Ice dams may indicate energy inefficiency

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(Host intro) This winter’s consistently cold temperatures and heavy snows have combined to create one of the worst ice dam problems in years. As VPR’s Steve Zind reports, some people are doing a brisk business removing ice and snow from rooftops:

(Zind) (Sound of ice being chipped away.) It’s 10:30 p.m. at a few degrees below zero. Mark Corliss and a helper are removing ice from the roof of a convenience store in downtown Randolph. Corliss’s face and clothing are covered with glittering ice chips. He stands on a ladder and uses a small hand pick to hack at a thick strip ice.

(Corliss) “I did one yesterday that was five feet thick. And this one right here in some spots is two feet deep.” (Sound of Corliss chipping at the ice.)

(Zind) It will take the two men four hours to get rid of the ice dam. There’s plenty of work to keep him busy. A drive through any Vermont village reveals roofs caked with thick rinds of ice.

(Bill Holstrunk) “Got some significant ones hanging off that roof there.”

(Zind) On a tour of Barre, Bill Holstrunk points out ice dams on houses of all ages. Holstrunk is the weatherization director for Central Vermont Community Action Council. He says ice dams are a symptom of a problem inside a building.

(Holstrunk) “By seeing those homes with the ice damming and those homes without the ice damming, you could – using the ice dams as a key – determine how much energy is being used by these buildings.”

(Zind) Ice dams mean heat loss. The heat goes up through the roof and melts the snow. In cold weather, the water refreezes on the edge of the roof. As the heat from the building continues to melt the snow, the ice builds up, forming a dam. Sometimes the weight of the ice can damage a roof. More often, melted snow backs up behind the dam and seeps into the building.

Heating cables and ice picks can remove ice dams. But Holstrunk says it’s better to get to the source of the problem and make sure attic spaces are well insulated, ventilated properly and sealed off from heated areas. In the meantime, if you need an ice dam removed, Mark Corliss says be prepared to wait:

(Corliss) “I’ve been right out straight since the last snowstorm. Night and Day.”

(Zind) For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind in Randolph.

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