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Get The 'Biggest Bang For Your Buck' When Adding Insulation

Posted by John Sims on Wed, Oct, 04, 2017 @ 11:10 AM

If you decide to add insulation this fall, focus on your attic or roof line and thenBiggest_Bang.png reducing air leakage in the basement and/or crawlspace. Especially, where your foundation meets your floor joist.

Access to your walls is not really a good option because you're not going to remove the drywall unless you're doing some remodeling. If you're planning to remove your siding and re-side the house, there are some measures you may want to consider at that time to improve the insulation.  

REMINDER: R Value – Fact or Faulty Myth R-Value in the lab just doesn’t cut it in the field when it comes to the real-world. Most consumers are familiar with the term but have no concrete understanding what it really means other than it has to do with insulation and energy efficiency. The problem is the understanding stops there and crowds out the important information and science necessary to realize/achieve the results your hoope for. Unfortunately, in the construction world r-value is the “pink” standard.

The problem IS "R-values can be misleading! To use a quote from an ultra energy-efficiency engineer, “if both insulation materials have the same R-value, they should perform the same,”  ask yourself this question, “would you rather pour hot coffee (which is served at around 180 degrees) over your lap into a thin foam cup or into 1″ of fiberglass insulation (which is about the thickness of your furnace filter)?” Does one inch of foam truly perform the same as one inch of fiberglass? No! You get the idea!

All insulation materials (except for urethane foam) are going to test out at between R-3 and R-4 per inch. In fact, if air can penetrate the building materials(like fiberglass) the effective R-Value is ZERO, no matter how deep you stack it.

So before you add rolls of fiberglass insulation or blow more cellulose in your attic, make sure you seal any air penetrations in your attic floor

To get the 'biggest bang for your buck' when adding insulation, focus on your attic or roof line and then reducing air leakage in the basement and/or crawlspace. Especially, where your foundation meets your floor joist.

Hope that helps!


Topics: Energy Efficiency Tips, Attic Insulation, Basement Insulation

Do You Have A Problem With A Hot Attic?

Posted by John Sims on Fri, Jun, 24, 2016 @ 16:06 PM

I know everyone is excited about the great weather now that summer is officially here. 

With hotter weather, comes hotter temperatures and the sun beating down on your roof. The attic and second-floor areas can get stifling hot in the summer. This occurs regardless if your house is a ranch, a colonial, tri-level, Victorian, Cape Cod etc. High attic temperatures are a reality in just about any traditionally built home that gets direct solar radiation. Attics in the middle of the summer can be so hot that it can be nearly impossible to breathe in them. The temperature in attics can get up to 150 degrees. 

Maybe you thought to yourself when your air conditioning continues to run in the evening long after the sun goes down.

Here's the explanation according to the folks at Energy Vanguard: It starts at the Sun and radiates down to the rooftop and of course we make sure that most rooftops can 'soak up as much heat' as possible by using asphalt shingles. They're dark-colored. And many roof surfaces are tilted toward the Sun for enhanced absorption. 

That heat then conducts down through the roofing materials. The underside of the roof deck can get very hot, so hot you can't keep your hand on it. At temperatures of 150° F or more, that's a lot of heat sitting there in that plywood or OSB. 


The main way that heat gets into the attic is through radiation. That hot roof deck radiates heat down into the attic. But that radiant heat passes through the attic air and hits the solid materials. It gets absorbed by the framing, insulation, the stuff you're storing up there, and, unfortunately, any ductwork and HVAC systems that are up there.

Those materials heat up. They give up most of their heat by conducting it downwards into the house or into the ductwork and HVAC system and then into the house from there. 

Detailed simulations suggest that the heat transfer in an attic to a residential building interior in mid-summer is dominated by radiative gains from the hot roof decking directly to the insulation surface. This mode of heat transfer is more effectively limited by 1) increased attic insulation, 2) a truss-mounted radiant barrier or 3) a white reflective roof surface that limits solar gain to the attic structure."

