Chapter Five: Heating Elements with
Roofs and Gutter Systems
As winter creeps in for another year you’re probably wondering whether or not getting a heated gutter system is the best option for you. We are here to give you the best information to decide whether this investment is right for you, or if there are better options to help you keep your gutters working in tip top shape, while saving money.
Imagine you just finished decorating the interior of your home. Maybe you purchased a new couch, got new silk curtains and a new piano. You recently repainted your walls and had a local artist do a stunning faux finish to bring out the room. Your interior looks like it can be on the inside of a decorating magazine and you’re very proud of it.
But then an ordinary winter storm comes through your local neighborhood and that beautiful interior is destroyed. This very thing happened to a local family in New Jersey during a January snowfall.
Turns out the family had leaves stuck in their gutters and the snow fall caused water to backup. The low temperature froze the gutters, inhibiting the melting snow on the roof to flow down the downspouts, causing water to leak into the house. Their living room was flooded.
Don’t let this happen to you, consider whether heated gutter systems are right for you.
Heating a gutter is nothing new. Gutters have been the source of icicles, ice build up and ice dams for as long as they’ve been installed in cold climates. And unless you can starve them them of their fuel as we learned from Tim Carter, ice will form.
So, What Are Icicles’ Fuel?
Heat radiating out of your roof and snow and/or water – this is the combination that leads to ice dams. Starving a roof of this dangerous fuel can be hard, unless the space below is unheated, like a garage or shed. If you have a roof over heated space in a cold climate, you may have to resort to a heated gutter guard or gutter. Most people want a gutter guard primarily to eliminate gutter cleaning and other issues, but more and more of them want a heated gutter guard to offset one of the realities of gutter protection – that they can get icicles.
For years, we’ve been able to heat MasterShield simply by running heat cable on top of the hangers that the gutters are installed on. It works perfectly well at eliminating icicles. With the advent of Ice Shield, Mastershield’s heated gutter guard, we’ve applied heat directly to the gutter guard itself. Most important for the homeowner is that it doesn’t require changing the performance of the product just to incorporate a heating cable.
Look at any heated micromesh gutter guard – if you can see the area where the manufacturer has installed the heat cable, keep in mind that they’ve also reduced the micro mesh technology’s water receiving area. That’s not good for the performance of the gutter protection you’ll want working for the rest of the year.
Is a heated gutter guard really new technology?
Certainly one row of heat cable in a gutter guard is not unique. We researched the existing patents and applications as part of the due diligence of submitting our own applications, and couldn’t find one that used multiple rows of cables to heat the gutter guard. Just look at the products sold today and you’ll find only one row of heat cable in most of them.
We consider the fact that our installation methodology allows flexibility with the placement of the heat cable to be a benefit to the homeowner. The drawback of gutter guards with distinct heating channels (which is most of them) is that the cable must go into the channel. If a particular section of the gutter would benefit from extra heat, the heat placement in the gutter guard can’t be altered to make this accommodation.
Note also that gutter guard manufacturers are not in the business of manufacturing their own heat cable. We can all purchase the same cable with the same wattage from the same manufacturers and use it to heat our products. Do you get any more value out of one product than another if the heat cable is the same? Not necessarily, and the homeowner should consider the efficiency (of the heat disbursement) and effectiveness (of the gutter guard) before making a purchasing decision.
What our competitor was able to patent was how they cover a heat cable in a channel in a gutter guard. What they weren’t and haven’t been able to patent is the micro mesh technology they feature it with. When they describe a “316 stainless steel mesh over a support frame of anodized aluminum,” we believe that they accurately describe the features of Higginbotham technology, specifically as protected in US Patents 6,598,352, 7,191,564 and RE42,896. Higginbotham does not license this technology to our competitor; he does license it to the manufacturer of MasterShield.
We would suggest reciprocal courtesy toward Higginbotham and the multiple U.S. patents he holds on micro mesh technology by others in the industry. No one can legally sell a product that adds to or “improves” upon his designs if those “improvements” consist in whole or in part of what he’s patent protected. Implying that you’ve got the right to use it, if you don’t, may be construed as false and misleading.
What are Heated Gutter Systems?
Heating elements for roofs and gutters go by several different names like heat tape, heat tracing cable or just heat cable.
Heating cables are exterior grade electric cables which can be run on a roof, in roof valleys, in gutters and downspouts, anywhere some heat might help eliminate ice dams from forming.
The cables are turned on during winter storms, allowing snow in the immediate vicinity of the cable to melt. However, heating cables are not designed to melt all the snow off your roof, gutters or gutter guards, only help move water away from trouble zones where ice tends to form.
They primarily come in two formats, constant wattage and self regulating.
