Should You Use Heat Cables on Your Home?

You have probably heard of heated flooring, heated driveways but heated roofs? Heating solutions come in quite a few varieties, and heat cables for your roof supply a solution for ice dam issues. But how effective are they? Should you get them?

Well… the answer is, it depends.

First, we need to look at what causes the issue we are trying to solve (ice dams). Secondly, we need to look at how heat cables prevent them from forming. Finally, we will look at the advantages and disadvantages of heat cables and why hiring a professional first to fix the root cause should be considered.

What Causes Ice Dams to Form?

Missing Shingle Roof in Winter

Just like any recipe, ice dams form when they have the right ingredients added.

  • A little heat loss from your home
  • Sprinkle of Snowfall in winter
  • A dash of fluctuating winter temperatures

Mix, and you have ice dams! Unfortunately, this recipe isn’t for anything fun as it is a recipe for disaster.

Negative outcomes include.

  • Tear off gutters/eaves
  • Loosen shingles
  • Water damage… Expensive water damage

Ice dams are one of the leading reasons for extensive, costly repairs not only to your roof but everything that the water gets into. So, what do we do to prevent them? We have covered this topic in a past post about preventing ice dams, and I strongly recommend you give it a read; however, the main points are having good insulation and proper ventilation.

How Do Heat Cables Help Prevent Ice Dams?

Heat cables on being installed on a roof in Calgary

Heat cables create channels for the water to run off by melting the ice dams that have formed so it doesn’t pool and cause damage to your home. In addition, heat cables get hot (it’s in the name) by using your home’s electricity to form a current and create resistance, thus creating heat.

Not only are they used on the roof to create a channel put are often put into the eaves themselves through the downspout to develop a path for water to flow even when outside temperatures are a bit cold.

When appropriately implemented, with good quality cables that can get nice and hot, they melt the snow efficiently and help get rid of the water from damaging your home.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Heat Cables.

Heat cables are a good product that can be used, but like any solution, context is critical when determining if you should use heat cables when solving the problem of ice dams.

Heat cables being installed on a roof in Calgary

Advantages (Pros)

When professionally installed, heat cables supply an excellent band-aide fix for reducing water build-up behind ice dams. They do their job well and help save you thousands in damages that ice dams can cause if untreated. In addition, cables are a less invasive approach when installed as they are installed on top of the shingles quite easily.

Heat cables also prevent any damages to your gutters by keeping them clear of ice and help mitigate damage to their home that frozen eaves can cause.

They offer a great solution until you can fix the root cause or have a home prone to ice dams when all other solutions have been explored. However, since heat cables are attached on top of the house, they create some visible aesthetic problems.

Disadvantages (Cons)

To start, heat cables are not the prettiest thing to look at, unlike Christmas lights. Heat cables are laid in a zig-zag pattern and can ruin your home’s curb appeal; Especially when contrasted against specific shingle colours.

They also don’t fix the root cause for heat dams forming in the first place. Ventilation and insulation are essential as they reduce the heat transfer to your roof and stabilize the temperature of your attic. Add on the fact they need precise installation to work effectively, you need to spend money on electricity to heat them, and they are not a cure-all solution!


Heat cables offer practical solutions in certain circumstances but need to be installed effectively to work correctly. We recommend a roof inspection to get down to the cause of ice dams forming. We will also access it if the heat cables are even needed. So get in touch with us and experience the W4SR difference.

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