If you've got a vented attic that gets hot in the summer, your first option is leave the attic vented and make sure the ceiling is air-sealed and insulated as well as possible. If you've got an older home and it needs more insulation, you've got the perfect opportunity. By removing the old insulation, you'll expose the ceiling. That's your air barrier, and it's probably not doing a good job at it.

Free air space above all insulation is a necessity. It is the conduit that permits the free flow of cool air through an attic space.

To effectively cool your attic, which in turn helps to keep the finished living space cool, you must constantly exhaust hot attic air. The air in an attic gets hot, not unlike air that gets heated in a furnace. The actual roof surface temperature can soar to nearly 190 degrees in direct sunlight on a hot summer day at noon.

This intense heat passes through to the wood roof sheathing and wood rafters. Even though they do not glow as would a cooking element in an oven, they are radiating enormous amounts of heat.

Found some very helpful videos at EnergyStar that might help you if you decide to add insulation:




Topics: Air Conditioning, Building Science, Attic Insulation

Watch Out For 'Bad' Energy-Saving Advice

Posted by John Sims on Tue, Nov, 24, 2015 @ 15:11 PM

The old saying, "if you read it on the internet it's got to be true". Getting the right information when it comes to saving energy in your home is important to us. Having a home that performs right means avoiding bad advice and/or not throwing away your hard-earned dollars on things that aren't that beneficial.

This article was written by a leading building science expert named Allison Bailes of Energyguard. He critiques a typical list of energy saving measures you see published online.  

Here's the article he wrote: 

Clark Howard is the penny pincher's guru. My wife loves his radio show and website for all the money-saving tips he provides. Naturally, anyone trying to help people save money at home has to address energy use, and Howard does, too. Unlike some others, though, he's generally well educated on the topic because he's hung around the Southface Energy Institute enough to know the basics. (I don't know if he ever used the clip, but he filmed me teaching how to do a blower door test there a few years ago.)


So why is his list of 12 DIY ways to save energy so bad? I think I know the answer and will tell you at the end of this article, but first let's look at that list and see what's wrong with it. Most of the tips here are not worth following.

Clark Howard's unfortunate list

Of the 12 items on Howard's list, only 3 or 4 offer solid advice. The rest give incomplete, mythical, or wacky tips that will do little or nothing to cut your energy bills. One of them may even cost you a lot more in repairs than you'll ever save. Let's take them one at a time.

  1. Seal drafts around doors and windows using weather stripping or caulking.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Whenever you see this as the top way to make your home more energy efficient, it's best to move on. It's a sign that the author is just recycling garbage they've read in other articles of this ilk and doesn't really know what he or she is talking about.

The truth is that caulking the windows and weatherstripping the doors will help stop drafts, but it's likely to have more effect on your comfort than on your energy bills. And for most people, even the comfort improvement will be marginal. Why? Because doing this will reduce your total air leakage by a small amount. The bigger leaks are in your crawl space or basement and in your attic.

And that takes us to tip #2.

  1. Make sure your attic is well insulated.

No, no, no! Don't insulate your attic, at least not until you've sealed the air leaks up there. See that photo above? It was covered with insulation. That's why the stuff that had been yellow fiberglass was nearly black when I discovered this hole. Fiberglass and cellulose don't stop air leakage, so just covering a hole with them doesn't stop the conditioned air from leaking out of your home nor unconditioned air from leaking in. It does filter it, though.

If your attic needs insulation, that's a perfect opportunity to seal the air leaks up there. If you get new insulation without doing so, you're just hiding the holes and making it harder and more expensive to seal them.


Read the other 10 at Energyvanguard. Bad Energy Saving Advice

Hope you found this information helpful!

Topics: Energy Efficiency Tips, Savings, Attic Insulation, Myths

Creative 'Attic Insulation' (For Laughs)

Posted by John Sims on Wed, Jun, 17, 2015 @ 15:06 PM


Sometimes you run across things that just make you laugh. This is from the folks over at EnergyVanguard, a group of building science guys who are always looking to deliver the best building science has to offer for homeowners.

We've covered Attic Insulation several times.

