On someone else’s house, icicles may be a gorgeous sight. On your own home, however, they may be indicative of much more than just the time for snow angels and Christmas carols.
Icicles, when confined to the gutters, can be a tell-tell sign of an ice dam, which can result in water damage and leaks throughout your home. Luckily there are measures you can take to prevent such winter inconveniences; some are as simple as adjusting your interior lighting fixtures.
What is an ice dam ?
Ice dams occur when the snow on your roof can’t escape because of water that has frozen around the roof’s perimeter. As the heat from your home melts the snow atop your roof, the water seeps in, causing possible damage to your insulation, walls, gutter, etc.
This is due to the movement of heat throughout the home. Heat travels to the roof surface in three ways: conduction, convection and radiation, all working in tandem to melt the trapped snow.
While it’s important to know that ice dams in no way indicate a construction error, you can help prevent serious damage to both the roof and interior of your home by being vigilant and making a few home improvements before the temperature drops.
Using lighting to guard against leaks and ice dams
Convection is heat traveling through a solid, while conduction and radiation refer to heat traveling through air and electromagnetic waves, respectively.
When combined with the heat given off by recessed lighting, there can be more heat in the attic area than normal. To prevent ice dams, the roof needs to at least remain an even temperature, if not cooler than the rest of the house.
Downlights give off a considerable amount of heat via convection if not airtight, and are often not insulated properly. The easiest way to remedy this is to either replace the current fixture with an IC-rated light, or to reconfigure parts of the insulation.
When a recessed fixture is powered on, its heat makes the exterior cavity hot. IC-rated lights protect against any combustion that may occur when the house meets the insulation. If all of the insulation in your attic or roof area is flat, it’s likely that you do not have enough to cover your downlights; insulation should be thicker around a downlight to contain heat. It is a safety hazard to place non-IC-rated lights against insulation – if working with one, be sure that your fixture is the recommend distance away from any insulation.
Taking either of these precautions will minimize the amount of hot air flowing to your roof. If neither of these are an option you can switch to LED or CFL light bulbs, as they emit less heat.
Though better insulation should eliminate much of the heat buildup, using a roof-rake or ice melt can also help to do away with ice dams.