Posts Tagged ‘icicles’

What can you do about Ice Dams and Roof Damage?

January 17, 2014

iceEven though we’ve had a warm spell, and the Polar Vortex seems long ago winter’s not over!  It’s still that time of year that freezing and thawing in many parts of the country means ice dams.   We have a great resource found here that will answer your questions about common household problems including ice dams.

There are some solutions to take care of them immediately but know the long term solutions are not from the outside but from the inside of your home.  It has to do with proper air sealing and insulation.

Ice on your roof may be normal, in fact sometimes it’s unavoidable. Don’t accept roof damage, dangerous icicles and roof rakes as just another fact of winter.  Have your home looked at by an energy auditor that can recommend solutions for the long term.



2nd Annual Biggest, Baddest Icicles Contest Winner Announced!

March 11, 2011

The cold and snowy winter in Central New York was a dream for fans of icicles, but a nightmare for many homeowners. However pretty, those giant icicles can form devastating ice dams on the edges of your roof, backing up water under your roofing and into the walls. Leaks and structural damage are the symptoms of a bad ice-damming problem, but are only part of a much worse, underlying problem. Ice dams are largely due to inadequate insulation and air sealing in your attic and roof. The precious heat you pump into your home escapes through the roof, melting the snow that rests on top. When the snow reaches the cold edges and eves of the roof, it refreezes into blocks of ice, sometimes weighing hundreds of pounds!

Our 2nd Annual Biggest, Baddest Icicles Contest brought in an impressive display of ice from across Central New York (Facebook album). From giant ice curtains to compact-car-sized heaps, the entries were as varied as they were scary. But we could only pick one home to receive a free comprehensive home energy assessment and $1,000 worth of attic insulation and air sealing to help prevent future instances of ice damming and keep one family warmer, safer and more comfortable, plus put some money back into their pockets!

The Winner of GreenHomes America's 2011 Biggest, Baddest Icicles Contest

And the winner is… Priscilla Thibault’s Victorian home! Like Priscilla says, “this 1858 Victorian house may have charm, but the icicles can be destructive and potentially deadly.” Not only do the icicles present a major safety hazard, but are also tell-tale signs that Pricillas’ valuable heating dollars aren’t all contributing to her family’s comfort – many of them are feeding the monster on her roof! Our crew from Syracuse will be heading out to Priscilla’s home to begin reclaiming her roof, her home’s comfort and her energy bills. Stay tuned for updates!

Thanks to everyone who entered our 2nd Annual Biggest, Baddest Icicles Contest!

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!



Icicle and ice damming problems–it’s déjà vu all over again!

February 2, 2011

GreenHomes; Roof IceIt’s a bit like Groundhog Day, that charming movie starring Bill Murray.  (And incidentally, Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow today, and thus we’re due for an early spring—hard to believe given the weather over the last two days.)   Just like BM’s character reliving Groundhog Day again and again, we keep seeing homes with icicle and ice damming problems over and over.  And we keep seeing some short-sighted “solutions”.

We’ll likely see a lot of problems over the next week or so with all the snow that’s been dumped across the Midwest and Northeast in the last couple of days. 

And so it’s interesting to see an article in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal, Homeowners Beware:  After Snow, the Ice Dam Cometh.

big icicles; roof iceReporter Gwendolyn Bounds points to some of the risks to your home from ice damage and leaks.  (And the danger from falling ice or falling off your roof if you’re foolish enough to climb up threre to try to shovel it.  Don’t get up on your snow covered roof—it’s very dangerous, and you could get seriously injured or die.)

It was interesting to see some of the solutions offered:

  • Pay someone to remove ice from your roof.  Cost $200-$300 per hour!  Perhaps $1,000 per instance.   And keep losing heat from your home.  And next big snow storm, do it again.  And so on, and so on.  I guess that’s OK, if you’ve got money to burn.
  • Pay to install electric ice melting cables.  Hmmm, send a lot of money to the utility to heat your home, create an ice problem on your roof, and then pay somebody to install electric cables so that you can send more money to the utility.  Sounds like a good idea…for the utility.  (BTW, don’t forget to turn the cables off and not let them run all summer.)
  • Or, fix the underlying problem so that you don’t get the ice build-up to begin with.  And save energy and lower your utility bills permanently.  And make your home more comfortable, cozy, with few drafts.

OK, I’m biased.  But there really only seems like one solution that makes any sense in the long term.  It’s too late for this storm.  So keep your fingers crossed that the ice doesn’t hurt anyone or lead to a roof leak.  But learn more about the real causes of big icicles and ice damming, and take the steps to have a good home energy assessment and air-seal and insulate your attic properly to avoid the problem—and save a lot of money that you currently pay the utility—in the future.


Another backwards approach to solar?

January 30, 2011

Following yesterday’s post touching on the wisdom of addressing energy-efficiency before tackling renewables, here’s another example of what appears to be a backwards approach.  (And again, thankfully this is not one of our customers!)

In this photo, buried under the snow, is an even bigger solar thermal array than the one shown yesterday.  And on the roof we see not only some snow melt problems which suggest a heat loss problem, but also the makes of an ice dam problem.  Looks like someone missed insulating a couple of bays.  We sure would like to see the basic integrity of the house addressed before installing what was likely a pricy solar system.  When there are weakness with the home’s air-leakage and insulation, the savings from efficiency generally make more sense than trying to solve the problem with renewables.  Plus, the more efficient the home is, the smaller the solar system you need.  Again, it pays to think “efficiency first”. 

If you’re thinking solar, it’s wise to start with a good home energy audit and tackling many of the energy savings opportunities before investing in solar.

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.]


After the big icicles form, Watch Out!

January 19, 2011

Some of those big icicles can weigh hundreds of pounds.  They can pull gutters off houses, or wreck havoc on your car or on your head when they fall!  Be careful.  And fix the underlying problem.

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:

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.


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?


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