We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Roof Heater?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 16, 2024
Our promise to you
HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At HomeQuestionsAnswered, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A roof heater is typically a system used to keep areas of a roof warm in order to prevent build up of snow and ice that can cause damage to a building. This type of system usually uses a product called heat tape or heat cable that can be run along the edge of a roof and through the gutters on a roof edge. Different types of cables and tape can be used as a roof heater; some include systems that automatically control heating, while others will run as long as power is supplied to the cable.

Often called heater cables or tape, a roof heater is usually used in areas that see snowfall in the winter to prevent damage to a building due to snow and ice. Snow and ice buildup on a roof typically takes place in one of two basic ways: either on the edge of the roof itself, or in the gutters on a roof. What typically occurs in the first instance is snow will melt and run down the roof to the edge where it stops and then refreezes into ice. Once this occurs, melting snow will then continue to mass at this point and create more snow and ice, which is often called an “ice dam.”

Snow can also accumulate in the gutters around a roof as melting snow runs down into gutters. The gutters are often quite cold and so this snow and melting snow can then refreeze into ice, which builds up with more snow and ice. In either case, the buildup of ice and snow can be very heavy and lead to roof damage or water entering the walls of a building, which can create damage and opportunities for mold to develop.

A roof heater is typically used to prevent both of these issues. When used to prevent ice damming, the heat tape or cable, which consists of a length of cable and a plug that can be inserted into a power socket, can be secured to the edge of the roof in a “zigzag” pattern. The tape or cable will melt any snow and ice up to about one inch (2.5 cm) on either side of it and will prevent ice dams from forming. A roof heater system using tape or cable can also be used in the gutters of a house to prevent buildups of ice or snow in the gutters as well.

This type of roof heater can usually be found in different lengths of cable and can be either standard or self-regulating. Standard cable will heat up to a maximum temperature and remain at that heat while plugged in. Self-regulating cable or tape, however, changes temperature and will be cool at warmer temperatures and become warmer as outdoor temperatures fall. Either system works well as a roof heater, but the self-regulating cable can help reduce energy usage and costs.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By mobilian33 — On Aug 13, 2014

All that insulation in the attic is good for saving on the heating bills, but when you have less insulation and there is a little heat escaping this can prevent snow from building up and causing your roof to cave in. I'm not saying you should get rid of all your attic insulation, but that is the way it works.

By Drentel — On Aug 12, 2014

I have a friend who lives in the North and they measure the snowfall by the feet rather than by the inches. He got tired of shoveling snow off the roof several times a year, so he bought a cheap heat tape setup and put it on the roof.

He thought it was working well. The snow wasn't piling up like usual. Then later he learned that the snow was melting and then being forced beneath the shingles on the roof. Long story short, he ended up with water damage in the attic.

By Sporkasia — On Aug 11, 2014

Installing roof heating cables and roof heating tape appear to be easy jobs. Because of this the systems are often put in as part of do-it-yourself projects. This is where the complications start. People will probably save themselves a lot of trouble if they use a professional instead of doing the job themselves.

By Animandel — On Aug 10, 2014

I have heard some negative comments about the roof heat tape. Some people say the tape is likely to lead to damage instead of preventing damage, which is the purpose for using the product in the first place.

HomeQuestionsAnswered, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

HomeQuestionsAnswered, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.