Solution for icy gutters

Heat tape to the rescue

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With winter’s storms comes the problem of ice buildup on the roof. No one relishes the thought of dragging out a ladder and trying to get all that ice out of the gutter. But if you allow it to build up in there, you are essentially forming the foundation that an ice dam will start building on, and once the ice dam takes hold it’s a lot harder to get rid of.

The best solution is to be proactive and attack the ice before it actually becomes ice. That means taking some precautions to keep all that water from freezing in the first place.

There are several steps you’ll need to take, starting in the fall with cleaning out the gutters. Keeping your gutters and downspouts free of leaves and pine needles should already be an essential part of your fall chores, and it’s also an essential part of keeping that ice from building up.

Anything designed to catch the leaves and needles and keep them from getting into the gutters can also be a problem when it comes to ice buildup. Those barriers can create a number of small crevices that trap ice and snow, making it difficult to keep them clear and the water running through them freely during the winter. If you live in a cold climate, any type of leaf barrier on your gutters is probably not a great idea.

Heat tape in gutters and downspouts

Once the gutters are clean and barrier free, heat tape is the easiest way to keep them free of ice. Heat tape is simply a long strip of electrically heated, rubberized cable, available in different lengths. It has a grounded (three-prong) plug at one end, and is plugged into a properly grounded, GFCI-protected electrical outlet (GFCI is an acronym for ground-fault circuit interrupter).

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The tape is laid in the bottom of the gutter, or it can be clipped so that is hangs along the sides of the gutter, near the bottom. A strip of heat cable is also extended down the inside of each downspout. Most heat cables are safe for use with both metal and plastic gutters.

There are different types of controls available for activating the heat tape. The best is a thermostat control, which will activate the tape when the outside air temperature falls to a certain level, typically around 35 to 40 degrees. This will allow the tape sufficient opportunity to prevent the ice from forming as the temperatures continue to drop.

And since the operation is automatic, it eliminates the worry of you having to activate anything. Remember that the tape is designed to prevent the ice from forming — it’s not there to melt the ice after it’s already in place. …CONTINUED