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What to Do About Roof Ice Dams

What to do about those pesky roof ice dams

Excerpted from High Country Conservation Center in Frisco, CO

Dear Eartha,

Resident:  I have ice dams on my roof every winter. I’ve used heat tape in the past to melt the snow but it seems to cost a lot. What do you recommend?

Eartha: This is a great question. Ice dams and subsequent roof leaks are usually caused by heat loss through the attic or vaulted ceiling. Preventing ice dams can be a fairly quick fix by focusing your efforts on air sealing and insulating spaces that are losing heat.

When you insulate properly, you’re also keeping your house warmer during chilly winter months and cooler in the summer. Keeping your home toasty in the winter is a large part of the financial and environmental costs of your household.

While it might seem like an easy choice, heat tape or de-icing cable are inefficient and costly ways to solve ice damming problems. Heat tape uses a lot of electricity. If 100 lineal feet of cable is utilized for six months of the year, it will consume more than 2,600 KWh of electricity at a cost of $300 at 32 degrees, and even more at our cold Colorado mountain temperatures.

Believe it or not, many older homes in our area have very little attic insulation. These homes are losing a lot of heated air and, with it, money. Even without ice-damming problems, insulating and air-sealing will cost you less than other improvements and will give you the best return on your investment, an average of 30 percent on your energy bill in cold climates. Now is the time to insulate your home, (and your project could be eligible for incentives and rebates in the Yampa Valley through Atmos Energy SmartChoice air sealing and insulation rebates, post-audit air sealing rebates through Cen$ible Energy or possible federal tax credits.)

This Eartha Steward was written by guest writer, Lynne Westerfield, Community Energy Coordinator with the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation in the Summit County  community.