Are Zig Zag Heat Cables Effective for Roof Ice Dam Prevention?

An inexpensive solution to roof ice dams?

For many home and business owners, the first reaction to ice dam problems may be to run to the hardware store and purchase a length of heat tape or heat cables. The next step is to install them in a zig zag fashion on the roof and plug them in. While this may be an inexpensive 'fix', there are hidden costs to going this route.

Wasted energy!

Zig Zag Roof Heat Tape not effective against ice damsUsing heat cables in a zig zag or W pattern on the roof means using 2-3 times the heat cable when compared to heating only the roof edge with radiant roof edge panels. This is because zig zag cables need to be routed up the roof 2-4 feet depending on the size of the overhang or eave. The reason the cables need to be looped up the roof so far is because zig zag cables do not prevent ice dams from forming - they merely melt channels in them to allow the water to drain out. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn't. More heat cable used means more dollars spent in operating costs. Often, these constant wattage heat cables have ice dams that form right over them and the meager heat they produce only feeds the ice dam. Notice the picture here - how you can see the heat cable melting through the snow, yet the ice dams are still forming. What a waste of energy!


Dangerous Proposition - Fire Hazard!

Take this excerpt from the Chicago Tribune:

Safety concerns

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) says they no longer collect data on heat tape-related accidents. But in the 1990s, the agency reported the products were involved in about 2,000 fires, 10 deaths and 100 injuries every year.

Zig zag heat cables have little ability to self regulate their heat output leading to overheating and the possibility of fires. Couple that with faulty installation and you have a recipe for disaster. It is no wonder that communities have outlawed this type of roof heat cable.

Unreliable performance!

Hardware store heat cables and the thermostat controllers can have a very short lifespan. We have had customers come to us who went the route of hardware store heat cables report that their cables failed in as little as 3 weeks. Warranties on these heat cables can be one year or less. And what is the remedy when they fail? More of the same inferior product. Most thermostat controllers sold with these products turn the heat tape on and off at 40 degrees F. This means they are operating at temperatures well above freezing. 

What is the alternative?

Our systems are designed to last. Consider the following advantages of our self regulating heat cable systems:

  • Energy efficient designs - no wasted energy from a zig zag installation. Our systems embed the self regulating heat cables in thermally conductive aluminum panels to efficiently distribute the heat energy, targeting it to where it will do the most good.
  • Safety first. Our systems incorporate ground fault protected circuits. All of our installations use UL listed self regulating heat cables and accessory components. Our heat cables do not reach temperatures that could ignite roof top debris, nor will they burn themselves out because of 'hotspots'. 
  • Reliable performance. Our systems will operate reliably year after year. And we stand behind them, offering up to a ten year warranty. With the option of our digital thermostat controller you are in complete control of your roof and gutter ice dam prevention system

Are you ready to learn more about solving your ice dam problems efficiently, safely, and reliably. Contact us to set up an appointment. We will provide a site visit with a written estimate and answer any questions you may have.