Spring forward, plan backward: Why now’s the time to think about winter heat cables

PARK CITY, Utah — Amidst a backdrop of snowy winters that pose a persistent threat to residential roof woes, local business Powder Watts has introduced an innovative solution aimed at revolutionizing the way homeowners manage ice dam prevention. Their cutting-edge smart camera technology is setting new standards in energy efficiency and proactive home maintenance.

The winter challenge: Ice dams and roof damage

In regions experiencing heavy snowfall, the buildup of snow on roofs can lead to the formation of ice dams—ridges of ice that prevent melted snow from draining off the roof. This can result in significant structural damage. Roof top snow and ice melt cables, also known as heat cables, are critical for preventing such damage, but their operation can be costly and environmentally taxing.

“Heat cables are an essential defense against ice dams, but they draw so much power they typically double to quadruple the electric usage of the structure they protect,” explains John Diaz, Lead Electrician for Powder Watts Pro, Powder Watts’ sales and installation arm. “Traditional methods make it nearly impossible to determine the right time to activate these cables due to snow obscuring the roof.”

There’s also a sticker shock, according to Diaz, that most homeowners are unaware of with heat cables.

“Think about paying $600 a month on your winter utility bill when you are accustomed to paying $200 a month… I think most people when they have new cables, especially if they haven’t had them before, they’re shocked to see that the base electrical load of their home or business can go up three times extra in the winter,” he said. “And it’s because their heat cables are just running 24/7 and consuming a ton of energy. Now imagine taking that additional $400 a month cost that is being caused by heat cables and slashing it to $40 or $50 a month. Those are real savings.”

Smart camera technology: Seeing through the snow

Powder Watts utilizes smart camera technology to overcome these challenges. By integrating the same advanced imaging used in collision avoidance systems for cars, their system can peer beneath the snow to detect whether heat cables need to be activated or not.

“If you’re looking from the ground, you’re thinking, there’s all this snow up on the roof and my cables need to be on, but what you can’t see is what happens below the snow,” Diaz said. “The heat from the cables will create these snow caves underneath the snow. You’re not trying to melt your whole roof with heat cables, you’re just trying to create drainage channels so that the water, when it warms up and the ice melts, can run off the roof instead of creating these ice dams.”

How it works: Precision and efficiency

The Powder Watts system is designed to detect conditions that are most likely to cause roof damage from winter conditions. Utilizing vision, along with smart software messaging, it can efficiently manage heat cable systems, turning them on or off at the optimal times to ensure effective melt drainage without wasting energy.

“Instead of the heat cables running non-stop through the winter months, Powder Watts’ technology assesses whether a safe melt drainage channel has already been established,” Diaz elaborates. “This allows for the cables to be deactivated safely when not needed, significantly reducing the homeowner’s energy consumption and environmental footprint.”

Competitive edge over traditional thermostats

Traditional thermostats that monitor ambient temperature often fail to account for actual conditions on the roof. They typically trigger heat cables to operate whenever temperatures drop below about 40 degrees Fahrenheit, regardless of whether there’s a clear pathway for melted snow to drain. This results in unnecessary energy usage and higher electric bills.

“Powder Watts represents a major advancement over these outdated thermostats by not only ensuring that the heat cables operate only when truly necessary but also by providing a more tailored approach that considers the unique conditions of each roof,” says Diaz.

So why talk about snowy roofs now when it’s spring?

Diaz states that most people don’t even realize that their heat cables are still running, unless they turn them off on their own. That’s why Powder Watts offers an app that allows homeowners to turn the cables off with the tap of a button, no matter where they are.

“We’ve gone to jobs where we figured out that the cables had been running for three years straight,” Diaz said, and even thermostats can still be a nuisance because they may help in the summer, but the off seasons still are hit or miss. “A lot of times these thermostats are set at 50 or 55 degrees, so not only do the cables end up running all winter, but even on cool fall or spring nights. We’ve found that the Powder Watts system is about 80% more efficient than thermostats.”

For those looking to install heat cables on their home, Powder Watts Pro is offering a special promotion. For every heat cable they install before July 31, Powder Watts Pro will include Powder Watts smart switches for free.

“Heat cables are the last thing people want to think about right after Winter ends,” Diaz said. “The natural tendency is for homeowners to wait until the fall to address roof issues. Unfortunately, that often leaves us unable to complete installs before winter rolls around and it becomes much more difficult and expensive to install heat cable. Hopefully this promotion will incentivize customers to take care of their heat cable installs without delay.”

To schedule a consultation for installation, visit the PowderWatts Pro website.

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