What are heat cables?

Heat cables use electricity to create a heated path for water from melting snow to safely flow to the ground instead of building up on the roof and causing damage to the inside of your home. They are applied to areas of your roof that are susceptible to ice build-up and or ice dams. 

Image result for pictures of roof heat cables

Heat cables DO NOT remove all snow or prevent icicles from forming on your home.


What type of heat cable is right for me?

There are two basic types of heat cables, self-regulating and constant wattage.

You should consider a self-regulating heat cable if you are concerned about reducing operating costs and need less than 150’ of cable for your roof. Self-regulating cables have a conductive core that increases power output as it gets colder and decreases power output in warmer conditions, but doesn’t turn itself completely off when connected to a power source. Self-regulating cables cost a little more initially, but will save money over the lifetime of your system.

A constant wattage cable is your only option if you need over 150’ of cable for your roof. It has a slightly lower installed cost, but since it provides a constant heat output at all temperatures, it will have a higher operating cost. Contact Details & Dixon’s for a free estimate.


When should I install heat cables?

Please make your decision to install in the summer and plan to install in the early fall. Heat cables can only be installed when there isn’t snow or ice on your roof.

If we are unable to install your heat cables before the winter snow season, there are alternatives. We can remove snow during the winter from the problem areas of your roof using roof rakes. If ice dams do form, we also have low-pressure roof steamers that can remove the ice and water safely.


Heat cable operating instructions

Your system should be turned on whenever there is snow on your roof to prevent ice dams.

● Plug-in systems: Simply plug the cable into a power outlet. 

● Hardwired systems: Turn on power switch and set thermostat to 45°F.

You may turn off the system to reduce electricity usage when there is no snow on your roof.


Test your heat cables before it gets cold

We recommend that systems are tested each September. This allows time for repairs to be made before any snowfall (we do not repair or install heat cables once there is snow or ice on the roof). You may call Dixon’s to perform this service or do it yourself.

To test the system yourself, turn on your system as described above. Hardwired systems should have the thermostat set above the outside temperature. A functioning cable (not the power cord) will be warm to the touch in a couple of minutes. If temperatures are low, it may be difficult to feel the heat of the cable. In this case, check if the cable is pliable. A functioning cable will be pliable.

If your system is not working, ensure there is power to the outlet or electrical box and that the thermostat (if equipped) is set above the outside temperature. If your cables are still not heating, contact Details & Dixon’s for a system check performed by a trained technician.


Heat cable FAQs

Q: Will a heat cable system eliminate ice or icicles on my roof?

A: No. Heat cable systems do not remove ice or icicles. The cables create a channel and or a heated path for water to safely flow to the ground instead of building up on the roof.


Q: Should I clean debris off the cables?

A: Yes! It’s important to remove debris off the cables and out of your gutters before winter. Too much debris on your cables can cause the cable to burn out. When cleaning, be careful not to damage the cables with tools.


Q: Can a cable be spliced or repaired if there is a cut or nick in the cable?

A: No. Once the filament of a cable has been damaged, the cable must be replaced.


Q: Can I reuse cables if my roof is replaced?

A: No, we do not recommend it or perform this service. Cables are not meant to be removed and later replaced. There’s a high chance that the cables will be damaged during removal and storage.