Heater CapThis product was posted on Tuesday, Nov 29th, 2011 | 0 comments
Ice forms on your roof and gutters in various ways. Let’s examine the process going from your roof to the down spouts.
If you have ever been in your attic, you should notice two things. There is dead air space between the roof and the ceiling of your home, and there is a large volume of insulation on the floor of the attic. If the attic is properly vented and insulated, there should be no transfer of heat through the ceiling of your home to the attic. The attic is a buffer between your living space and the roof. Inadequately insulated attics without proper ventilation cause the attic to collect heat which melts the snow and ice on the roof. Much of the excessive ice formation is caused by melting ice on the roof that eventually collects in the gutters and overflows as icicles. Cathedral ceilings are notorious for this problem because they do not allow a buffer zone between living space and the roof.
Roof valleys (where two or more sections of the roof meet) are vast funnels of roof channeling large amounts of water down the roof. In the winter time, vast glaciers of ice and snow cascade down the roof. The situation is made worse with steep roofs that drain into a small section of gutters. Massive ice dams commonly occur at these points.
The gutters get ice formation from snow sitting in the gutters. Further layers of ice are accumulated from ice melt coming off of the roof. Some of it will come from the heat of the sun, while some may come from a poorly insulated and ventilated roof. Eventually the gutters fill up and overflow with ice.
The standard 2×3 down spout is inadequate for the icy conditions in the northern climate. Typically, ice blocks the bottom of the spout usually at the elbow and the accumulation of ice eventually works its way up the down spout and overflows over the gutters.
If there are gutter covers on the gutters whether it is a mesh, sponge, bristle, or some sort of dome cover, you will see icicles much sooner than without gutter covers. Some gutter guards promote that their system inhibits the formation of ice. Unless the system is heated, this claim is false. Water flowing across a cold metal panel is going to freeze no matter what the number and position of embossed ridges on the gutter cover panel. The formation of icicles is noticeable sooner since the ice doesn’t have to overflow in the gutters first. It is very common to see icicles in areas where you have never had it before after installing gutter protection.
Falling ice and ice melt refreezing on walkways is a serious hazard.
There was an Alfred Hitchcock episode where the murderer used an icicle to dispatch his victim and easily dispose of the murder weapon by melting it. Icicles do look like daggers. During the first spring thaw, you will see icicles that have speared into the ground from the second story of the roof. The potential for injury is a reality.
Sometimes, ice may form in areas unnoticed until it’s too late. An example would be where water melted into the eaves, formed a block of ice a few inches thick and then collapsed the eaves from the weight of the block. You could sustain some serious injuries from a block of ice falling two stories on to your head. A five foot section of gutter filled with ice weighs approximately 65-75 pounds. You wouldn’t walk on your gutters because the body weight would tear them off. The ice can accomplish the same thing and potentially hurt someone on the way down.
Who hasn’t at some point in your life slipped and fallen on ice? When you’re a kid it’s not as bad. As you get older, the chance of serious injuries increases. One of the issues with icicle formation on the roof and gutters is the ice melt coming off of the icicles. Water refreezes on walkways and creates a serious hazard. This is the most common injury associated with ice formation. An elderly person falling on the ice may spend several weeks in the hospital along with spending several thousands of dollars towards medical bills.
During the colder months, water gets in between vulnerable structures in your home. What happens when the water freezes… It expands and pries apart gutters, soffit, fascia, and roof shingles?
In the northern climates, ice causes considerable damage. The gutter system fails because frozen water doesn’t flow. The water doesn’t get off your roof, into your gutters, down the down spout, and away from the home. Instead, it remains to do extensive damage to your home.
Roof damage is very common because of ice dams. The cup-like shape of the gutters forms an anchor for the ice to get up under the first row of shingles, which is the first line of defense for the roof. Ice pries up the shingles wrecking them, and water works its way through the roof into the attic and other structures. Eventually, the ice melts and causes water damage in the ceiling.
Gutters commonly fall off during the winter due to water getting in between the gutters and the fascia. When the water freezes, it pries the gutters away from the home, and the weight of the ice in the gutters causes them to collapse.
Sometimes water will get behind the fascia and trickle down on top of the soffit (metal covering of the eaves) and freeze. Repeated layers of ice can actually form a block and then collapse the soffit panels creating a hazard and additional damage to the home.
A mid winter thaw can compound the problem. With the gutters being partially or totally clogged, winter rains will flow to the vulnerable areas of your home. Water logged wood refreezes, expands, and separates and crumbles. In the warmer months, the soaked wood will be broken down more by mold and fungus. Insects such as carpenter ants will complete the destruction.
Almost all gutter covers don’t protect your home against ice formation. Heat wire and heat tape, besides being inefficient, are very dangerous. You will see icicles sooner with all gutter protection.
