When the cold weather starts moving in, there are a few things you must do to winter-proof your house. In addition to salting your driveway so that snow doesn’t accumulate, keeping it from collecting on your roof is just as crucial.
That's where a great heat cable comes in. These often-inexpensive electrical cables heat your roof and gutters to melt the snow before it puts unnecessary stress on your cladding. Our top choice is the versatile Radiant Solutions Heat Tape Pro.
What to know before you buy a heat cable for roofs and gutters
Understanding cable length
Cables can be anywhere from 3 to 250 feet in length, and it’s recommended to buy as much cable as necessary. A cable that is too short could underperform and leave your roof with icy patches.
Consider the cable length as well as the portion of the cable with the heating element. If you have deicing cables, you have to account for a cold lead, which can be up to 10 feet long.
Not all heat cables are the same, and they’re certainly not compatible with all roof, gutter and downspout materials. Confirm which materials you have to ensure heat cables won’t cause damage or become a safety hazard.
Know whether the cables are waterproof, as it’s unsafe to use ones that are not. If it’s not clearly marked on the cable packaging, choose another set.
The best-performing heat cables are low-temperature safe, and their insulation layer doesn’t crack in extreme weather. This is especially important if you live in a climate known for plunging temperatures and record-breaking lows.
Heat cable features
For the most efficient, low-maintenance heat cables, choose ones with automatic sensors. With these cables, sensors read the temperature and moisture levels and automatically turn off when heating isn’t necessary.
In cables without automatic sensors, you need to plug and unplug cables based on when you need them. It can be tedious and time-consuming, but these cables are much less expensive than those with automatic sensors.
Watts per foot
On average, heat cables have five to seven watts per foot. This works well for most homes, but if you’re battling icy winters, you’re better served with 10 watts per foot or above. Keep in mind that the higher the watts, the higher your energy bill.
Heat cable cost
Basic heat cables cost between 50 cents to $2 per foot. For premium cables with added safety features, you pay between $1.50 and $4 per foot. The more you buy (especially over 50 feet), the price per foot drops significantly.
Heat cable FAQ
Can I install heat cables on a shed?
A. You could but find cables that work with the roof materials. Sheds usually lack gutters, so you may not end up with the melting and drainage you expect. It's best to only use heat cables on structures with gutters for that reason.
Do heat cables come with mounting hardware and extension cables?
A. Only some sets do. For the rest, you need to purchase them separately. Luckily, most manufacturers have compatible accessory sets for easy installation.
Which heat cable should I get?
Best of the best heat cable
Radiant Solutions' Heat Tape Pro, 120-Volt: available at Amazon
Our take: This versatile tape works with almost every roof material and is preferred by experts.
What we like: It can be installed in gutters and is easy to install with roof clips.
What we dislike: It's a high-quality choice with a premium price, so expect to spend a lot more on this one.
Best bang for your buck heat cable
Frost King's Electric Roof Cable, 120-Volt: available at Amazon
Our take: This cable is a reasonable investment that gets the job done with easy DIY installation.
What we like: It's available in varying lengths and works in almost every design and material of gutters and roofs.
What we dislike: You can't adjust the heat settings as there is no thermostat, so it runs continuously when plugged in.
Honorable mention heat cable
Heat It's HIRD Gutter De-icing Cable: available at Amazon
Our take: This budget-friendly choice is all-weather friendly with consistent, reliable performance.
What we like: It's available in a variety of lengths up to 240 feet; the longer the cable, the more cost-effective it is.
What we dislike: It can only be used with asphalt shingles, as it's unsafe for other materials.
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Charlie Fripp is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.
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