Posts Tagged ‘icicles’

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

Gas Meter Maintenance 101

October 16, 2010

Your gas meter and above ground gas piping need to be kept in shape, just the same as your combustion equipment does. Luckily, in most cases, this is quite easy and requires only minimal effort on your behalf. Maintaining meters and piping is mostly about controlling the environment immediately surrounding them.

Don’t do anything stupid:

  • Don’t try to move your meter assemblage on your own. If you have a home improvement project that requires the meter to be moved, call your gas company and ask them to do it for you.
  • Don’t build enclosures, decks, porches etc. around your meter, as this could prevent first responders from accessing it in an emergency situation.

Keep your meter clear:

  • In summer, don’t let a jungle grow around your meter and don’t cover your meter with topsoil or other landscaping materials.
  • In winter, use a broom to remove snow from the meter, and remove icicles hanging over it.
  • If your meter becomes encased in ice call your gas company immediately.

Important Tip:

You never want your meter to be hit by a vehicle, so make sure whoever clears your snow in the winter knows of its location. If your meter is in a driveway it is wise to erect a barricade to protect it. Contact your gas company about barricade options that protect the meter without compromising emergency access.

DC and the Mid-Atlantic Snow Leads to Roof Ice Problems

February 8, 2010

I just wrote about this in the Northeast several weeks ago.  And now, this weekend’s Mid-Atlantic snowpocalypse hammered the region around DC for hundreds of miles with two to three feet of snow.   Northern Virginia, DC, Baltimore, and further up the Atlantic seaboard are covered in a blanket of snow.   Snow on rooftops often leads to problems with icicles and ice damming, as we’ve discussed here before, but primarily for homes with air leakage into the attic and poor insulation. (Some will tout inadequate ventilation as the cause—but roof ventilation is often insufficient, it can make energy leakage worse, and it’s possible to solve this issue with no roof ventilation!).  The snow, while creating havoc, also provides an opportunity for homeowners to look for problems as shown with this series of photos from Vermont. 

Everyone in the region, good luck shoveling out.  Be safe.  And if you’re having ice issues now, think about upgrading insulation and air-sealing after you dig out and things get back to normal.  You’ll be more comfortable and save energy in the long run.  And remember, federal tax credits (and many local programs) can help you pay for the needed upgrades.

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

Snow in Northeast creates conditions for roof icicles and ice damming—signs of wasted energy

January 6, 2010

Burlington, Vermont got hit with a 33 inch snow storm (and several more inches from a couple other storms) last week. Syracuse, Fulton, and much as Central New York are getting pounded with snow much of the last ten days and more on the way. Snow on rooftops often leads to problems with icicles and ice damming, as we’ve discussed here before, but primarily for homes with air leakage into the attic and poor insulation. (Some will tout inadequate ventilation as the cause—but roof ventilation is often insufficient, it can make energy leakage worse, and it’s possible to solve this issue with no roof ventilation!). I thought I’d take a quick stroll and capture some examples of signs that we look for to help spot problems.  These pictures were taken within 30 minutes of each other on homes within a half mile radius of the first home shown.  What a difference good insulation and air-sealing makes!

This first home is an example of what we’d like to see.  An even snow pattern with no signs of excessive melt or ice build-up.  The attic is well-sealed and insulated to R-60+.  This particular home is more than 80 years old–so existing homes can indeed be made more energy-efficient.

This example shows that “New” isn’t always better.  After an extensive remodel completed within the last two years, this home should perform like a newly constructed home.  And in many ways, it does–unfortunately that means not as well as one would expect.  Too often new construction detailing isn’t done well and homeowners don’t really get the performance they should.

Cape Cod style homes are notorious for the poor air-sealing and insulation installation.  The changes in the roof plane and top and side attics require special attention.  More often than not, the details are missed, and the homeowner is left with deficiencies that create an inefficient home.

It’s hard to see in this photo, but there are some interesting melt patterns which probably mean some big air leaks and/or missing insulation.

Again, more recent remodeling means a big missed opportunity to improve efficiency.  I suppose this much ice, though, does make it harder for the neighbors to sign in the first floor windows!

Notice the melting along the ridge, and heat loss at the rafters telegraphing through the snow.

This looks like a semi-cathedralized ceiling, with a fair amout of air moving through the insulated rafter bays–and the ridge vent at the top may be accelerating the heat loss.

Something to think seriously about.  Excessive melting and ice damming is a good way to wreck your roof.  Now, I don’t know if that’s what happened here, but winter is not the best time to replace a roof–it’s generally done only in an emergency.

A fair amount of this home’s heating bill goes toward melting snow!

