roof heater cables attached to the edge of the roof.

Are Roof Heater Cables Worth it?

Ice and snow are givens in Alberta’s cold, cold winters, and there’s no denying that they can do some major damage to your roof.

You might see icicles and think they’re causing roof trouble, but you don’t need to worry too much about them. What you do need to worry about are ice dams. They force water under your shingles–even if your roof is in great shape.

Ice dams force water under your shingles, and make them separate and break their watertight seal. They only form under certain conditions. Read more about Ice Dams and How To Prevent Them here.

One way to prevent ice dams is to use electric roof cables. They go by lots of different names:

  • Roof heating cables,
  • roof de-icing cables,
  • electric roof de-icers,
  • heat tapes,
  • and heat coils (to name a few)

No matter the name, their function is the same: the cables heat up and melt the snow and ice around them, creating channels for meltwater to drain down into gutters.

They sound like a great idea for roofs that are prone to ice buildup, but the jury’s out on whether or not they’re worth it. In this article we go over the pros and cons of roof heater cables to help you decide if you want to invest your time and money in them.

Keep These Things in Mind When Thinking About Getting Roof De-icing Cables

Before we get into the pros and cons, it needs to be said that roof de-icing cables aren’t meant to melt ice that has already formed on your roof. They are meant as a prevention device.

Also, they are NOT meant for flat roofs or metal roofs. Ideally, you install them on asphalt shingled roofs.

Use the cables only when snow and ice on your roof is melting.

This is usually when temperatures are between -9 and 2 degrees. Don’t expect these cables to melt snow … or anything when it’s really cold! Ice dams only form and damage your roof when snow melts and then quickly refreezes, which usually happens in early winter and spring.

De-icing Cables For Eavestroughs

These cables aren’t good for melting ice in your eavestroughs. Shirlock Homes, a contractor on the Home Improvement Stack Exchange forum even goes as far as to say, “running them in the bottom of a gutter is almost a complete waste of time and money.”

When the wires are laid directly against metal, the heat will transfer to the metal surface and not melt the ice around the cable. So if you have totally iced-up gutters, these cables will do nothing.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Roof De-icer Cables

You might already be able to tell whether we’d recommend them, but if you’re not sure, have a look at the pros and cons.

Pros of Roof De-icing Cables

If you look at the reviews of electric roof de-icing cables on Amazon or Canadian Tire you’ll see a lot of positive comments! When they work, they work.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • When they’re installed correctly with high quality supplies, roof de-icing cables do work.
  • They are a lot cheaper than fixing the cause behind ice dams.
  • They can be a temporary fix while you save up for roof improvement or replacement.

Cons of Roof De-icing Cables

Of course, there are downsides to every product. Here are some important things to consider before you buy:

  • The cables need to be installed past the edge of the roof and above where dams normally form or they won’t work.
  • If your eavestroughs end up full of ice, and that ice bridges to the roof, the cables won’t prevent ice dams.
  • You can only install the cables when there’s no ice present. Temperature also has to be 0 degrees or warmer.
  • There’s a range of de-icing cables available, so the quality varies. It sucks to spend half a day installing them only to find out they don’t work.
  • They don’t have a thermostat, so you need to turn them on and off manually by plugging in and unplugging or with a remote control.
  • You still need to shovel the bottom 3 or 4 feet of snow from your roof.
  • Electricity costs: You will see an increase on your bill.

Summary: So Are Roof De-icing Cables Worth It?

To sum up, it’s fair to say that these cables are a good temporary fix for ice problems if they’re installed correctly, but they have to be put up before it gets cold, and you can’t expect them to keep your roof clear of snow. You’re still going to have to shovel at least a few feet of your roof.

Your best bet is to buy high quality cables and have them professionally installed.

If you’re reading this because you were hoping roof de-icing cables were going to melt roof ice, here is an article that gives you The Best Ways to De-ice Your Roof.

Call Crest Roofing for your snow removal roofing needs. We can help prevent ice forming on your roof by adding insulation, sealing the leaks and fixing the ventilation for your roof. We do residential and commercial roofing, so no matter what kind of roof you’ve got, we’re the guys to call at (780) 466-1601. You can also drop us a line via our contact page.