Constant Wattage: no matter the length of the cable, the wattage (or heat) it can produce remains the same.
Self Regulating: this type of cable adjusts the wattage it produces for heat along the length of the cable depending on the amount of heat needed in a particular area. It has a resistance level in the cable that determines what the environment is calling for. When it increases, less heat is needed and when it decreases, more heat is needed, which creates the self regulating feature.
In a situation where self regulating tape is installed in gutter or on a roof, its usage will decline when there’s no snow to melt or if temperatures rise due to warmer weather.
Heat Tape and Cables
Some homeowners decide to use heating cables to deal with the development of ice and icicles. You’ll often see them snaked on a roof in a wave-like “W” pattern: running up on the shingles for a few feet (often lining up with the soffit below the roof) then turning and dropping down into the gutters where the pattern repeats.
The issue with heat tape is that they only run along the roof line. This means that any snow above the heat tape or not close enough to the heat tape will not get any heat or melt. Heat tape must also be snaked through the gutter system and down the downspout to avoid freezing in those areas.
Heat tape/cable require an electrician to install an exterior GFCI outlet at the soffit which links to the inside of the house. The electrician than puts in a switch that a homeowner must turn on before a snow storm. If this is not done, then the cable must be run down the downspout and connected to an outlet at ground level and plugged in when needed.
The products designed for use under most circumstances are designed to create channels around the heating element that can create a path for water to flow- only while they’re on. This means that heat cables cannot melt pre-existing snow. Heat cables must be turned on before a storm to be most effective.
Turn them off and these channels can quickly refreeze with the melted water.
Keep reading to continue leaning about gutter guards and ice dams.
Do Heated Gutter Systems Prevent Ice Dams?
All gutters, whether they have a gutter guard or not, are susceptible to icicle and/or ice dam creation. This is an unavoidable truth. Even though a heated gutter system doesn’t prevent ice dams completely, it is an option that many homeowners find helpful to deal with various winter issues.
There is one important note we would like to add; many homeowners believe having a heated gutter system is the cheaper option to prevent ice dams. However, these homeowners fail to realize the root cause of their ice dam formation, poor insulation/ventilation.
Take a look at your insulation and ventilation to ensure that excess heat is not escaping through your roof. Adding more insulation/ventilation will save you money in the long run and help prevent ice dams.
Is a Heated Gutter System Right for Me?
The most important question to ask yourself when considering this option is to note where you live. Geographical location and average yearly climate plays a significant role in deciding whether heated gutter systems are right for you.
- Look at Your Average Winter In many states, such as southern New England, winter varies from year to year. A homeowner in Connecticut can go from shoveling snow every other day to playing golf in February. It is easy to make this decision based on your most recent winter experience; however, it is best to take a look at the average winter when deciding whether a heated gutter system is best for you. Some homeowners might find this to be a great investment based on where they live, while another homeowner, who may not need the heating element as often, may question their decision.
- Do You Live in the Snow Belt of the United States? If this is the case, a heated gutter system is a viable choice for you. The snow belt of the U.S. are the regions near the Great Lakes such as Buffalo, New York and Cleveland, Ohio. Since the average annual snowfall is consistently large in these areas , a heated gutter system may work well for you.
- How Quickly Does Your Snow Melt? This is an important question to ask yourself, especially the farther south you live. Homeowners who live in colder climates may find that the snow on their roofs naturally melt in just a few days.
- Does Your Attic have Sufficient Insulation? Ask yourself when was the last time you checked the insulation in your attic. Homes built before the 1980s commonly need more insulation. The lack of proper insulation is a significant factor in the creation of ice dams and icicles.
Homes that lack proper insulation allow heat to escape through the roof. This causes snow to melt faster during the day and refreeze at night. This can cause serious problems if the cycle continues over the course of a few days. We’re a very big proponent of starting here to address the issue.
While heating elements may seem like the best option at first glance, take a look at your attics insulation first. Getting proper insulation can also lower your heating bills, and who doesn’t want to save on utilities?
- Cleaning a Gutter with Heating Elements It is important to note that cleaning gutters become more complicated and tedious when heating elements are installed. If cleaning your gutters is already an annoying chore, maybe including a heating element is not the best option for you.
Heated Gutter System Cost and Performance
Did you make your decision to incorporate a heating element to your gutter or still trying to decide? Here are some important notes to take into account.
Heated gutter systems vary greatly in price. Elements can cause that average home anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000, not accounting for the leaf guard cost.
Many times these systems come with sensors that automatically turn on and off depending on the temperature outside. They also test for humidity so they are supposed to work only when water is present. That means you only have to turn it on once and not think about it again. As someone who’s witnessed sprinklers with these sensors running in the rain, their quality is a bit suspect. You also won’t get an obvious sign (like the sprinkler) that they’re on when they shouldn’t be– until your electric bill arrives.
