Heat tape is a protected electrical cord that, when used in gutters and pipes, can stop them from freezing. Also known as heat cables, heat tape is supposed to prevent ice dams from forming.
If you live in a warmer climate like San Antonio, heat tape is an easy solution to frozen gutters that can also increase the gutters lifespan. Instead of ice and icicles ruining the gutters structural integrity, any frozen precipitation simply melts and flows down the gutters. But, heat tape also comes with its own set of quirks.
1. Check the gutters
Look for leaks, breaks, and more. If you install heat tape on a leaky gutter, you could be risking further damage to the gutter. This also increases the possibility of an electrical shortage on the tape.
2. Run tape inside the gutter
Place the electrical plug close to the breaker box, then work backward through your gutters until your entire system is covered. Wrap heat tape around key areas in your gutters to guarantee it stays in one place, but do not wrap the tape over itself. This can cause an electrical hazard.
Note: Do not use non-automatic heat tape. Only use automatic heat tape with rubber covering. Non-automatic heat tape could damage plastic pipes.
3. Reinforce with electrical tape
Because you can’t wrap the heat tape around itself, you need electrical tape to create a firm hold. Tape up key areas within your gutter.
4. Attach to breaker box
Heat tape can be installed directly to a breaker box, making the cabling a simple matter of just flipping a switch. If the cable is expected to use a significant amount of electricity, a separate breaker box may have to be installed.
When the tape is integrated with the breaker box, you may be able to install a thermostat that will let the heat tape automatically turn on. That way, you will not have to worry about flipping switches and breakers when freezing temperatures arrive.
Once this happens, a steady supply of heat will be provided to your gutters (or piping and anywhere else you may install the heat tape).
Problems with Gutter Heaters
Heat tape is not guaranteed to stop ice dams or gutter freezing. Gutter heaters can help work towards preventing freezing. However, if ice and icicles are still forming, then you may have more issues besides cold temperatures.
Some other causes of ice in gutters include:
- Poor ventilation of your home
- Bad home insulation
- Snowfall greater than 4″
If you have excessive snowfall, the heated tape may make ice formation even worse. Water flow may happen due to the heat, but when it reaches the exterior of the gutters, it could refreeze thanks to the colder insulation of the snow. This could wreck your entire gutters system and force you to get a full repair.