January 14, 2013

Ice dams contribute to roof leaks


---- — ALBANY — Ice buildup and icicles hanging from the eaves of a home may indicate an ice dam, a major cause of roof leaks and energy loss in winter.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority says ice dams usually occur after a heavy snowfall and several days of freezing temperatures.

Warm air inside the home leaks into the attic and warms the underside of the roof, causing snow and ice on the roof to melt. The resulting water drains along the roof to the cold overhang and refreezes, forming an ice dam and icicles.

The ice dam enables the trapped water to get under the roof shingles, causing water to leak inside.

If you already have a problem, NYSERDA advises you hire an expert to solve the immediate issue. Don’t climb on your roof or stand on the ground chipping away at the ice, the agency says, as these methods can cause injury.

NYSERDA gave these ice-dam prevention tips:

▶ Seal air leaks and take care of insulation and ventilation.

▶ Seal air leaks and duct air leaks in your attic to stop warm air leakage, the source of ice dam problems. After sealing leaks, add additional insulation in the attic.

▶ Provide adequate attic ventilation so the undersides of the roof and outside air are at the same temperature. Check to make sure attic insulation is not blocking roof ventilation. Incorrect ventilation can cause mold and mildew problems.

▶ Clean gutters.

▶ Hire a contractor accredited through the Building Performance Institute to conduct an in-home comprehensive energy assessment. This will recommend ways to prevent ice dams, reduce energy use, save money and improve the health and safety of your home.

A “whole house” approach can cut total energy costs by up to 40 percent, saving a homeowner up to $700 annually. NYSERDA provides financial incentives and financing options with low interest rates to help pay for energy-efficiency improvements.