Here's the link to the resource: 

Insulation to Go - Creativity in the Attic

Someone got creative with their attic insulation!

Yes, those are foam peanuts and restaurant to-go boxes. Bill Box, a home inspector in our HERS rater class this week, found this in an attic on a recent inspection he did.

I suppose it's better than nothing, but standard insulation materials aren't that expensive. Even Grade III fiberglass batts in there would probably perform better.

The bigger issue here, though, is fire safety. All that foam would go up quickly if a spark from a poor wiring job got to it.

You gotta admire the person's creativity and efforts to recycle, but sometimes it's best to get some advice from a pro first. (Seems like I've said that before.)

We hope you enjoy the lightheartedness of this post!

Topics: Attic Insulation, Insulation

Insulating Your Attic: Advice From The 'Scientists'

Posted by John Sims on Fri, May, 15, 2015 @ 10:05 AM

As an HVAC Contractor, we talk about the topic of energy efficiency and comfort on a regular basis. Your fiberglass-insulationfurnace and air conditioner play a major role in both of them Maybe you've decided this Spring to add insulation to your attic. 

You'll learn from this information provided by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, proper attic insulation plays a role with both of these topics. This is also why we write articles about topics that affect how your home performs.

Read what they have to say about: Attic Solutions.

There are four key things to look for in your attic.

(1) Are there ducts running through the attic?

(2) How is the attic ventilated?

(3) How much insulation is already in the attic?

(4) Is the attic properly sealed to keep air and moisture from the house out of the attic?

If you find ductwork in your attic, examine it closely to look for leaky joints or loose insulation. Check your attic ventilation to be sure that it hasn’t been blocked by insulation. This can happen to soffit vents if baffles (often made from foam or cardboard) haven’t been placed to hold back loose-fill insulation. You should check the thickness and type of insulation on the attic floor. The Insulation Fact Sheet can help you translate this information into the R-value for your existing insulation level.

Before adding any insulation to the floor of your attic, it is important to check for duct problems and to seal all air passageways between the attic and the rest of your house. It’s very important to keep air and moisture from your house out of the attic because it’s not only a significant energy loss, but could also lead to moisture problems in the attic. These air passageways will include light fixtures, kitchen soffits, vent pipes, duct chases, open partition walls, etc. Look for ventilation fans, especially over your kitchen and bathrooms. The ventilation fans should never vent into the attic directly. They must be routed into vents that exhaust outside the house.

The Department of Energy has published a detailed fact sheet with complete instructions on how to find and seal these leaks. (Safety first: some recessed light fixtures require ventilation to remove heat. Be sure not to cover these recessed fixtures with insulation unless they are specially-rated IC fixtures. Also, don’t get insulation too close to hot flues or other sources of heat.)

In general, it’s seldom economical to add more insulation if you already have R-30 or more. But if you have less than 10 inches of insulation in your attic, you may need more depending upon your heating fuel and climate. Before adding insulation, be sure you’ve corrected any ventilation or moisture problems that you identified during your inspection. 

In summary, the best attic advice we can give you here is to seal and insulate the ductwork, seal air leaks between the house and the attic, then add insulation to the attic floor if necessary to bring it up to the level recommended for your area.

 Information provided by Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Topics: Energy Efficient Solutions, Building Science, Attic Insulation, R Value

Energy Efficiency Tips: Attic insulation & Attic Stairs.

Posted by John Sims on Wed, Apr, 29, 2015 @ 11:04 AM

You could be losing 27%(almost a third) of the insulation's effectiveness in your attic!

There are many homeowners who may have this very condition in their attic. Both AtticHatchchecking if you have the problem and the fix are fairly simple. When you read this information you'll also realize that it's worth it.

I know we sell HVAC systems which address a big portion of comfort and energy efficiency, but we wouldn't be telling the whole story when it comes to these important topics. It's why we include related information to help homeowners get the 'Biggest Bang for their Buck'.

