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What is Heat Tape and How Does It Work? (And Do I Actually Need It?)

heat tape installation

When making gingerbread houses in the wintertime, it’s perfectly adorable to have white frosting icicles hanging from the roofline. But when it comes to icicles hanging off your actual roof, they can be dangerous, unsightly, and potentially damaging to your roof and gutters, and can even cause leaks that could damage walls, ceilings, insulation, and more. So, how do you solve the winter icicle problem? How can you prevent these icicles from forming on your roof?

heat tape ice dam on house

Well, in order to solve the problem, first you have to understand how these icicles form. They form when snow on the roof melts, collects, and then freezes in the gutters. The snow melts because heat rises from inside your home, warming the roof. However, the areas of your roof over the eaves remain cold, causing the melting snow to freeze. As this ice accumulates, it forms ice dams which prevent melting snow from draining off the roof. The dam grows as more water runs from the roof and freezes, creating ridges of ice that encourages icicles to form.

These icicles, which might look sparkly and lovely in the winter sunlight, could be hiding some dark secrets underneath. You see, when this melting snow reaches the dam of ice in the gutters of your home, the water is kept liquid by the warmth of the roof. Eventually, the water finds cracks in the roof covering and seeps into the attic, where it could damage the ceilings and interior walls.

Eventually, the water finds cracks in the roof covering and flows into the attic, where it could seep through the ceiling and interior walls.

heat tape ice dam diagram

Indoor heating rises through the ceiling into the attic and warms the roof surface.

Snow on the heated part of the roof melts and flows down until it reaches that part of the roof that is below 32°. Water freezes into an ice dam. 

The dam grows as it is fed by melting snow above, but water held by the dam backs up and stays liquid.

Eventually, the water finds cracks in the roof covering and flows into the attic, where it could seep through the ceiling and interior walls.

heat tape

Heat tape is an excellent way to prevent these ice dams from forming. The heat tape creates a boundary of warmth that keeps the snow near the gutters melted and draining properly. If you’d like to learn more, one of our licensed electricians can explain whether heat tape is a good idea for your home and give you a quote.



Author: Amber Smith-Johnson
Copyright © 2018 by Any Hour Services

Posted: December 1st, 2017 @ 12:00am by tammy