Winter can be a menacing time for your roof. Not only is snow heavy and treacherous, but things like ice dams and water build up can cause severe water damage to your home. Water damage is an insidious problem, which can bring a lot of serious problems. For one, leaky roofs are miserable, and ruin carpet, furniture, and possessions.
Water damage can eat away at plaster, insulation, and structure. But the worst thing that it can do is to cultivate black mold. Black mold is tremendously toxic, and can even kill you if you let it get out of hand. This is no joke.
Look at YouTube videos of people exploring old, decaying buildings. Notice the serious masks they wear, if they have brain one in their heads. That’s because black mold will wreck you.
That said, taking preventative measures to combat the dangers of extreme winter weather is a wise idea. You should have your roof inspected in Autumn, and any repairs or re-roofing that needs to be done should happen at that time.
There do exist technological solutions intended to help combat these problems in a more active approach. One such solution is the concept of a heat cable. Today, we’re going to talk about how these work, the types of damage they can prevent (in more detail), and some hazards that can come with this kind of implementation.
While it is possible to make this a DIY project, we don’t recommend that due to the hazards. It’s not a particularly expensive thing to have done by a professional, compared to DIY, and it’s worth the safety you’re guaranteed.
What are Heat Cables?
Heat cables are similar in concept to heat tape, but they are not one in the same. Heat tape is an adhesive tape with an electrical wire, intended to hug pipes to keep them from bursting or freezing in the winter. These have a lot of the same hazards to go along with them.
Heat cable, however, are insulated cables about the thickness of smaller coaxial cables (diameters do vary) intended to prevent freezing in your gutters. How they achieve this is a very simple implementation of electrical science.
As electricity (which consists of particles called electrons hopping from atom to atom along a path) travels through a conductor, some of the energy is lost to resistance. This energy takes the form mostly of heat, which is an easy form of radiation to shed energy through. This may leave you wondering why the wires in your walls don’t get hot.
Well, in good wire intended to not waste power, the resistance is kept to a minimum through metal purities and so on. Notice that cords to appliances and vacuum cleaners do get warm.
Let’s take a closer look at the types of damage these can actively prevent.
- Ice Dams – Ice dams are a big problem in harsher winter climates. These are melted snow and frozen runoff that form barriers preventing water from draining out in the gutters. A very new, very clean roof with excellent gutter systems can still be struck by these. They are a leading cause of water damage.
- Snow Build Up – Snow is actually very heavy when it piles up. A cold roof will just serve as a surface for it to collect on, and the extra stress is hard on the roof structure, and on shingles or tiles as well.
Heat Cable Hazards
Heat cables do bring hazards and downsides, so before you commit to having them installed, weigh these downsides and dangers first.
- Higher Risk of Electrical Shorts – You’re running wires through more of your house, and you’re exposing them to the elements. They’re insulated to hold up in these conditions, but you’re running a higher risk of electrical shorts and fires.
- Danger to Animals – While you may not care about a random bird or squirrel, if they manage to electrocute themselves on your wires, they can short your power out, cause fires, and in the very least, leave a singed corpse for you to dispose of.
- Power – This will eat power. It’s basically a super, super weak space heater wired through your gutters and possibly along the inside of your roof. Remember the impact it will have on your energy bill.
Are these right for you? Well, that depends on your budget, and how harsh the outdoors will be on wires. Cold isn’t a problem, but other things can be troublesome. There are lower-tech things you can do as well, so do consider them.
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