Heat tapes for roofs come in a range of systems and sizes.
Choosing this roof ice-melting system can help prevent ice buildup on the roof and the many other negative consequences following excessive snow presence.
It’s important to understand the different types of heat tapes, installation procedures, and the overall cost so you can make a better-informed decision about the purchase.
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What Is Heat Tape For Roofs?
A heat tape is a special cord or cable homeowners attach to the roofs, pipes, or rain gutters.
The heat tape also goes by the name “heat tape gutter” or “ice melt roof system.”
This system consists of resistive heaters in the form of a cable or tape.
These heaters become warm when you plug them into an electrical source.
The purpose is to melt the ice around it, so it doesn’t build up on the roof.
The most significant time to use heat tape is in the winter to prevent ice dams. Another use includes keeping pipes from freezing.
All modern heat tapes must meet Underwriters Laboratories (UL) standards before they can be safely used.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) report says that improperly used or damaged heat tapes cause 2,000 fires, 100 injuries, and 10 deaths every year. Damage property often exceeds $20 million per year.
These numbers indicate that despite the obvious benefits, heat tapes need proper installation, operation, and maintenance to prevent the risk of injury or safety hazards.
Most modern-day tapes are available in stock lengths like exchange cords. The length of a single cord can run up to 100 feet.
Many heat tubes today have an in-built thermostat for the heating cycle and temperature control.
Heat Tape vs Heating Cable
Some consumers use the terms “heating cable” and “heat tape” interchangeably. You’ll even find products called “Heat Tape” that are actually heating cables.
Despite the similar name, there are some differences between the two.
Systems for ice melting on homes consist of rounded cords. The round design allows for more efficient heat distribution.
Heat tapes usually go on pipes because they’re easier to wrap around the structure. Tapes also make heat transfer more efficient on round pipes than on roofs.
The two elements also have different lengths. You can purchase both depending on your roof size.
The manufacturers rarely wire the cables, so consumers need to attach them to a plug or controller.
On the other hand, heat tape comes with a fixed length and is pre-wired.
Heat Tape Average Cost
The average price to install a roof heat tape or cable in the U.S. is from $450 to $1,300.
The price can change depending on the roof’s accessibility, size, and more.
Also, systems controlled with thermostats are more expensive than manual ones.
How Much Does It Cost To Run Roof Heat Tape?
On average, heat tapes burn from six to nine watts per hour per foot.
For 24/7 operation for every 100 feet of the tape, add from $40 to $61 to your monthly energy bill.
Heat tape installation ranges from $10 to $18 per foot.
The difficulty of the project can affect the installation price range. Difficult-to-access areas will increase the overall cost of the project.
Heat tapes are available in all types and sizes.
Homeowners can choose the best solution to fit their needs and budget. The cost, however, also depends on the type of the system.
|Type of Product
|Price per Linear Foot
|Labor Cost per Linear Foot
|Total Cost for 100 Linear Feet
Roof De-Icing Cable
The price for de-icing cables per linear foot is from $1 to $5.
Again, self-regulating ones are more expensive. The roof size is the biggest price factor.
The labor cost for heat de-icing cables ranges from $11 to $18 per linear foot.
Most roof installers can get the job done in one or two days.
The average project for a heated gutter system installation costs from $420 to $3,900, depending on the size of the home.
The price can vary depending on whether you install a new gutter system or want to retrofit the old one. In the first case, the installation price is around $1,000 for 200-linear-feet surfaces for vinyl gutters. Other materials like copper, aluminum, or steel can increase the price.
Installation of downspouts located every 35 feet costs from $4 to $7 per linear foot for aluminum or vinyl.
For retrofitting gutters, you can expect to pay around $450 for 200 linear feet.
As you plan your budget, also include the price of equipment like grip clips, nail clips, downspout hangers, and separator clips.
|Grip Clips – 25-Pack
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How Do You Apply Heat Tape To A Roof?
To set up heat tape on a roof, you’ll need an extension ladder and a tape measure. In terms of materials, the heat tape with roof clips will do.
The total time for applying the heat tape lasts from three to five hours. The installation requires intermediate skills.
Note that to install heat tape on your roof, you need to make sure the product is UL-certified.
The tape should have a three-prong plug or a grounding.
Also, the tape must be installed following local, state, and national electrical codes and the manufacturer’s instructions.
Heat tapes come in numerous types and manufacturers. The installation procedure can vary from one brand to another.