This investment is a more expensive both in installation cost and electricity consumption, so be sure this is an investment you are prepared to make. Despite their higher price tag, heated gutter systems offer a high convenience factor.
What Benefits Do You Get From Installing Gutter Heaters?
Are you still deciding whether or not heating your gutters is a good choice for you? Well here are some benefits that come from doing just that.
- Safety: With heated gutters you can avoid the potential ice rinks that happen from dripping water. As temperatures rise in the day or as the season ends, melting snow can drip off your roof but refreeze on your front walk, deck or driveway. Ice rinks are fun when you are in your local rec center, but that’s not the case when dealing with your driveway or home exterior. Heated gutters can help you prevent this potential threat.
- Investment Protection: Water damage is a huge threat to investment when you have clogged or defrosting gutters. Costs to repair sheetrock, insulation, floors, siding and other home repairs can quickly add up. Gutter heaters allow melting snow on your roof to run along the intended path and avoid potential damages.
- Money Saver: Gutter heaters can help homes avoid unexpected problems and expenses during winter months. You may see that installing gutter heaters is a less expensive than your insurance deductible.
- Convenience: The beauty of gutter heaters is that you simply flip a switch and the job is done. Gutter heaters allow you to sleep soundly or work peacefully and not have to worry about your local snowfall. You know that your gutters are doing their job.
Ice Shield by MasterShield
Installing a gutter guard system is the best way to prevent clogged gutters year round; but just like your ordinary gutter, gutter guards are still susceptible to freezing and icicle formation during frigid winter storms. However, there is a product where you can get the best of both worlds.
Ice Shield by MasterShield Gutter Protection
With Ice Shield you get all the protection from a micro-mesh gutter guard while having the heating element that prevents icicles and ice dams.
Ice Shield Features
Ice Shield Features include:
- 100% Higginbotham technology with MasterShield’s patent-pending approach to heating gutter guards.
- Adaptable to have only one continuous cable be used outside the gutter guard. Cables can be used for roof valleys, around skylights, and in any troublesome area.
- Heating occurs under our filter allowing more heat where you want it instead of heat dispersed through solid metal.
- No loss of water receiving area of the product (for all the other seasons) when adding a heating element.
- It can be heated retroactively, meaning if heat isn’t in your budget or you think you won’t need it when you initially install MasterShield, it can be added in at a later date. This allows you to determine which sections are needed and which are not.
Ice Shield Benefits
There are several benefits to installing Ice Shield by MasterShield:
- Adaptability MasterShield heat cable is flexible allowing extra heat to be added to a single panel or more if necessary. Trouble areas, like the area under a skylight, tend to lose more heat than other areas of your roof, but our heating cable provide sufficient protection from icicle formation and keep your gutter guards functioning properly.
- Affordable Ice Shield is designed to give you the biggest bang for your buck while fitting various budgets. Heating requirements vary depending on climate meaning that may differ based on geographical locations. Systems are tailored to a homeowner’s needs.
- Flexible Installation Time MasterShield heating cables can be retrofit to previously installed gutter guards at any time.
The Better Heating Methodology
It is important to not that ice dams are not completely eliminated by the introduction of a heated gutter guard. This is because ice dams can form on other parts of the roof which the gutter guard cannot reach. However, this product offers a solution for this issue. Ice Shield provides maximum heat disbursement.
- Traditional Heating Methodologies Involve installing a heating cable in an enclosed channel. This method requires heat to pass through solid metal before the heat makes contact with the snow or ice.
To explain this methodology think of a stove. If you were to turn on one of your burners and hold your hand over the flame, your hand will quickly feel the heat coming from the flame. Now consider placing a metal skillet over the flame and hold your hand over the skillet. You’ll notice that it takes a lot more time for the heat to reach your hand, that is because the heat has been redirected to the skillet. A similar situation occurs with a traditional heat cable, less initial heat reaches the snow.
- Our Trick Since MasterShield gutter guards are made with a micro-mesh filter, heat from our heating cables are able to escape through the wire mesh and allow more heat to reach the snow at a quicker rate. Ice Shield allows for maximum heat dispersion and guarantee the best results.
Does Ice Shield Work in the Summer?
Absolutely, yes! The beauty of Ice Shield is that you know your gutter guard will work year round. With Master Shield’s proven technology, you’ll get the best gutter protection with their micro mesh screen, while getting the heating component that many homeowners seek and need. Big winter storm on the way, simply turn on the heating cable and you’re all set. Already have Master Shield on your house, call your installer and they’ll gladly add the heating cable to your existing gutter guard.