Melting ice in your favorite drink is fine because you expect it, and the worst that will happen is some condensation will form on the outside of the glass. Melting ice on your roof isn't fun, and worse are icicles hanging from your roof. They're a red flag warning you about ice dams on top of your roof and potential water damage.
Ice dams, and the resulting melting ice occur anywhere get snow on roofs that doesn't melt the day it falls. It's something homeowners need to pay attention according to the Boston Globe. In their article, How to winterize your home: A procrastinator’s manual with 8 tips, readying your roof for winter was one of 8 tips so let's explore the problem and solutions.
Why Ice Dams Form and Cause Melting Ice
Ice dams form along the edge of your roof when snow higher up on the roof melts and isn't able to drain off the roof because there's snow blocking the way. Why isn't all the snow melting? Most of your roof sits over the attic, and warm air from the heated part of your home escapes into the attic, and rises to the roof. A small section of your roof extends out beyond the house and the air beneath it is cold, so the snow above only melts when the sun raises the temperature.
We've got a great article that explains Why Ice Dams Happen and Why You Don't Want Melting Ice on Your Roof, including an illustration showing the air flow involved in creating ice dams and the resulting melting ice.
Tips to Avoid Melting Ice on Your Roof
The best way to avoid melting ice on your roof, is to stop ice from forming. The way to stop ice forming in climates where you have snow is to:
- Keep the temperature of the space under your roof cold, i.e. keep it close to the temperature outside so little or no heat is transferred to the roof where it can melt the snow. You'll need adequate insulation in the attic and effective sealing of all gaps between the heated portions of your home and the attic, i.e. attic door, ceiling lights, heating ducts, etc.
- Remove anything that can prevent water from flowing off the roof, as the problems come from ice forming and then melting ice, that you have problems with shifting roof shingles and water damage. This means you need to clean your gutters which is part of normal home maintenance, and remove snow on the bottom 1 to 2 feet of your roof where ice dams form.
Solutions that Deal with Ice Dams & Melting Ice
There are many types of roof rakes that can reach 20 feet or higher, to help you remove snow without climbing onto your roof. Many homeowners own these rakes and it was always a relief when they called my handyman business, that we didn't need to bring a rake with us because every house is different.
So why isn't a roof rake the right solution for problems with melting ice?
You have to get close to the house to use the roof rake and that's not always possible. There are snow drifts to deal with and sometimes a sheet of ice on the ground making the job too risky. You also need to be home to know you've got too much snow on the roof, and snow storms aren't predictable like the one that blanketed New England in October 2011.
How to Prevent Ice Dams and Melting Ice Problems?
Unless you're building a new home and investing in something like a cold roof, that stays the same temperature as the outside air, you're going to have some heat loss and melting snow. Knowing you have to get this water off the roof before it melts, means you need a solution that prevents water from freezing along the edge of the roof.
One solution we've found that prevents ice from forming, is Bylin’s patented RIM Eave heating panels which prevent ice dams. Their heated panels sit on the roof and distribute heat evenly along the entire length of the installation, from the tip of the roof and up the roof sloop approximately 12 inches. The system turns on and off automatically based on air temperature, so you no longer need to worry about ice dams, melting ice and other sorts of roof problems during the winter.