are effective at preventing ice dams, however, this is not the case. Heated gutters are extremely ineffective at fighting against ice dams in cold and snowy climates. Heat tape for gutters will only be able to create a small melted tunnel around an immediate area. An eavestrough heating cable will simply not be able to handle massive amounts of snow. Additionally, they may even exacerbate your ice dam issues with the constant melting and refreezing of snow in your gutters. Ice dams will form above and below the melted areas surrounding the zig-zag eavestrough heating cable.

Are Heated Gutter Guards Any Better?

Heated gutter guards have the same problem as heated gutters.The constant freeze and thaw can cause the gutter guard to warp or disfigure, which will further render it ineffectiveat preventing gutter clogs. If leaves and other dry debris build up on top of the heat tape for gutters, the eavestrough heating cable can also be a fire hazard for your home. It is best to avoid heated gutter guards to avoid these issues.

How to Prevent Ice Dams

If heated gutters aren’t the solution, then what is?

Since ice problems occur because of a loss of heat, it’s more important to turn your attention inward to the interior of your home. Check your attic to see where heat is escaping. You may need to add insulation or ventilate your attic to control the heat loss problem.

If you have a significant amount of snow accumulating in your modern gutters, above 4 inches, you may want to take preventative measures and use a shovel to get rid of excess snow on your roof. This will help prevent snow build up and ice dams from occurring.

Bottom line, it is important to not fall for zig-zag heated cables. They may end up creating more issues than solving your ice dam problem!