Preventing Ice Dams With Heat Cable

Posted on: 7 January 2015

Snow and ice become a major cause of concern for many homeowners when winter arrives. These elements can easily accumulate on your roof and create ice dams, which can damage to your house. To prevent this potential hazard from harming your roof, consider using heat cables. They keep problem areas of the roof from freezing, allowing snow and ice to melt away. This article examines some of the most important factors to keep in mind when adding heat cables, also known as heat tape, to your home.


Remove all debris from the roof before installing the cables. This includes any twigs, pine needles and leaves. Flammable debris may present a fire hazard in some cases. Make sure all debris is removed from your gutters as well as the roof itself.


You do not need to put heat cables over the entire extent of your roof. Typically, you install the heat tape on the lower portion of each slope. A good rule of thumb is to install the cables in a zig-zag pattern, with the tape reaching 12 inches up the slope and hanging 7 inches over the gutters. The instructions that come with the heat cables should tell you the specific pattern that the manufacturer recommends.


Heat cables also work well when installed in your gutters and downspout. They prevent the melted snow and ice that comes off your roof from freezing again in the gutter or drain pipe. With the heat tape in place, the melted water passes through the drainage system with no problems.

Turning Off

Electricity is expensive, so you should only operate the heat cables when necessary. If the weather does not warrant running the system, simply turn it off. You can do this with a manual toggle switch. If you prefer, however, you may use a thermostat that automatically turns off the power if the temperature rises above a certain level.

Correct Tape

The terms heat tape and heat cables are also used for products that keep plumbing pipes from freezing during the winter. Despite using the same terminology, heat cables for roofs are not the same as heat cables for pipes, so make sure you purchase the correct product.

Heat cables are one way to prevent ice dams, but they must be installed properly to be effective. If you are not comfortable doing the job yourself, contact a local roofing contractor such as GRC Roofing Co. for assistance. He will make certain that your heat tape is installed safely and efficiently.