Now here’s an example of what we’d like to see those Cape Cod roofs to look like (even if this isn’t technically a Cape Cod style house)!

Whoops–looks like someone missed insulation in a couple of bays…

And several more examples follow.  Any ideas what’s going on with these?

Air leakage–even the small cracks add up

December 14, 2009

We continue to get a lot of inquiries about ice dams–especially now that snow has started hitting our Northeast locations.

And this brings me back to air-sealing.  The little leaks do add up to big utility bills and even moisture problems in your attic.

This recent photo from Marvin, one of our Syracuse Advisors, is a good illustration.

Air Leaking through small cracks leave stains on fiberglass

Tell tale signs of air leakage--air leaking through small, barely visible, cracks directs air through fiberglass. And the fiberglass filters dirt from the air before it leaves your house. Isn't that nice? You clean the warm air before you leak in leave your house in the winter!

Although the gaps shown here are really too small to be seen easily, we can see the impact they’re having.  Notice the dark staining that lines up exactly with the small cracks.  Air is leaking through here.  The fiberglass insulation is dirty because as the air moves through it–robbing your home of heat in the winter–the fiberglass actually grabs dirt and other particulate in the air.  Hundreds of these small cracks along with other holes and penetrations are a big energy waster, the decrease the effectiveness of your insulation, and they can lead to moisture problems in your attic or icicles and ice damming if you live in snow country.

Seal those leaks.  Or call someone who knows how!

Thanks,
Mike

Roof killers—icicles and ice damming

November 18, 2009

I touched on insulation and air-sealing in a few recent posts. And as happens in the winter, we’ve noticed a big increase in the last few weeks on people asking about icicles and ice damming. It’s probably time for a quick refresh and retread of an earlier post.

What is Ice Damming?
Big icicles and 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. 

Big icicles are a good sign of too much heat loss through your attic.

Big icicles themselves, like those shown here, are obvious signs that you’re at risk.

But snow melt patterns can also indicate a problem of too much heat loss. In this photo below, you can see snow melting off the roof at different rates, driven by heat loss from the house. 

roof snow melt patterns

Uneven snow melt also is a sign that something is awry

And in the townhouse complex below you can see the building that GreenHomes treated with even snow still on the roof—a sign the building isn’t losing energy rapidly. Conversely, you see the untreated building with the snow melted–a sign that it’s losing a lot of energy. No big icicles this time—but had it been a bit colder, the melting snow would have refrozen at the eaves and created big problems.
treated townhouse retains heat
The townhome treated by GreenHomes loses heat more slowly through the attic and thus snow melts slowly and doesn’t accumulate as ice out at the eaves.
 

  

a leaky and poorly insulation town home attic melts snow quicly

This town home has not been treated and the wasted heat melts snow quickly. In the right temperatures, the melted snow would refreeze and create ice problems--bad news. And in any event, this folks in this building are spending a lot more on energy than they should.

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. 

It’s important to not that 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!

Save the ice for your holiday cocktails!

[Update, see more roof melt and icicle photos.]

Thanks,
Mike

P.S.  The added insulation can qualify for the $1,500 federal credit.  Save money while you save you roof!

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

Ice in Auburn

January 27, 2009

We spent a few days in Auburn, NY last week working on several projects.  Driving through town we saw ice and icicles everywhere!  As you know from previous posts, this isn’t good. Of course, Auburn isn’t unique.  In towns and cities throughout the Northeast right now we’ve got “perfect” conditions to wreck roofs—a lot of snow and highs in the 20’s.  Why the 20s?  It’s warm enough that the wasted heat escaping through the attic can melt a lot of snow.  But it’s cold enough that the melted water quickly refreezes when it hits the eaves.

 

Some people are battling this with heat tape on the roofs.  This may help (not always) with the short term problem—but now you are using even more energy to address a problem caused by wasting energy!  This means very high bills.  It’s better to get to the root of the problem.

 

Back to Auburn.  If you live in Central New York, and you’ve got a picture of bad ice at your house, enter our contest and you might win a visit from GreenHomes to help fix the problem!

 

Thanks,
Mike

GreenHomes Kicks Off CNY Icicle Contest

January 21, 2009

I’ve talked about icicles a few times over the past couple of months.  Large icicles and ice damns are usually a sign of an underlying problem with your home, and untreated can lead to expensive damage to your home.

 

GreenHomes America’s Syracuse branch is running a contest through February 2009 for the “biggest, baddest” icicle—with the winner receiving $1,000 in home performance improvements to help fight back!  If you live in Central New York, check out the contest at http://greenhomesamerica.com/biggest-baddest-icicles-contest.html

 

Thanks,

Mike


%d bloggers like this: