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7 Ways to Stay Safe While Installing Heat Cable

Updated: Apr 2

Anytime someone is working with electricity, safety should be of the utmost importance. Failing to adhere to certain safety precautions can be dangerous, even life-threatening. By educating yourself, you can help to prevent possible electrocutions, electrical fires, etc.

Since heat cable is an electrical heating element, safety precautions need to be taken to protect you, your family, and your home.

Here are seven essential safety measures to follow when preparing for and working with heat cable.

1. Certified Cable

Before beginning any project, you’ll want to make sure you have all of the needed supplies. When installing a heat cable system, you should research and make sure you buy certified equipment. There are several brands of heat cable on the market. Here at, we only use Drexan Heat Cable because of its design and durability. If you choose to use another brand, ensure that it is UL-listed. UL-listed means that UL (Underwriter Laboratories) has tested product samples and confirmed that they meet specific requirements, such as nationally recognized standards for safety. Never install used or damaged cable.

2. Sufficient Power

When installing a heat cable system on your roof, you need to have a sufficient power source. The type of cable you choose for your roof will determine the required type of power. Constant wattage heat cable most commonly needs a 120-volt circuit equipped with a GFCI in that circuit. Self-regulating cable can use either a 120-volt or a 240-volt circuit, but 240 volt is the most common requirement. Self-regulating cable requires an EPD breaker. It is essential to have adequate power for your heat cable system so that in winter, you don’t find yourself tripping a breaker or being unable to use your system.

3. Electrical Safety Measures

If a sufficient power supply is not in place, you will need one installed. This might include GFEP protection either by a breaker in the panel, an EPD device, or built right into your controller. If you are not familiar with working with electricity, it is a good idea to call a professional to make sure things are done correctly. If you are able to and decide to install the required electrical circuits, you will need to follow these strict safety measures.

  • Disconnect - Make sure that the electricity is off at the main breaker and use a voltage tester to be entirely sure the connections are dead.

  • Tools - Be equipped with the right tools such as a voltage tester, megger, wire cutters, etc. You may want to consider wearing rubber gloves and goggles as added protection.

  • Watch what you touch - When working with wiring, be careful not to touch plumbing or gas pipes. Also, be mindful of protecting yourself against adjacent live electrical parts.

4. Roof and Ladder Safety

When installing a roof or gutter heating system, you will find yourself up a ladder of some sort. Ladder safety may seem like a no-brainer, but there are some things to be mindful of before climbing up a ladder.

  • Sturdy - Make sure that you choose a sturdy ladder that is in good working order. Climbing up an old rickety ladder that you’ve had for decades might not be a good idea.

  • Correct Type - Based on the height of your roof, you will need to determine the ladder height necessary to get you safely to the top of the roof. A step ladder is probably not going to cut it. A ladder should reach at least 3 feet past the roof’s edge.

  • Solid Ground - Before climbing up a ladder, you need to position it on solid, level ground. Having a spotter holding the base of the ladder is always a wise choice.

  • Weather - It is best to wait for a day with dry weather and no wind to help prevent slips or falls from a ladder or roof.

  • Proper Footwear - Boots or sneakers with good traction are much safer for climbing a ladder or walking on a roof than shoes such as flip-flops.

  • Foot Placement - When on a roof or ladder, knowing where you will place your feet next will help keep your feet securely on the top of the roof or rung of the ladder.

5. Location

When installing a heat cable system, location is important. There are places where heat cable will be the most effective. Determining said places is key to having a functional system that does the job you expect. Keep an eye on problem spots in the winter. Take pictures of areas that don’t seem to melt on their own, to determine heat cable needs. There are some places where heat cable should not be installed, such as near flammable materials. Also, be sure to keep overhanging trees away from the cable.

6. Timing

As with many things, timing is important in heat cable installation. Although you can install a heat cable system any time of the year, ideally, it should be done during a drier, warmer time of the year. Warm, dry weather makes it easier to see where you are placing the cable and safer for the person getting on the roof to install the system. Additionally, drier conditions are optimal if you need to run more electricity.

7. Hire a Professional

When working with any type of electrical application, if you even slightly doubt your capabilities, it may be time to contact a professional. Having a professional install your heat cable system, or at least instruct you on what to do, can help ensure that everything is safely and correctly in place. Having a heat cable system to protect your roof and gutters can give you peace of mind during the winter months. You’ll be able to rest easy, knowing you have taken steps to protect your home and family from the effects of ice dams.

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