Most electric heat tape products are designed to be used exclusively on water pipes to stop them from freezing and bursting, but some products can be installed on roofs and gutters. To prevent fires, heat tape should only be used for the purposes specified on the individual product's packaging.
No matter what it is being used for, heat tape, heating cables and de-icing cables must be installed according to instructions and maintained properly to prevent fires and other damage to the building. For every use, different guidelines and risks apply. For example, while some heat tape varieties can be used to heat both metal and plastic pipes, it is vitally important to check the product's packaging before installation. Heat tape without thermostatic controls can melt plastic pipes, causing leaks, short circuits and sparks.
Regular maintenance is critical for heat tape and other de-icing cables used on roofs and gutters because they are constantly exposed to the elements, particularly sun and moisture. Heat tape is often used on roofs and gutters to slow the formation of ice dams, which are the thick ice and icicle accumulations that occur along gutters, causing severe leaks and gutter damage. However, heat tape is not a permanent solution to ice dams, especially in areas with heavy snowfall. Ice dams are typically caused by insulation problems in the highest points of a home, which eventually needs to be corrected by a professional.