Ice Dams: Useful ideas from the Minnesota Division of Commerce’s House Power Information | Way of life

Ice dams are an uncomfortable part of winter for many Minnesota homeowners.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce offers tips on how to deal with ice dams now and how to prevent them in the future, which can also save you money on your heating bills.

One way to avoid ice dams is to remove snow from your roof. While you can try doing it yourself with a snow rake, it may be best to hire a professional snow plow, especially if you have to climb the roof or use a ladder. Safety comes first.

If you have an ice dam that is already causing water damage to your interior ceilings and walls, hire a professional ice dam removal service with steamers.

A couple of things not to do:

  • Do not install heating cables. They shorten the life of your roof and increase your energy costs.
  • Do not use hackers, chemicals, or heat to remove the ice. These can damage shingles, gutters and other components.
  • Do not add roof vents, including powered vents. They will not remove ice dams and will often make the problem worse.

Prevention of future ice dams

Ice dams are not caused by roof, ventilation, or gutter problems as is often believed. The real problem is a house where warm air is leaking out.

Due to insufficient air tightness, heat from the interior of the house gets to the attic and melts the bottom of the snow on the roof. The melted snow water flows down the roof surface until it reaches a cold point like the eaves or soffit where it forms a frozen dam.

Over time, especially on a snow-covered roof, more ice can accumulate when the temperature is below zero. Eventually, water begins to seep into the house.

Since the main cause of ice dams is warm air leaking from the attic, the best prevention is to seal leaks with caulking or expanding spray foam, installing attic insulation to a minimum of R-50 if space allows.

Energy rating: save energy and prevent ice dams

An advanced home energy assessment or review is an important step in avoiding ice dams and making your home more energy efficient. In the assessment, devices such as an infrared camera are used to find roof leaks and to seal them.

A home energy audit can be arranged by your local utility, non-profit utility, or HVAC professional.

Once problem areas are identified, you will receive offers from at least two licensed contractors to get the job done.

For more information on preventing ice dams, sealing air leaks, and adding insulation, see the Department of Commerce’s Home Energy Guide.

Minnesota Energy Tips are provided twice a month by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Energy Resources Division. If you have any questions about energy supplies, contact the Department of Commerce Energy Information Center at [email protected] or 800-657-3710.

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