Roof Heating Cables

By HomeAdvisor

Updated October 28, 2016


The top of your house is extremely susceptible to damage. Your roofing gets hit with rain, hail, snow, and direct sun. In other words, natural elements (including leaves and tree limbs) can sometimes collect in your gutter year round. Therefore it’s important to keep your gutter system free and clear at all times to prevent buildup and destruction. But even then your roof may still be at risk, especially during the winter when snow buildup and unseen ice dams can occur. These icy obstructions can form in your gutters and impede proper drainage, which can then cause serious dangers to your roof.

The Problem: Ice Dams

In winter, snow collects on top of your house. Not a big deal as long as the roofing is properly sealed. However, when temperatures rise, this snow will slowly melt. The melt water drains into gutters and downspouts, which then relocate the moisture away from your roof and foundation. But Mother Nature is fickle and temperatures often fluctuate between day and night. And sometimes the ice melt can freeze up again on your metal gutters, eaves, roof edges, and downspouts. If this happens often enough, ice buildup can obstruct proper passageways. These icy blockages take a long time to melt since they’re often hidden from direct sunlight and never receive heat loss from the home. This creates small dams in your gutters, and as the snow continues to melt, the water has nowhere to run. Therefore, it seeps back under your shingles and causes decay and seepage.

The Solution: Roof Heating Cable

Though there are many solutions to snow buildup and other roofing problems (radiant barriers, appropriate ventilation, proper insulation), the best way to solve this particular problem is with a roof heating cable. A roof heat cable looks a bit like an extension cord. It’s wrapped in heavily insulated rubber to make it moisture-proof and grounded, but this wire is hung around your roof edge and placed within your gutters.

When activated, it radiates heat and helps to melt the ice before it collects, allowing for proper drainage at all times. It also melts heavy snow buildup to thwart any threat of cave-in, removes dangerous icicles from your eaves, and can be used to wrap around pipes to prevent possible freezing.

A roof heat cable is fairly inexpensive (around $50-100) and can help avoid larger repair expenses in the future. Plus, you can even buy models with adapters which regulate the outside temperature and automatically activates the roof heating cable when the air drops below freezing. This auto feature is not only energy efficient (saving money on your electric bill), but since you’re probably already overwhelmed by other winter weather concerns, it gives you one less thing to think about once the cold hits.

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The Installation: Do It Up Right

A roof heat cable simply plugs into any socket (though since it’s going to be surrounded by water, a GFI may be necessary) and works on all types of guttering systems: metal, plastic, vinyl, etc. The wire actually clips to the shingles on the roof’s edge and occasionally dips down into the gutter itself at specified intervals. Therefore the size, pitch, perimeter, and complexity of your roofing will determine the length and power of your roof heating cable. And though they come in ready-to-use kits, it may be a good idea to hire a professional for proper installation. These experts can supply you with the right product to fit your particular needs, and they understand the physics of the project so as to avoid any missteps along the way.


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