So, I realize that normally you should have the recommended R-38(r-value) of insulation in your attic, however, according to the building science experts, when you have just 1% of your attic space UNINSULATED, you lose 27%(almost a third) of the effectiveness.

Here's how they explain it:

This problem shouldn't be that hard or expensive to fix. Let's look at an attic that's 99% of the space has the right amount of insulation and only 1% has little to nothing. In this case, the 1% is from the attic pull-down stairs, which typically have no insulation.

If we have 1000 square feet total of ceiling area, and we put R-38 everywhere but the 10 square feet of the attic pull-down stairs, you may be surprised when you see the answer. (For ease of calculation, I'm going to ignore the effect of the framing in the attic.)

Are you with me? We've got 990 sf at R-38 and 10 sf at R-1. (I'm being generous by assuming that quarter inch of luann plywood plus the air films give it a full R-1.) When you plug those numbers into the equation for average U-value and then convert to average R-value, the answer is R-28. (See the Flat or Lumpy article for details on the math - but be careful!)

No, I am not kidding! Because of that 1% of the attic that's uninsulated, the average R-value for the whole attic drops by 27%. I told you it was amazing, didn't I?

Attic_Hatch_AccessThe reason for this is that, although the attic stairs account for only 1% of the area, the rate that heat flows through them by conduction (per square foot) is 38 times higher than in the insulated part of the attic. In other words, the amount of heat that flows through the 10 sf of attic stairs is the same as what flows through 380 sf of the insulated attic. Wow!

Also, what I'm talking about here is just the heat that flows through the solid material, not all the extra heat that leaks through the gaps around the edge of the attic stairs. Remember, the building envelope has both insulation (to limit heat flow by conduction) and an air barrier. I'm just talking about the former here.

So, what're you going to do? Add more insulation to the rest of the attic and bring it up to R-49? Or find a way to insulate the attic stairs? The answer's obvious, isn't it?  

First check to see if your attic access is over your conditioned (heated and cooled) space. Then take the steps to insulate it correctly; and start saving money.

Topics: Energy Efficiency Tips, Attic Insulation, Attic Sealing

How Much Insulation Does My House Need In The Battle Creek Area?

Posted by John Sims on Tue, Apr, 21, 2015 @ 15:04 PM

The First Question Is, How Much Insulation Do I Already Have?


1. Look into your attic. You should start with the attic because it is usually easy to add insulation to an attic. This table will help you figure out what kind of insulation you have and what its R-value is.


2. Look into your walls. It is difficult to add insulation to existing walls unless: 
•    You are planning to add new siding to your house, or 
•    You plan to finish unfinished space (like a basement or bonus room).

If so, you need to know whether the exterior walls are already insulated or not. 

One method is to use an electrical outlet on the wall, but first be sure to turn off the power to the outlet. Then remove the cover plate and shine a flashlight into the crack around the outlet box. You should be able to see whether or not insulation is in the wall. Also, you should check separate outlets on the first and second floor, and in old and new parts of the house, because wall insulation in one wall doesn't necessarily mean that it's everywhere in the house. An alternative to checking through electrical outlets is to remove and then replace a small section of the exterior siding.

3. Look under your floors. Look at the underside of any floor over an unheated space like a garage, basement, or crawlspace. Inspect and measure the thickness of any insulation you find there. It will most likely be a fiberglass batt, so multiply the thickness in inches by 3.2 to find out the R-value (or the R-value might be visible on a product label). If the insulation is a foam board or sprayed-on foam, use any visible label information or multiply the thickness in inches by 5 to estimate the R-value. 