Instead of the ice building up in the gutter and eventually overflowing, it will be sitting on the gutter cover where it will form icicles.
Gutter protectors that cover the first row of shingles and attach under the second row of shingles will provide some protection against ice damage on the roof. This is because ice damage to the roof occurs when ice gets under the first row of shingles which is the roof’s first line of defense. These systems block the ice from getting under the first row of shingles.
Gutter guards that mount on the fascia or sit in the gutter (such as screens or panels with vertical holes) are more likely to cause ice damage on the roof. These types of gutter covers are mounted underneath the first row of shingles. Snow sits on top of them and ice water forms layers over the snow. Eventually the ice gets a boost up and pries up the first row of shingles destroying the shingles and causing leaks in the roof and ceiling.
In the northern climates, 3×4 oversized down spouts are a great value to enhance any gutter or gutter cap system. During the warmer months, overflowing in the gutters is minimized as you are doubling the capacity of water to flow through the down spout. During the colder months, it takes longer, if at all, for ice to block a 3×4 down spout. Whereas a 2×3 down spout will quickly clog with ice.
Heat tape and heat wires can be bought at the hardware store. They are usually installed by the homeowner. There is a good reason why we have licensed electricians. Electricity is dangerous. Many heat tape and wires are not temperature regulated and can potentially catch structures on fire. After all, the asphalt in the shingles is an oil derivative and is flammable, along with any wood structures that come in contact with the wire. The insulation covering these products is thin and easily nicked which increases the potential for fires. These products are usually hooked up to a plug in to an outside outlet. It isn’t a good idea to have situations to where wires constantly come in contact with water. These systems are accidents waiting to happen.
The “plug in” component causes other issues as well. Since they are not connected to their own breaker, they limit power for electric appliances, and they dim Christmas and other holiday decorations on that circuit.
The biggest issue is that heat tapes and wires are just not efficient at melting ice. Only the area immediately around the wire gets melted. Ice and snow quickly overwhelm these systems and you will see tunneling through the ice mass. And the ice issue is still there.
And they look horrible up on the roof. Heat tape and wires are time consuming to mount on the roof, and are permanently left on the roof. You have these cables that are very visible all year round as they zigzag across the roof. The effect would be similar to the neighbor that leaves the Christmas lights up all year. Who wants to see that?
Heater Cap has a proven track record of preventing ice build up in the gutters.
The bad news is that you will either need to knock off the icicles or invest in a heated gutter cover. Heated gutter covers can be added to the existing gutter protection. Or if there isn’t a tree issue, they can be installed on the roof, gutters, and down spouts to protect against ice issues. There are some systems available, but the patented Heater Cap has several advantages:
- Self regulating, heavily insulated, heat cables that don’t get above 90 degrees Fahrenheit
- A heat dispersing panel to go over the cable to spread the heat out to melt large amounts of snow or ice.
- The system is hardwired into its own separate circuit in the breaker box with a 20 or 30 amp GFI breakers with EP (equipment protection) components.
- Heater Cap can be mounted in just the gutters and down spouts, or on the roof if organic debris is not an issue.
- Heater Cap can be mounted on most metal panel gutter guards.
- Heater Cap has been installed by a network of dealers since 2003. As with anything electrical, we have had time to work out the bugs in the system.
- Heater Cap has mandatory factory certification training at its facility in Chicago.
The installation of Heater Cap involves two contractors, one to install the heating panels and self regulating cable, and a licensed electrical contractor to hard wire it into the circuit breaker. The heating cable should be tested by the Heater Cap contractor before and after installation to ensure that there are no breaks in the cable. The electrician should check to ensure that the system is working and will not pop the circuit breaker. As long as both contractors follow proper procedures and use the proper components, there shouldn’t be an issue.
Not everything is without its drawbacks. You need to consider the energy usage. These systems pull the same amount of electricity equivalent to a hair dryer operating all day and all night. Since it is a self regulating cable, you will draw more electric when it is colder out. Depending on the length of cable, you can add $.50 to $2.50 in additional energy costs.
But there are ways to lower your energy costs with Heater Cap. The system doesn’t need to be on when it is bitterly cold or if moisture isn’t present. You can turn it off when there is no moisture present or in the forecast (that involves trusting the weatherman) or it is below 10 degree Fahrenheit and is too cold for ice and snow to melt on the roof.
A simpler way is to install some sort of sensor. A temperature / moisture sensor will turn the system on when it is needed. The sensors turn on when two conditions are met; ice melting temperature (not bitterly cold, but cold enough for snow) and moisture is present.
A properly installed system will melt the snow and ice on a continual basis eliminating hazards from falling ice and slipper walk ways. Heater Cap is the best solution for these problems.Disclaimer: Product content and images are owned by its rightful owner.
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