Also note that there are heat tapes specifically used on water pipes, fuel lines, and driveways. You shouldn’t use these types of tapes on the roof.
Below is a short overview of the steps you should follow to get the heat tape up on your roof.
Pro Tip: Before you install the heat tape, you can test it first. Rest the tape on a pack of ice and plug in the cable. You can use a ziplock with ice for this experiment. The cable should warm slightly within the next 30 minutes.
1. Do a Cable Measure
It’s important to know how much heat cable or tape you’ll need.
You can start by taking measures of your roofline length. Then, measure the eave overhang depth coming from the roof edge back to the outside wall.
For eave overhangs deeper than 12 inches, multiply the measurement by four.
For eaves between 12 and 24 inches, multiply by 5.3.
For eaves ranging from 24 to 36 inches, multiply your roofline measurements by 6.8.
Then, you want to measure the downspout length.
Add the length to the previous measurement.
Double the measurement where the downspout isn’t at the cable run’s end.
Finally, measure the distance from the electrical outlet where you plan on plugging in the cable to the roof’s edge.
2. Route the Cable
Start from the outlet to the roof’s starting point.
Clip the cable’s starting point to the first shingle located on the roof.
If necessary, use a cable clip to secure the cable.
Pro Tip: Install your heat cable on a warm, windless, and dry day. It’s much easier to attach clips to pliable and warm shingles. Once winter arrives, you’ll know it’s not the time to install heat cables.
3. Create the Loop
Distribute the cable to the gutter.
Do so at an angle and form a loop.
Attach the cable with a clip to the last shingle’s bottom.
The loop should extend into the gutter.
4. Keep the Zig-Zag Going
Make a zig-zag pattern to run the heat cable on the roof.
The goal is to create a 15-inch wide triangular shape.
You can bend the cable at the top of the triangles and use a shingle to secure it with a clip.
Cover the roof perimeter by making as many zig-zag patterns as needed.
5. Install the Cable on Downspouts and Gutters
You can apply the cable to the gutter’s bottom or suspend it with S-hooks or hangers.
You can attach the suspenders to the cable’s looping portion.
Create a loop into the downspouts and extend it as much as possible.
Keep installing the cable to its starting point.
Finally, thread the cable to the outlet through the last downspout.
Don’t plug the cable in until it starts snowing to save energy.
Did you know? A heat cable promotes drywall insulation, high-quality indoor air, and reduces mold, mildew, and rot infestations in a home.
Consider Professional Installation
Installing a heat cable requires you to work high above the ground with an extension ladder.
For tall homes, the task may sound unnerving.
You can always contact professional contractors if you’re prone to accidents or get nervous while performing such work.
You can also consider professional installation if you already have a new roof or gutters.
Best Heat Tape For Roofs
The market has numerous heat tape and cable manufacturers known for their advanced systems.
Some of the most popular ones include:
Paladin for Roof
Paladin for Roof is efficient for roof and gutter de-icing, including buildup on the edges, eave icing, ice dams, and icicles.
Their products work on downspouts, gutters, and drainage pipes.
Paladin products work with residential homes, cottages, farms, and resorts.
For greater energy efficiency and self-regulating features, consumers can benefit from advanced features like adding timers, thermostats, and sensors to the system.
Heat Tape Pro
Heat Tape Pro for ice dam prevention is the most popular product for eco-conscious consumers.
This self-regulating heat tape prevents the freezing of pipes and the buildup of ice dams.
This cable has a 100,000-hour LED indicator that lets the consumer know the cable is operating.
The cable is 12mm wide and spends six watts per foot.
The Heat Tape Pro is also suitable for all roofs, including metal, rubber, and other materials.
You can use this cable on pipes as small as a half inch in diameter.
- Products like Easy Heat ADKS, Frost King RC60, HeatIt Hird, and Prime Wire and Cable are some of the best ones for shingle roofs.
- For metal roofs, explore Grip Clip Heat Tape or Heat Tape Pro.
Roof Heat Tape Reviews
Most online reviews agree that not all heat tapes are created equal.
Heat cables can be both an excellent and an insufficient solution to treat ice dams. The difference depends on the type of cable you use.
For maximum value and efficiency, homeowners must pick a cable that works for their particular roof setup.
Many consumers find heat cables controversial when it comes to ice dam prevention.
According to the reviews, some products can have a short life or even pose a fire hazard.
Most problems above arise due to improper installation and low-quality cables. The experts recommend purchasing self-regulating wires instead of “Constant-Wattage” solutions widely available on Amazon.
