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Thursday, September 30, 2010

How to install Roof Sentry Control Roof/Gutter Deicer Cable

Learn from other experience here: We had several unusually heavy snowfalls in Western Pennsylvania this past winter ('09 to '10) and my home had quite a bit of interior water damage due to ice dams forming on our roof. We had old heat cables in place but some failed and the others did not provide adequate heat or were not in the proper places (we have sky lights that were not properly protected). I researched new heat cables on the internet, at Lowes and Home Depot, and at some local electrical supply stores. Easy Heat RS-2 Roof Sentry Control Roof/Gutter Deicer Cable seemed to be very cost effective, but what really helped to sell me was the fact that their installation manuals for all of their products were on line and seemed to be very thorough yet easy to use. I decided to use their manuals for planning my project regardless of what product I was going with.

I ultimately decided to go with Easy Heat RS-2 Roof Sentry Control Roof/Gutter Deicer Cable, but was unsure how I wanted to control them. We travel quite a bit during the winter, and I wanted a controller that would protect our house but that would not waste energy on the cables when they are not needed. There were a variety of thermal only controllers out there, but the Easy Heat RS-2 requires both the proper temperature AND the presence of moisture before it will energize the cables. If it worked, it seemed to me that I could turn it on and forget it for much of the winter and feel confident that the house would be protected.

I decided to try an all-Easy Heat solution. I redesigned my cable runs to reduce the number down to just two cables to save money. This is because each RS-2 can handle up to 1200 watts, but they only want one cable plugged into each RS-2. I ordered the cables and two RS-2's through Amazon and everything arrived well ahead of promise. I tested the cables before installation and was pleased at the amount of heat they gave off in a very short period of time. I tested both RS-2's in buckets of ice water and they worked as advertised.

My old installation had been done about 25 years ago by the previous homeowner and there was no documentation. It was strung through my attic and used old thin two wire "zip cord" instead of adequate wiring and wires went off in all directions. (We were lucky we never had a fire as I found that one of the roof cables had shorted out against the gutter drain pipe). The cables were "hard wired" to the (ungrounded) circuit whereas the Easy Heat Products are set up to use standard 110V grounded plugs. I decided to be safe and ordered a GFI circuit breaker from Grady's through Amazon so that the entire circuit would be protected regardless of how it had been wired. The toughest part of my installation was when I fished new romex (with ground wire) through the old holes in the attic walls and then mounted new water resistant plug receptacles under the eaves outside of the house. I also mounted the two RS-2 control boxes beside the new receptacles in a place where I could see the indicator lights (to determine both if the controller had power and if it was powering the cables) without crawling out on the roof. I also removed all of the old zip cord that I could find and installed a switch for the cables inside the house (not in the attic).

Once I had the new 110V plugs in place, installing the Easy Heat RS-2 Roof Sentry Control Roof/Gutter Deicer Cable was, well, very easy. The clips that came with the cables worked far better than the originals from my old installation and damaged the shingles far less. I had plenty of extra clips once I was finished. The only problem I had was fishing some of the cable down my drain pipes as I could not get the rusty screws from the pipes off to pull the cables in from beneath. (I should have just drilled out the screws in the first place). My cables were just barely long enough even though I used the planning guide and then added a 10% safety factor on top of that. I think it was in part because of how in my particular situation, I wired the required cable sections near the RS-2 controller and used more cable than I planned. I would suggest that when you order your cables, if your circuit can stand the extra wattage, you consider ordering the next cable size up to allow a bit more comfort in the installation.

Now that I have power out to the roof and controllers and cables that plug in as easily as an extension cord, I can easily upgrade or change the installation. I plan on re-shingling the roof in two or three years, and this cable installation will remove quickly and can be put back into place quickly during that job. The total cost for everything including what I bought at Lowes (Romex, outdoor boxes, receptacles, wood screws, etc) was just over $400 which is much less that what I had been quoted to have a professional do it. I spent about 16 hours researching and planning (ok, I AM an engineer), about 3 hours in the attic undoing and redoing wiring, and about 5 hours on the roof (again undoing and then redoing). So far I am very happy with the product and installation and I am looking forward to seeing how well they work this coming winter.


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