Welcome back from the Thanksgiving holiday, and welcome Winter. Living in a Leisure Villas Community is awesome when you’re over 55, but alas, we still live in Utah, which means: Snow and Ice.
The good news is, that your HOA hires out snow removal. This is great, but there are still a few things that you can do to ensure that this Winter doesn’t keep you slipping.
Among those things are heat tape and ice melt. We posted a helpful article on ice melt a few weeks ago. You can link to it here.
Today, I want to discuss heat tape.
Getting The Most Out Of Your Heat Tape
What is heat tape?
Some of you might be familiar with heat tape. For others, this may be the first time you’ve heard of it. Heat tape isn’t really tape at all. It’s a plastic-coated wire that warms up and melts the ice that touches it.
In our 55+ communities, we learned early on that heat tape was very valuable to our homeowners. Icicles and ice dams on the roof often cause a lot of concern for people.
Generally speaking, these icicles and ice dams aren’t the big problem. People often fear that they’ll cause damage to the homes. In most cases, this isn’t a big deal. Roofs are waterproofed in such a way that most minor ice dams will not get so far up under the shingles that it leaks into the house. Also, most icicles will not hurt the structure of your house.
The biggest problem with ice dams and icicles, are the lakes and rivers of ice that form below them. This is why we install heat tape on all of our homes in areas of concern. It’s not because we’re afraid of ice hurting the house, we’re afraid of people slipping on the ice that comes from the stuff that is dripping over the edge of your roof.
Heat tape can be used in a multiple of ways. Sometimes it is wrapped around pipes to keep them from freezing, sometimes it is zig-zagged across roof sections. For our homes, and our purposes, we’ve placed the heat tape inside the gutters, running them down through the downspouts.
This is generally effective, but it requires knowing how to manage the heat tape on your (the homeowner’s) end.
How to use your heat tape
The heat tape we install, since it lays down inside the gutters, is most effective if it is turned on before the snow falls. If the snow is already piling up on your roof, you should quickly ensure that it is on.
As piles of snow melt on top of your roof, that melted water drains to the gutters. The gutters, if cleared, will let the water escape down the downspout like it should. If the drains or gutters are blocked with ice, then the water freezes on top of the gutters, forming those large slabs of ice that overhang your roof.
We install heat tape as a preventative measure to keep the ice dams and icicles from forming in the first place, by keeping those gutters open. However, if you are too slow at getting your heat tape turned on, and the ice dams and icicles have already formed, well, you might be out of luck. At that point, the heat tape will only tunnel an ineffective hole through the middle of the dam, and fail to clear out the ice above it.
By having the heat tape turned on, the melted water will fall into the gutters and stay melted long enough for it to follow the heat tape through the downspout and away from your roof. Depending on where the downspouts land, there may occasionally be some ice runoff to deal with there, which can either be mitigated with some ice-melt, or with warmer temperatures of the surface as the sun hits it. This cannot be totally avoided, but for the most part, there are only a couple of weeks where the temperatures are so chilled, that it requires a little extra attention and caution.
What about higher energy costs?
Good question. Heat tape does require electricity to run. Since the wire is run to your personal meter, you are responsible for the energy it uses.
However, the heat tape is designed to only come on at and below freezing temperatures. If you look at the end of your heat tape, located at the bottom of your downspout, you’ll notice a little attachment. This is a thermostat. It measures the temperature and activates the heat tape accordingly.
So while heat tape will add some extra costs to your monthly energy bill, it should do a pretty good job at only running when the temperatures require it. This is why we recommend turning your heat tape on at the beginning of the season, then forgetting about it until the end of the season before turning it off. That way you don’t forget to turn it on when you really need it.
How do I turn my heat tape on?
If you’re not sure how to turn your heat tape on, the switch for it (assuming you bought into one of our communities) is either located behind your front door, and/or next to the door leading into your garage (on the garage side).
On many of our homes, we’ve installed switches in both places, mainly to run different sets of heat tape. In some of our newer homes, we may have abandoned the switch by the front door, and placed all of them in the garage.
Check out both places. If you find switches that don’t turn on any lights, then chances are good that these are the heat tape switches. The ones behind the front door usually control the heat tape over the front door. The switches in the garage usually control that heat tape over the garage and back patio, though we never actually install it over the patio.
Also, if you have a switch that doesn’t actually control any heat tape, since that area might have been deemed a low-risk area for ice accumulation, then that same switch can always be used to power a set of Christmas lights. All that you’ll need to do is have an electrician change out the blank plate where the heat tape would normally go, into a GFCI outlet, and you are good to celebrate the holidays with lights.
If you’re new to your home and you have any questions, feel free to ask one of our sales or construction representatives. And as always, we wish you a very safe, and merry Christmas season this Winter.