4. Look at your ductwork. Don't overlook another area in your home where energy can be saved - the ductwork of the heating and air conditioning system. If the ducts of your heating or air-conditioning system run through unheated or uncooled spaces in your home, such as attic or crawlspaces, then the ducts should be insulated. First check the ductwork for air leaks. Repair leaking joints first with mechanical fasteners, then seal any remaining leaks with water-soluble mastic and embedded fiber glass mesh. Never use gray cloth duct tape because it degrades, cracks, and loses its bond with age. If a joint has to be accessible for future maintenance, use pressure- or heat-sensitive aluminum foil tape. Then wrap the ducts with duct wrap insulation of R-6 with a vapor retarder facing on the outer side. All joints where sections of insulation meet should have overlapped facings and be tightly sealed with fiber glass tape; but avoid compressing the insulation, thus reducing its thickness and R-value. 
Return air ducts are often located inside the heated portion of the house where they don't need to be insulated, but they should still be sealed off from air passageways that connect to unheated areas. Drywall- to-ductwork connections should be inspected because they are often poor (or nonexistent) and lead to unwanted air flows through wall cavities. If the return air ducts are located in an unconditioned part of the building, they should be insulated. 

5. Look at your pipes. If water pipes run through unheated or uncooled spaces in your home, such as attic or crawlspaces, then the pipes should be insulated.

Sources: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Topics: Energy Efficient Solutions, Inspection, Attic Insulation, Insulation

5 Problem Areas To Check In The Spring

Posted by John Sims on Wed, Apr, 15, 2015 @ 14:04 PM

Spring is a great time of year to asses, and then take the right measures to improve the comfort and RXeecomfortenergy efficiency of your home. If you want to get up and work in the attic, it's not hot or too cold. 

Let me quote Michael Busby, Ph.D., who was a NASA Aerospace Engineer and started a company called Watt Count Engineering which engineered proven solutions for homeowners.

"Yes, today YOU can make home improvements or build a home that is ultra energy efficient, healthy, comfortable and quieter without doing what most people think you have to do and cost you an 'arm and a leg.'"

I've listed 5 major problem areas to investigate and then how to 'prescribe' (RX) the solutions

#1: Drafty Rooms

Air leaking into your house around windows, doors, electric outlets, light fixtures and gaps in corners, can cause rooms to feel drafty and uncomfortable. In the winter as cold air through leaks, warm air escapes, (in the summer, it is reversed). The biggest air leaks are often found in the attic, especially if you have recessed lights in your ceiling. Most homeowners don't realize how much this is. Even in a new house.

The RX: Air sealing can help stop drafts, improve the comfort and energy efficiency of your home, and reduce your utility bills.  Common areas for air leaks are around windows, doors, electrical outlets, light fixtures, and gaps in corners.  Some leaks are easy to find and fix, but holes hidden in attics, basements, and crawlspaces are usually bigger problems.

#2: Areas Commonly Lacking Proper Insulation

Heat naturally travels from high temperature areas to low temperature areas. Unfortunately, this process can create numerous problems for your home. The job of insulation is to limit heat transfer. Learn about the benefits of comprehensive insulation by taking a look at these common household areas that lack proper insulation:

Unprotected Ducts

Most ducts run through sections of the home with built-in insulation, which limits a duct’s exposure to heat transfer. Unfortunately, some duct sections are installed in attics, basements, and crawl spaces. Homeowners can lower the heat loss in unprotected ducts by adding additional insulation. EnergySavers.gov reports that insulating these unprotected sections can improve cooling efficiency by up to 30%.

Attic Access

Most homeowners insulate their attics, but few families consider the benefits of insulating attic access; which is either a hatch door or pull-down staircase.

Garage Doors

An unfinished garage is quick to draw heating and cooling from the home. Additionally, a lack of proper garage insulation can lead to mold and moisture problems. Garage door insulation alleviates both of these risks.

The RX: Add insulation

#3: Rooms That Are Too Hot or Too Cold

Rooms in your home may be too warm in the summer or too cold in the winter. There are several factors which include inadequate insulation, air leakage, poor duct system design, duct leakage, or an under-performing heating and cooling system.

The RX: This condition can be caused by several factors including inadequate insulation, air leakage, poor duct system design, duct leakage, or a failure in part of your heating and cooling system. Not only does this affect the comfort and health of your family, it can also cause high utility bills.  In a typical house about 20 percent of the air that moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks, holes, and poorly connected ducts.  

