The season for icicles is gone for now. At least we hope it is, since this was a particularly harsh winter in most of the country this year.
Now icicles may be pretty, but are they are on your house? If they are it means your house is improperly sealed and you are losing heat through your roof. The easiest way to find a home losing heat is to drive down the street and look for icicles on houses after a winter storm. They are not hard to find.
You may think this is limited to older homes or homes that are lacking insulation and that may well be true, but I have seen just as many newer homes and homes with plenty of insulation that still have icicles.
So what exactly causes icicles? Icicles are formed when heat escapes and warms the decking beneath the shingles and the snow or ice melts and runs down the roof until it reaches the roof edge where it starts to refreeze forming an icicle. They may be pretty but that is where the problem starts. Once the icicle has formed and the ice continues to build up it creates a dam and the melting water now has nowhere to go, so the water starts to back up under the shingle and into your house. This is a classic ice dam and can create a lot of damage. This can create mold issues, damage the insulation which in turn will let even more heat escape and icicles will form easier and quicker.
So if you have plenty of insulation in your attic what is the problem? You may not have an effective air barrier and all insulations are not created equal as an air barrier. It is not enough to insulate your attic you must also make sure it is sealed. You must make sure all penetrations or openings are completely sealed. Some of the most common areas to lose heat are exhaust fans, recessed lights, plumbing, wiring or any other crack or crevice. Recessed lights are also a big culprit, if not sealed properly.
Now it is also possible that you just have an inadequately insulated attic, so your best bet is to call a professional and have it inspected. Unfortunately it is difficult to completely stop all heat from entering an attic no matter how well its sealed or how much insulation is installed, but it can be done. The methods in which we build and seal homes are rapidly changing and one of the most effective ways to insulate an attic and prevent heat loss is a hot roof system. The benefits are too numerous to mention here, but it is a total air and vapor barrier and provides one of the most energy efficient insulating system available, not only does it prevent heat escape through the roof, but it will not allow heat to penetrate into the attic in the summer saving big dollars in energy cost.
For more information on this and other green building methods, visit Greentite.com