Don’t Let Your Roof Ice Up – Use Heat Tapes!

When looking for ways to keep ice from forming on a roof, online searches reveal information about a heating cable system that eradicates icicles and ice dam formation efficiently and safely; can be purchased in most hardware stores and seen on many buildings located in snowy areas. This product is a type of “heat tape” that can be sliced and spliced to fit the design of any roof or gutter for snow-melting and de-icing purposes.

A roofing system with inadequate ventilation during wintry weather can lead to ice dams that form at the edge of a roof, hindering melting ice from flowing down the gutters and into downspouts for proper drainage. Eventually, melted snow water will stagnate and penetrate shingles, sheathing, and decking. An economical, effective, and long-term solution to prevent this event from occurring would be to install heat tape on roofs, gutters, valleys or even on downspouts.


The primary purpose of heat tape is to maintain or raise the surface temperature of problem areas to an above-freezing temperature. Placement of this product on the lower edge of the roof or in gutters, valleys, and downspouts can help keep the eaves free from ice or snow build-up. It is important to note that the structure will be completely free from ice or snow; however, it does create a clear path for the melted snow to drip down the eaves and into the drain pipes.

Types and Styles

This product can be purchased in fixed lengths, usually ranging from two to twenty feet depending on the style. It is also available in 120 and 240 volt versions with power options ranging from 50 to 3,135 watts. It can also be purchased in different widths ranging from one-half to three and one-quarter inch. In addition, the device must have a temperature control to meet changing weather conditions. Some commercial building owners prefer to have a thermostat installed so that when the temperature drops to a certain degree, the system will automatically activate.

Installation Process

It is very easy to install this device to prevent severe damage to a building. Before beginning installation, check the roof for any existing heating products. This is an essential safety check since many fires are the result of previously incorrectly installed de-icing cables as reported by United States Consumer Products Safety Commission (USCPSC). As an important reminder, always read the manufacturer’s guidelines as a safety precaution. Other important installation tips include:

  • Dry Roof – Placement should only be done when the roof is completely dry. It is best to plan the project ahead of time and schedule installation during the fall before winter weather hits.
  • Inspect Kit – Open the kit and check all included materials. It commonly includes a thermostat, control box, cable, and hardware for complete installation.
  • Mount Control Box – Place the control box in a location that is convenient, accessible, and close to an electrical socket, preferably underneath a soffit. The system should be properly grounded to avoid any accidental electrical shock.
  • Install Roof Tape – After attaching the control box, install the tape using a zigzag pattern, being sure to cover an area two feet from the roof line. The standard kit usually includes clips that can be used to hook onto roof edges. Lay the tape and sensor wires on the valleys, roof edges, eaves troughs, and drainpipes in order to cover those areas prone to ice dam formation.
  • Seek Help – If doubtful about the correct installation process, call an expert commercial roofing company to complete the project before the snow begins to fall.

Safety Measures

Safety should always take precedence in any project that involves electricity. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends the following safety tips when buying and installing heat tape:

  • Replacement – Heating cables that are more than three years old and not certified for longer use should be replaced with new ones to meet safety standards.
  • Proper Plug – Make sure a three-pronged plug is used and properly grounded.
  • Use GFCI – Always utilize a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI).
  • No Overlap – Avoid overlapping the tape over itself unless allowed by the manufacturer.
  • Correct Product – Use only products designed for roofing applications.
  • End-Cap – Always seal the end-cap and keep it away from the ground to prevent moisture.
  • Thermostat – If a thermostat is included, follow the manufacturer recommendations about the correct placement.
  • Maintenance – On any existing heat tape, check for signs of deterioration (discoloration, charring, cuts, and breaks).

Knowing about heat tape is essential to decrease the risk of a roof leak forming during winter conditions. With the aid of a thermostat, heat tape can prevent the formation of ice on roof edges. This project can be handle alone; however, it is often better to seek assistance from a roofing company because for safety reasons. So don’t let a roof ice up – use heat tape to melt any problems away!