Heritage Restoration, Inc.

Had Enough? Ice Damming and Heating Systems

Fun winter huh? Listening to friends, clients and sociOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAal media, the top winter woes are noisy and/or inadequate heating systems, ice damming, and shear exhaustion and frustration with the snow. We have not had weather like this for a long time, right? It may surprise you to know last fall and winter was colder than this year until the first week of January, but since then it has been about 30% colder than the coldest month in the past three years.  This condensed cold and snow accumulation has pushed buildings to their limits, revealing many inadequacies.

A good trend is the cost of oil heating has dropped significantly, almost equal to wood heating, but the arctic cold and wind has definitely increased heating demand, forcing systems to run almost non-stop.

Many of the best, typically effective heating systems are being taxed. Heating with steam can be very effective, although increased run times requires more attention. Check boiler water levels every week or so, releasing or adding water when needed. Many other systems will make strange noises, like whooshes, cracks, snaps, or an occasional rumble, but if you hear anything out of the ordinary or sustained, call your heating maintenance company immediately. Loud and frequent noises are never a good thing.

Ice damming and frozen gutters happens; snow falls, melts, and refreezes. But what can you do? Most people want to fix it now, but realize, most active ice damming solutions cannot be cured in the cold; all you can do is try to treat the symptoms.

Ice can be knocked oOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAff with brute force, yet this can do damage to you and the house. A popular and decent online solution suggests putting panty hose filled with calcium chloride perpendicular to the roof’s edge, melting a path in the ice so the water can escape and not make more ice. Raking the snow off a roof reduces potential water that creates ice and the stress on your house. Most modern houses are designed for a snow load, but old, low sloped, or flat roofs can be vulnerable to collapse. If you are at all uncomfortable, call a professional like a roofer, general contractor, or handyman. But make sure they have liability insurance, because if they fall it can be on you.

Aside for cleaning off snow and ice, the best way to deal with a bad ice dam problem is to wait it out. Water may continue to drip into the house, but there may be little you can do in the cold. You can stop random dripping from the ceiling by taping some plastic to the ceiling around the leak and wait for some water to build up to find the low point. Cut a small hole at the low point and put a bucket underneath.

Bottom line, if your heating system is behaving badly, have big ice problems, or a drafty, inefficient house, make a note and stick it on the fridge. Spring is right around the corner and there are plenty of good contractors out there that can help you. Seek subsidized programs like National Grid in combination with specialists to give a good comprehensive analysis of your house. While most houses will be fine with the standard free program, others require more specific attention. Instead of putting on a calcium chloride filled sock on the roof or using gutter/roof warmers, air sealing and insulation, heating system tuning and upgrades, and better roofing and gutter systems are by far the best investment.