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Blog Post

Using Roof Gutter Heat Tape

to Help Prevent Ice Dams
Melting snow and ice can create ice dams which can cause leaks and damage in gutter systems. As a result, many homeowners turn to heat tape as a solution to de-ice their roofs and gutters.

What is Gutter Heating Tape?

Heat tape, also called roof heat cable, is an insulated electrical wire that prevents snow and ice buildup in your rain gutters and downspouts during the cold winter season. These heated cables melt the snow and ice to keep precipitation from blocking your gutter system.

Constant Wattage and Self-Regulating Heat Cable

Two kinds of gutter heat cables are available for homeowners. The first type is a constant wattage heat cable which is on all the time regardless of the temperature outside. Once plugged into an electrical outlet, this type of heat cable will warm up and draw a constant wattage of electricity through the wires, regardless of the temperature outside.
Why is Gutter Heat Tape Useful?

Snow and ice often accumulate on roofs during the cold Minnesota winters. When temperatures rise above freezing and snow begins melting, the water runs down the roof and drains out through the gutter system. However, ice dams can form and block water flow when the temperature drops below freezing once again or when melted snow and ice begin to refreeze. Ice dams can cause damage to roof shingles and gutters. Heated cables on your roof and inside the gutters and downspouts help prevent the ice from building up and causing problems.

How is Gutter Heat Tape Installed?

Run a continuous path of cable in a zig-zag fashion on the edge of your roof and along your gutters. Shingle clips are available to attach the cable to your roof easily. In addition, there are special cable clips that will allow you to connect the wires to your gutters without damaging the system. Make sure you have enough cable to line the inside of the gutters, run through the downspouts, and up again.

Pros and Cons of Gutter Heat Tape

While heat tape can be a great way to keep your gutters free from ice, before investing your time and energy, there are some drawbacks to keep in mind.

Pros
Easy Installation – The kits come with installation instructions and hardware. Special tools are not required. Although it is highly recommended that you use a ladder stabilizer so that you don't accidentally damage your gutters.
Low Maintenance – Once installed, they can last for years.

Cons
Increased Energy Costs – Depending on the amount of time your cables are active during the winter, you will most likely see an increase in your electric bill.
Limited Effectiveness – Heat tape is not a magic solution for ice dam prevention. It is only effective in handling a few inches of snowfall.
Refreeze Problems – If your rooftop accumulates several feet of Minnesota snowfall, the heat tape will only melt bottom layers of snow and ice. When the temperature drops and ice builds up again, it could create the ice dams you were trying to avoid.

The Bottom Line

Heated gutter cable can be helpful when dealing with the de-icing problems Minnesota homeowners face during cold temperatures. While not a perfect solution, it is a relatively cheap DIY way to melt some snow and ice during the colder months. We have 20 years of experience installing high-quality seamless rain gutter systems in Maple Plain and the surrounding areas.

If you are wondering how to protect your gutter system this winter, contact us at 612-834-0664. We take great pride in our work and are always happy to answer any questions about gutter services for your home.

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