About Radiant Roof Heating

How Automated Roof De-icing Systems Work

Automated roof heating systems feature an activation device (snow sensor), a main controller or contactor panel, and the heating element. When the snow sensor detects moisture and the temperature is below 39°F, it signals the master control unit, which then sends power to the heat cable, warming the roof. These automated systems are very effective in preventing ice dams and protecting roofs and gutters from snow, ice and water damage. Roof heating systems are installed in residential as well as large commercial applications.

Heated roof edges and valley.

Roof Heating Element

The electric roof heating systems consist of either self-regulating heat cable or the thin, RoofHeat STEP heating element. The self-regulating heat cable can be installed in gutters and downspouts as well as in attractive aluminum panels to melt snow and ice from the roof edge. The panels are available in a variety of colors and feature a powder coating to provide a durable, attractive finish that is designed to complement the look of the home.

The low-voltage RoofHeat STEP system features a thin, flexible polyethylene heating element that is also self-regulating. (This means that the flexible, flat panel will monitor itself and adjust power up or down as the temperature changes.) It can be nailed or stapled through and is installed directly under the shingles or roofing material. This makes installation much easier than other common roof heating solutions and therefore helps to minimize installation costs. The RoofHeat STEP system is one of the most trusted and recommended roof de-icing solutions on the market, and can also be used to safely heat metal roofs.

Roof De-icing System Activation Device

Aerial-mount activation devices (snow sensors) are typically used for automated roof de-icing systems. Perhaps the most popular sensor for roof heating is the WS-8C. This activation device features a remote sensor that allows the user to install the small sensor head in a downspout, a gutter, or at the end of an antenna boom, up to 10-feet away. This allows the user to install the main controller in a more convenient or protected outdoor location.

Activation device for an automated roof de-icing system.

The unit operates at low voltage and is designed to withstand immersion in water. For roof and gutter de-icing applications the remote sensor’s head may be mounted in the gutter against the fascia board. In addition to runoff, the sensor grid must also remain exposed to snowfall. This allows the sensor to initially trigger when snow starts falling and remain on as long as the roof/gutter heater continues to drip melted snow buildup from the roof edge while the temperature is below freezing. (Be sure to mount these sensors away from furnace and dryer vents, and other sources of heat.)

While the unit provides fully automated snow melting function, the unit also features manual override capability. This allows users to melt icicles or ice in the gutters that may have formed from runoff that refroze at night. The actual number and placement of the sensors depends on the size and nature of the roof de-icing installation. Most residential roof heating systems require only one activation device. (In addition to aerial-mount snow sensors, pavement-mount sensors are also available; however, these are more commonly used for heated driveway snow melting systems.) Self-regulating heat trace cable.

The snow sensor (activation device) is the key to the automated system. When specific weather conditions are present, it automatically activates the system so it operates only when needed and then shuts off afterwards. The weatherproof thermostat provides temperature control for large and small areas.

Roof De-icing System Contactor Panel

The controls include line and load terminal blocks and operating contactors. Cold leads from the heat cable or heating elements are routed to the contactor panel, and when triggered by the snow sensor, it sends power to the heat cable to warm the roof and prevent any snow and ice buildup. The advanced unit can be purchased with or without ground fault equipment protection (GFEP).

Read more information about roof de-icing system components, or call 888.488.9276 to consult with a roof de-icing professional and learn what options are best for you.