#4: High Energy Bills

The RX: It is common to trace high energy bills to inefficient windows, heating and cooling equipment, ductwork, and insulation or a failure of one of these components to perform as intended.  

Identify sources of excessive energy usage including air leaks in the attic, ceiling, exterior walls, windows, and doors; missing or insufficient insulation; leaking ductwork; and more.

If you want to pinpoint where your heat loss is you can hire a home performance company to use state-of-the-art tools, including a blower door and infrared camera to know for sure.

#5: Old and inefficient heating and cooling system

The RX: Old and inefficient appliances can cause a variety of comfort, health and safety, financial, and environmental problems. Sims Heating and Cooling can help you determine if you need new, high efficiency units to replace your aging and inefficient furnace, boiler, or air conditioner. A great place to start is with an A/C or Furnace Tune Up. If replacing is a smart investment for you, we will install a properly-sized unit, and make sure the air flows correctly and is evenly distributed throughout the house.

The next series of articles, we'll get into more specifics.

At Sims Heating and Cooling, our goal is not only be your HVAC service company of choice, but deliver as much useful education for homeowners; helping the achieve maximum comfort, energy efficiency, and a healthy indoor environment.


Topics: Air Leaks, Energy Efficient Solutions, Savings, Attic Insulation, Drafts

Energy Efficiency Tips: Still Time To Seal and Insulate Your Attic!

Posted by John Sims on Wed, Dec, 17, 2014 @ 16:12 PM

Found some excellent information for homeowners who are looking for ideas to not only save money on their heating bill but add comfort to their home. Winter keeps us indoors a lot and being comfortable is a high priority. Finding the right energy efficiency tips can be confusing to homeowners.

Common Problems

If your home experiences any of these problems, it might be a good candidate for an attic insulation project:

  • Drafty rooms
  • Hot or cold ceilings, walls, or whole rooms; uneven temperature between rooms
  • High heating or cooling bills
  • Ice dams in the winter

Attic Insulation

Although many people think to add insulation in their attic, they don't know how much they need or how to get the best results. Many times homeowners are confused when it comes to investing in insulation. 

To state the obvious, you have to heat the air as efficient as possible and then keep the heated air in and keep the cold air out! We can talk in very specific details when it comes to buying a high efficiency furnace, but we seach for other educational information to benefit Battle Creek area homeowners.

This information is from EnergyStar, its titled "Rule Your Attic". I picked out some of the highlights of the information: 

They say the attic is where homeowners can find the largest opportunities to increase their comfort and save energy and money. You take the first step by measuring how much insulation your attic has so you can “Rule Your Attic!”

Savings in Energy and Money

The attic is usually where you can find some of the largest opportunities to save energy in your home. By air sealing in your attic, you can stop many major air leaks and help to maintain the desired temperature throughout your home. Combined with attic insulation, air sealing can also help to alleviate the formation of dangerous ice dams in the winter. Note that EPA recommends air sealing the attic before adding attic insulation.

Increase Comfort.

Sealing leaks and adding insulation can improve the overall comfort of your home and help to fix many of these common problems:

  • Reduced noise from outside
  • Less pollen, dust and insects (or pests) entering your home
  • Better humidity control
  • Lower chance for ice dams on the roof/eves in snowy climates

I liked the helpful videos they put together, check them out:  Learn how to Rule Your Attic! 

The Benefits Can Be Substantial

Adding insulation to the attic is generally a moderately to difficult do-it-yourself (DIY) project, but the benefits can be substantial. If you are doing a major home renovation project, now may be a great time to tackle this project too.

Hire a professional to correct these problems or conditions:

  • Difficult attic access and limited space to work
  • Wet or damp insulation, indicating a leaky roof
  • Moldy or rotted attic rafters or floor joists, indicating moisture problems
  • Kitchen, bathroom or clothes dryer vents that exhaust moist air directly into the attic space instead of outdoors
  • Little or no attic ventilation
  • Knob and tube wiring (pre-1930), which can be a fire hazard when in contact with insulation

Most homes in the United States don't have enough insulation and have significant air leaks. In fact, if you added up all the leaks, holes and gaps in a typical home's envelope, it would be the equivalent of having a window open every day of the year!

