Thursday, April 9, 2009

Ice dams, roof rakes, and Spring money-saving tips

As I've mentioned in previous posts, ice dams have plagued the gutters and downspouts on the north side of my old home.

Alleviating this problem requires a couple of different strategies, and some less-than-desirable work. First, I purchased a roof rake last winter to keep as much snow off the north roof as possible. Essentially, my roof rack is a 24-foot aluminum pole (in four parts) with an aluminum rake on the end which lets you drag snow off your roof. If you haven't guessed yet, the less-than-desirable work includes standing on the ground as you're pulling snow toward yourself. As the saying goes, “what goes up, must come down,” and when it's an avalanche of snow coming your way, it can be a cold, unpleasant experience. Oh the things I'll do to protect this old Cape Cod! Fortunately, the north side of my house is also the back of my home, so no one can see me dressed in full ski gear to perform this task (yes, including ski goggles!). But don't fret; practice makes perfect and you eventually learn how to properly control cascading snow.

In addition to the roof rake, I had also purchased heated cables expressly designed to prevent ice dams in home gutters. Basically, the low-voltage cables produce just enough heat to melt snow. When they're strung properly just above your gutters (with special clips that attach to roof shingles), the snow melts and won't accumulate into ice with changes in temperature. By keeping the roof relatively clean with the roof rake and using the ice dam cables, you can prevent ice dams and hug icicles that can cause significant damage to a home.

So, why am I bringing this up in the Spring instead of before winter and what exactly are the money-saving tips I mentioned? Well, for starters, I was proud of myself for taking the time to install the ice dam heating cabs last Fall prior to the onset of snow. I was also proud of myself for remembering to unplug the ice dam cables once the threat of snow had passed. That's money saving tip number one.

My next money saving tip is to look for a roof rake and ice dam cables now – in the off season – when retailers are likely to be reducing inventory. You might save yourself some money, and better yet, you'll be prepared for next winter!