Constant-wattage cables don’t adjust their energy consumption depending on the outdoor temperatures. As a result, they’re too hot all the time.
Heat Tape Pro is among the most highly-praised commercial-grade self-regulated cables. The manufacturer also offers a five-year warranty.
The price of the Heat Tape Pro ranges from $350 to $400 for 100 feet.
Did you know? A self-regulating cable can overlap without the risk of overheating or shorting out. Also, these cables get warmer when the temperature around them gets colder. The cable is likely to remain relatively low unless you live in areas with freezing temperatures.
Can You Put Heat Tape On A Rubber Roof?
Self-regulated heat cables are suitable for all roofing materials:
Therefore, yes, you can install high-quality self-regulated cables on your roof.
An excellent example of a heat tape you can place on a rubber roof is the Heat Tape Pro we discussed earlier.
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Can You Put Heat Tape On A Metal Roof?
Yes, heat tapes and roof de-icing or heat cables work on all metal roofs.
Different products are available to match different roof types, including:
- Corrugated panels
- Snap-lock panels
- Standing seam panels
- AP panels
- CF panels
Famous brands and systems for installation on metal roofs include HotValley Roof, HotEdge Rail, HotDrip, HotSeam, HotFlashing, and others.
Heat Tape Pro is among America’s most popular heat tape solutions for metal roofs.
How Much Tape Do I Need For My Roof?
Numerous online tools can help you calculate the exact amount of tape you’ll need for your heat tape purchase. You just have to insert the length and depth of the eave and the number of roof valleys.
The size of the tape will also depend on whether or not you have gutters.
Below are basic steps on how to measure your roof for the heat tape purchase:
- Start by measuring the linear feet of your roof eave.
- Measure the eave depth.
- Make a note of the valleys in the roof where you’ll install the cable.
- Note any gutters and mark the downspout number.
- Measure the distance to the outlet where you wish to plug the cable.
- Consider the extra distance you may need.
If you still have a hard time taking measures on your roof, professional contractors can handle the task for you.
You may even be eligible for discounts if you purchase the cable from them and schedule the installation.
When Should Roof Heat Tape Be Turned On?
Heat tape roofing cables need electricity to work.
Homeowners who wish to save money on monthly energy bills should only use the system during snowy weather.
There’s no point in the cable heating and losing extra electricity if the energy it produces is of no use.
Some homeowners may find it counter-intuitive, but daytime is the best time to have your heat tape running.
The recommendation by the residential audit program by Holy Cross Energy is to run heat tapes from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day when there is ice or snow on the roof.
Once the sun goes down, the snow melts, and the water needs to drain off the roof. A heat tape melts a channel in the snowpack underside on the roof and makes room for water to drain properly.
Also, heat tapes are less effective in melting ice during the evening, especially with low temperatures. You’ll end up wasting power all night with minimal results.
Many heat tapes have a timer that keeps the cables running for around six hours per day. The period includes late morning to late afternoon.
You can also set controls to use temperatures at designated points.
Different buildings, elevations, and climates can affect the control of temperatures and times. Other factors that affect the work of a heat tape include the way your roof catches the sun and the insulation levels of the building.
When you follow these tips, you’ll use your heat tape with minimum energy spending and maximum efficiency.
Is Heat Tape Safe For Roofs?
We need to be precise with the terms to answer this question.
Heat tape in the form of actual tape is not suitable for roofs. A product called heat tape that consists of cables and wires is safe and suitable for roofs.
Of course, you also need to pick the right cable for your specific roof type. Some cables may be suitable for metal roofs but do not work on asphalt shingles.
It’s crucial to install these elements following the local and state standards and manufacturer instructions.
Only then will the use of heat tapes be safe on your specific roof.
Is Roofing Heat Tape Worth It?
Homeowners living in snowy areas or those who wish to add some extra functionalities to their homes can consider heat tape installation for roofs.
Heat tape prevents icing, ice dam buildup, and roof damage caused by too much ice.
Given the potential for dangerous situations with improper installation, homeowners should contact local contractors for good setup and tape material purchase deals.
Hopefully, you now have a clear idea of whether your home could benefit from such an upgrade.
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For over 20 years Leo has run a successful roofing business in New England, specializing in metal roofing, as well as cool flat roofing technologies. Having replaced and installed hundreds of roofs in New England, Leo has first hand experience with pretty much every residential roofing material and roofing manufacturer available in the US.