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Topics: Energy Efficient Solutions, Comfort, Attic Insulation

What Is The Best Way For Battle Creek Homeowners To Get Rid Of Ice Dams?

Posted by John Sims on Tue, Feb, 11, 2014 @ 14:02 PM

Boy, this certainly is the season for ice dams and the conditions this year have to be one of the worst in a long time. There are some significant ice dams & icicles on the roof all over the Battle Creek area.


Many homeowners are experiencing water running down the interior walls of their home. This is what keeps homeowners who understand the potential damage, up at night. We've had several inquiries concerning what to do about that situation.

We quickly researched some resources to share them with homeowners in the Battle Creek area. There really is no 'surefire' answer. Each has its pros and cons.



Here's some firsthand experience from a Home Inspector named Reuben Saltzman.

Solutions #1 Roof Tablets

Roof Melt Tablets 440x330Yes, this is a product designed specifically for preventing damage from ice dams.  Contrary to the name on the container, the product doesn’t actually melt your roof (whew).  The instructions say to toss the tablets on to your roof and they’ll melt through the ice dams, allowing for “water to drain safely”.

Here's a link to his pictures(they're really good):

Pros: If you had perfect aim and tablets didn’t move after you tossed them on to the roof, this would be very safe.  Some channels were created for water to drain through, which might be enough to prevent leakage at your roof.

Cons: The tablets don’t stay where they land, which negates the whole safety thing.  I still had to set up a ladder on the icy ground and move the tablets around myself.  This method was also pretty ineffective – it created a bunch of holes in the ice dam, but so what?  Most of the ice dam was still there in the end.

Verdict: This might be a nice way to get down to the roof surface, and it might prevent leakage from ice dams if enough channels are created for water to drain through, but you’re still left with a huge ice dam.

Suggestion #2: Salt Filled Pantyhose 

Take off your pantyhose, fill ‘em up with calcium chloride or something similar, and toss ‘em on your roof perpendicular to the ice dams.  The idea is that the salt will leak through the pantyhose and create channels for the water to drain through, preventing water from leaking in to your house.

The pantyhose were a bit of a bust for me.  With salt alone being so effective, why bother with the pantyhose?  I’ve heard several opinions on this:

  • The pantyhose will contain the salt and prevent runoff.  The idea is apparently to leave the pantyhose there all winter.
  • The pantyhose can be ‘flung’ on to the roof with a rope – no need for a ladder.  After the work is done, you pull the pantyhose back down.
  • The pantyhose will gradually release the salt.
  • The pantyhose method works much faster if you start by pouring water on the pantyhose.  I didn’t try this myself.
  • When salt alone is used, it will wash out within a week and the ice channel will freeze over again.

Pros: If you fling the stockings on to your roof from the ground, it’s pretty safe.

Cons: This takes a long time.  After a week of near-zero temps, the pantyhose looked just the same.  They hadn’t even made a dent. I don’t think I would have the patience to do this if I had water leaking in to my house.  Also, this could lead to damaged gutters.

Here's some homeowners sharing their experience online with Salt Filled Pantyhose:


WARNING! Performing ice dam removal is risking severe personal injury and damage to the roof if not done properly. Never walk on a snow covered roof and make sure if you're using a ladder you follow the proper safety procedures.

Here's one way to do it if you are willing to take the risk or you feel confident enough to do it:


Reuben said it pretty well:

Oh, and one more piece of advice: if you know someone who has water leaking in to their house from ice dams, don’t tell them to “stop focusing on how to get rid of the ice dam, and spend your time fixing what caused it.”  It’s like telling someone with a gash in their finger to be more careful around knives.  ”Great, thanks, now please pass the Band-Aids.”

Hopefully, these situations will encourage folks to take the measures, when the weather is warmer and the problem is no longer there, to prevent them in the future.

Do you have any personal experience?

Topics: energy efficiency, Ice Build Up, Icicle Problems, Attic Insulation

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