As the days grow shorter, the question of whether you need a heated gutter system is asked more and more often by homeowners considering gutter heaters or heated gutter guards, particularly with the memories of bad winters and the ongoing threat of more polar air sweeping down from the Arctic again this year.
We often answer that question with a series of questions back to the homeowner.
Are You Considering Heated Gutter Systems?
The first question we’d ask would be, “Where do you live?” Heated gutter systems are a great option for homeowners who live in the snow belt of the United States where icicles and ice damming can occur. One of us lives in southern New England, and those winters can vary from shoveling snow every other day to playing golf in February. When deciding whether to purchase heated gutter systems, you need to look at what your average winter will bring for cold and snow, and not make a decision based on the last winter weather being cold or mild. The farther south you go, think about how fast your snow melts. Does only an inch or two fall and melt quickly? Even in cold climates, snow may melt off your roof in just a few days time.
Next we would ask, “When was the last time your attic was checked for sufficient insulation?” Does the amount of R-value up there meet current standards? Many homes built as recently as the 1980s may need more insulation, and too many people live in their homes and never think about or even shine a flashlight into their attics. One of the reasons that ice damming and icicles occur is lack of proper insulation in your attic. As heat is released through your roof, it causes snow to melt during the day and refreeze at night. Letting this cycle continue over just a few days can cause major problems. You may think you can solve them with heated gutters systems, but you’d be better off addressing the insulation in your attic. It’ll also leave you with lower heating bills to boot!
Lastly, think about protecting the gutter from clogging with heated gutter systems. Adding a heating element makes cleaning out your gutters more complicated. You can’t just scoop out all the debris that collects in your gutters. You’ll always have to manage around that wire. We prefer heated gutter systems with a micro mesh gutter guard like MasterShield, since you can keep your gutters from having anything but water enter them – all debris simply blows off your roof.
I’ve Made the Choice for Heated Gutter Systems
Okay, you’ve decided that you have a need for a heated gutter system. Which one do you chose?
Heated gutter systems can run anywhere from $1,500 to more then $5,000 installed for the average home. That’s also not including the gutter protection.
The least expensive way to go is a very simple system where a heat cable is applied to your gutters and then is run down the downspouts of your home, preferably near an outlet. Before a winter storm hits, you plug it in and the wire throws off heat thereby melting any snow that would accumulate around it. This is a low-voltage system and is meant to be used before snow accumulates on heated gutter systems. This is fine for those in areas that do receive snow but where the winters are not generally too severe.
The second heated gutter system works a little differently. These system are a higher voltage and can to a certain extent melt existing snow that has accumulated on the system if not turned on before a storm. These system are installed and then must be hardwired by an electrician. They often come with sensors that will turn the heated gutter system on and off daily depending on the outside temperature. Though expensive, this is a must for those that live in an area where snow falls heavy and often, or for those that want the convenience of a “set and forget” heated gutter system.
Whichever heated gutter system you chose, just remember that after December 21, the days start getting longer as we head toward spring!