Thursday, January 21, 2010

Heater Cable Tips

heater cable frozen downpipes downspouts ice dams
This is the time of year when we get a lot of calls about frozen downpipes and gutters. This winter there has not been a lot of snow in Scarborough and North York. The major ice dams of the previous 2 years are not happening. Still the bit of snow we have had and the warmer weather has been icing up some eavestroughs and downpipes.

Generally, ice is caused from an attic that is not ventilated or insulated properly. The sun hitting the roof tends to increase the problem as well. Especially, if the sun warms a part of the roof and the downpipe is around the corner in the shade. Unfortunately water melting of the warm roof will not go down a downpipe if the temperature of the pipe is below zero.

There are a couple of ways to tackle ice problems. Either by reducing the heat loss in the attic or adding a heater cable to melt off the ice that builds up. North Shore always recommends dealing with the root cause of of ice problems, which is the attic, if possible. However this can get fairly involved on some homes redoing the entire soffits, insulating and adding roof vents. It's not always in the budget or in the homeowner's plan for the home. A alternative is heater cables which can be a cost effective solution.

If the ice builds up on the roof then the roof must be heated along with the gutter and downpipe. If it is just an ice filled gutter or downpipe then the cables can be limited to this area. Cables must be installed with a proper ground fault plug that will require the services of a licensed electrician. This is code and required for safety. Proper installation is the key to a good working system.

In our areas of Toronto we rarely see a set that is properly installed. The biggest offences are not heating the downpipes all the way to the bottom, overlapping cables that are not designed to touch, using extension cords because the plug is too far from the heater cable and running the heated portion of the cable through a wall. All these issues can result in a poor working system or a fire hazard. Trust North Shore to do the install in the most professional way. Costs vary depending on the length of the cable and the level of difficulty in reaching the affected area. If you would like more information you can email me at or visit our website at

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