Posts Tagged ‘ice damming’

Ice Dams, Ice Dams, Ice Dams

February 10, 2011

Have I mentioned ice dams at all this year?  They’ve certainly been a huge problem throughout the Midwest and Northeast this year. Well, let’s hit it again. But rather than repeat myself, I’ll point to you some resources.

First, do check out the fact sheet and an FAQ on the causes of and solutions for icicles and ice dam problems on the GreenHomes America website. A lot of great information, there.

Of course, you can also search this blog for a lot of previous posts and pictures describing the problems of icicles and ice damming.

wendy bounds ice dam good morning americaLast week I mentioned a WSJ article on this by Wendy Bounds.  Well, she took that story to the airwaves in both radio appearances and on Good Morning America earlier this week.  I think there is too much emphasis on the temporary quick fix, but kudos to Ms. Bounds for pointing out that insulation and air-sealing are “the best cure”.  And how!   An ounce of prevention–and you save money and make your home more comfortable at the same time!

Thanks,
Mike

Thanks,
Mike

What’s wrong with this picture? Efficiency before renewables usually makes the most sense.

January 29, 2011

Thanks to GreenHomes America’s Home Performance Training Manager, Jason Todd for passing along this photo which begs a few questions.  When we’re looking at home energy, we like to focus on energy efficiency before we starting adding on renewable energy sources like solar and wind.   As Brett Knox likes to repeat “Reduce before You Produce”.  This picture suggests that someone may have taken another path.

We’ve certainly talked a lot about icicles and ice damming here.  And the summary version is they are not good and indicate you’re wasting energy and money.  The snow melt patterns on the roof and the icicles suggest that this house is losing a lot of heat through it’s attic and roof.

The cost to correct this (with good air-sealing and insulation details) on most homes is generally less than the cost of a solar hot water system as pictured here (partially buried under snow in the center of the photo).  And the energy savings,  carbon reductions, and other benefits, are typically greater with the efficiency measures than with this system.  Further, correcting the heat loss problem helps prevent the possible roof and structural damage that can result from ice build up.  This is a case where the economic, environmental, and comfort advantage of efficiency make a lot more sense than starting with solar.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m a fan of solar, and we install it.  Solar hot water makes sense for a lot of people, and it is a great entree into renewables.  Most of the time, though, renewable energy makes the most sense AFTER you’ve taken the low hanging fruit offered by energy-efficiency.  Efficiency First!

[BTW, regarding solar hot water systems, in many cases I prefer the flat-plate collectors show in this video, over the evacuated tube collectors pictured above.  Flat-plate collectors  tend to be less expensive, more durable, and we’ve seen fewer issues up north with snow building up and inhibiting the collector.  Conversely, a lot of people report that snow collects around the nooks and crannies of the evacuated tubes and doesn’t shed off easily.]

Thanks,
Mike

GreenHomes America’s “Biggest, Baddest Icicles” Photo Contest

January 18, 2011

Win a Free Comprehensive Home Energy Assessment and $1,000 Worth of Attic Insulation and Air Sealing!

They’re BIG and they’re BAD. Icicles may make pretty ornaments for your home, but they are actually telltale signs of valuable heat and energy escaping through your home’s roof! Chances are, your heating bill is going through the roof, too.

Inadequate insulation in the attic and air leaks around fixtures, vents, attic stairs and other spots causes heat to travel up through your roof, melting the snow and ice. Those strange snow-melt patterns on your roof – squares, rectangles, etc. – those are hot spots where heat is leaking out as well! Adding insulation and air sealing will help keep heat in your home where it belongs, saving you money and making your home more comfortable. Icicles and ice buildup can also cause ice damming, which leads to leaks and can cause structural damage in your home.

GreenHomes America is offering a free comprehensive home energy assessment and $1,000 worth of attic insulation and air sealing to the person who shows us their biggest and baddest icicles photo by 2/28/11! Please visit the contest page for more details and to submit your icicle photo!

Or, learn more about ice damming at: http://bit.ly/h84GpI

Roof snow removal is dangerous–the guy in this video got lucky

January 16, 2011

OK, I succumb and pass this along. And it is funny. Thankfully it doesn’t appear the guy was hurt. But it could have ended very differently. A fall from 10 feet can cause serious injury or death. And your chance of falling off snowy, icy, or wet roofs shoots up astronomically.  (It’s just plain stupid to be on a wet, snowy, sloped, metal roof  without fall protection.  Period.)  You might also be able to clear a blocked lawn mower without getting hurt. But it’s not worth trying.  The Darwin award isn’t very prestigious–they’re laughing at you, not with you.

I understand the temptation.  Snow and ice on roofs can be problematic. But, please, don’t climb up and try to remove if unless you’ve taken the proper safety precautions (and I’m not about to attempt to decribe that!).

We know the strange snow melt patterns, big icicles, and ice damming are bad.  Ice can wreck your roof and cause thousands of dollars in damage.   The best way to tackle them is with prevention, by controlling heat loss, primarily with good insulation and air-sealing.   Once you’ve got the ice problem, there are even a few short-term remedies.  

Snow and ice on your roof can be serious.  But don’t break your neck trying get rid of them.

Thanks,
Mike

Ah, Syracuse, snow brings problems with roof ice.

January 15, 2011

Driving down Court Street and the surrounding area in Syracuse yesterday, I saw literally hundreds of homes with tell-tale snow melt patterns on roofs and some monster icicles, some as long as 20 feet.  I didn’t have time to stop and take pictures–you you can search this site for examples of what this looks like and why it isn’t a good thing.  But it’s clear we’ve got to reach thousands more homes in Syracuse.  How can we spread the word?

Thanks,
Mike

Syracuse pounded by snow–and roof ice problems follow

December 13, 2010

Normally snowy Syracuse was hammered with snow over the past week.  And there’s more snow on the way.  The weather service has issued a lake effect watch, and estimates are as high as 2 feet of new snow by Thursday.

With the snow, comes the potential for big ice problems, icicles and ice damming.  And it’s started already, as evidenced by the pictures from Syracuse Advisor Ed Nedell.

We’ve discussed earlier about how poor air-sealing and insulation can lead to ice problems.  And we’ll renew that conversation.  Bottom line:   While nothing can totally prevent ice and icicles on your roof under these conditions, good insulation and air-sealing details can drastically reduce the problem. 

If you’re in Syracuse or central New York, and you’re experiencing this, you’ve got a clear sign that your home isn’t performing like it should, and the energy problems may lead to structural problems from ice damage.  Give us a call (315-474-6549) and we’ll get an Advisor out as soon as possible to help determine help to prevent this in the future.

Thanks,
Mike

Icicles Follow-up

January 9, 2010

A few days ago, we showed pictures of various roofs with evidence of heat loss as demonstrated by strange snow melt patterns and icicles.  Now, a few days later, I wanted to show what’s going on with couple of the homes.

First, the best performing roof still shows a remarkably even snow melt pattern.  Remember, this roof assembly is well air-sealed and insulated to R-60.  We do see a few small icicles on the left side of the roof.  An important point is that it is impossible to completely eliminate icicles, even with a great insulation and air-sealing job.  Outside temperatures, sun, and even depth of snow (since snow itself provides some insulation value) all are factors.  You’ll also see a chuck of snow missing on the right.  This actually didn’t melt off.  A thin layer of melt water under  the snow actually caused a section of snow to slide off the metal portion of the roof this morning.

This second shot, shows another house from the earlier pictures.   This second house is on the same side of the street, facing the same direction, and just a couple hundred feet from the house shown above. Snow on the main part of the house continues to melt fairly quickly.  The snow at the eaves of the two gable ends–not directly above the attic–is more than twice as deep as over the house showing the the house is a big contributor to the melt.  The snow on the addition roof to the right is almost completely gone showing much higher heat loss from this part of the house–an issue that should have been much better addressed at the time of construction.

Again, you can’t completely eliminate heat loss or icicle formation.  But with proper  insulation and air-sealing you can greatly reduce the problem, save a lot of energy, and help your roof last longer.   A good energy audit can show you the way.  And energy-efficiency tax credits and state and utility incentives can often help pay for the improvements.

Read more about icicles, ice dams, and solutions on our website or in a varierty of posts on this blog.

Thanks,
Mike

DAMNED TOUGH DAMS TO FIX.

February 24, 2009

Jay Romano wrote a great column in his New York Times home improvement series, “The Fix” last week addressing ice dam solutions. I think it only goes half way, though, since the article offers roof shoveling and heat tape as partial solutions. The truth is, only with a well-sealed and well-insulated attic can you reliably and permanently control the expensive damage wrought by ice dams and avoid unnecessarily high utility bills.

Here’s the thing about raking snow—it’s only potentially effective if you decide that you have an ice-damming problem the day of a big snowstorm.  You can do it yourself by buying a snow rake, or hire someone to do it for you each time you get a snowfall. But do you really want to add shoveling the roof to your existing shoveling chores, or add to your current snow removal bills? And just shoveling the snow off the first two or three feet of the roof isn’t going to do it: the show further up the roof can melt down and create dams.

Ditto with heat tape, which not only costs $300-600 according to Mr. Romano, but must then be installed and can be very expensive to run.  (Set an electric heater outside and then tell me about your electric bill!)  Electric heat tape requires fasteners, which penetrate the shingles to hold it in place, and can damage shingles.  And unfortunately, many people let heat tape run even when not needed – when there is no snow on the roof (or, yikes, all summer long!), for example – causing even higher bills.

The rigid foam method Tom Silva recommends, in which the attic is insulated all the way up to the peak, between the rafters, can work—but air sealing along with it is critical, and probably beyond what most homeowners can tackle solo. For twice the price of the materials, which are expensive in and of themselves, a homeowner could have closed cell polyurethane insulation installed (that is, with all labor included) to an equivalent depth, which will do the trick. But many homeowners don’t use the attic as living space. If you rarely venture up there, you can insulate just as well, if not better, for a fraction of the cost.  A well-sealed and well-insulated flat attic, with good attic ventilation—of the kind we do every day—will outperform Mr. Silva’s approach. (Again—it depends on whether and how you’re using the attic—mine is conditioned living space so the flat attic treatment was out.)

Now, go outside, and take that heat tape off!  (And then call someone to insulate and air-seal your attic!)
 
Stay warm,
Mike

Video: Do you have icicles on your house?

January 7, 2009

Are there lots of icicles on your house? There may be an issue that you can fix!

Frank LaSala of GreenHomes America in Syracuse, NY talks about how not having the right amount of ventilation and insulation can be the cause of icicles.  You can view the Bridge Street clip here.

Read more about icicles and ice damming

Icicles aren’t cool!

December 5, 2008

Up in Snow Country, many places have been hit with the first (or second or third!) snow storm of the year.  And with snow, some people need to worry about ice on the roof.  As young Carrick pointed out in the video from my last post,  frost and snow patterns on roofs can help give us clues about how a house is working.  And you should be concerned if you ever have large icicles, water spots forming in your ceiling, damp attics or related problems.  Ice and ice damming can wreck your roof and can expensive damage to you house and furnishings. Roof Ice is a Problem

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving.  Having hunkered down with family for the holiday, I’m back in full swing now.

 

What is Ice Damming?

Ice dams are typically caused by poor or missing insulation and air leakage from your house into your attic.  In the winter, this warms the roof and causes the snow to melt. The melting snow then moves down the roof slope until it reaches the cold overhang, where it refreezes.

 

The process forms icicles and can actually create a dam that eventually forces the water to back up under the shingles and sometimes into the ceiling or wall inside the home. In addition to roof and water damage, ice dams can cause structural decay and mold and mildew to form in attics and on wall surfaces.

 

The Fix

Fortunately, you can dramatically reduce damage from ice damming by sealing the holes connecting your heated living space and the attic, as well as properly insulating your attic. There are different techniques to stop air leaking through recessed lights, leaky heating ducts, attic access doors, and plumbing and electrical penetrations. Sealing these leaks keeps warm air in your house were it belongs. Together, with adequate levels of insulation, this greatly reduces the chance of ice damming and large icicles.  You do NOT just want to add more insulation before sealing the air leaks—this can actually create additional problems that can also damage your roof.  You can’t eliminate icicles completely.  Small icicles are normal.  And some roof architecture–especially big valleys draining to a small corner–are especially challenging.  But if you have long icicles or thick heavy ice you should act quickly to prevent damage.  (And this means preventing the ice from forming in the first place, not risk life, limb, and your roof trying to chip off ice that’s there.)

 

Do it right.  Find the important leakage points and seal them up.  Then add a lot of insulation.  And afterwards, as with any time you change the way your house works, have your combustion appliances tested to make sure they’re operating safely and efficiently.

 

An added benefit to this, of course, is you’ll save energy, save money, and be more comfortable in your home, too!

 

Stay warm.

 

-Mike


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