What Do Straw Dogs Have To Do With Roof Ice Melt Systems?

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A straw dog is something - an idea, concept, design, etc. - set up for the purpose of destroying it, degrading it, or otherwise demeaning it to make something else look better. In business, the straw dog usually does not accurately depict what is being destroyed. But that is the idea. If a competing product could stand on its own merits and was truly better, there would be no need to misrepresent the competition. That company would be foolish to do that, since 'straw dog' marketing only works on the uneducated and lazy.


Energy Efficiency

While it is true that all of us are concerned with energy efficiency, this term can be misunderstood. To illustrate: A quad axle dump truck might get 6 miles per gallon of diesel fuel. A compact pick up truck might get 20 miles per gallon of gas. The compact truck is more fuel efficient. A person would never think of riding around town, going grocery shopping, picking up the kids in the dump truck. Not the best choice. But, what if you needed to haul a load of topsoil. Now the dumptruck is not only a better choice, but it is also the more fuel efficient one. To go back and forth hauling 1 or 2 yards of soil at a time in the compact pick up truck would take far more fuel than the dump truck. The concept is similar in roof ice melting systems. Heating cables have a limit to how much heat they can put out. They are self limiting or self regulating. It is why they are so safe and long lasting. Some systems claim revolutionary designs or engineering that allows for the use of one heating cable run. This may work when snow fall is light, but when the snow comes down heavy and temps drop, more heat is needed. That is when the design of the Bylin Roof Ice Melt System excels whether the original RIM System (36w/ft), or the RIM2 System (16w/ft), Bylin has the answer to whatever local conditions present.

True energy efficiency can be managed through several avenues.

  1. 1 - Customer management of the roof ice melt system. If the customer actively participates in the operation of the system, greater efficiency can be achieved by turning the system on and off as the need arises.
  2. 2 - High Efficiency Control Systems (HECS). These control systems measure the temperature of the roof ice melt panels and react by adjusting power output. For example, on a mild winter day with little or no wind the RIM System might only being using 5-10w/ft - the same amount as the 'revolutionary, patent pending' single cable option. When conditions turn ugly, the RIM System coupled with the HECS has the ability to ramp up its power output to full to keep up. Much like that dump truck - the more efficient product.
  3. 3 - Thermostat control. The use of thermostat controllers in the residential market allows for 'window' operation. The heating cables are allowed to operate at temps between 10 and 34 degrees and this can be overidden when no snow is present.

Do extruded aluminum designs take more power?

The recent claim is that the reason the Bylin Roof Ice Melt System uses 2 or 3 runs of heating cables is that it 'wastes' the heat energy created by housing the heating cables in an extruded aluminum base. This claim indicates a lack of understanding of how self regulating heating cables work and the principles of heat transfer and the thermal conductivity of different metals. Aluminum's ability to efficiently transfer heat is well documented. It is exceeded by copper (which Bylin also uses) and silver for its heat transfer properties. Most other metals fall far short of aluminum. For example, the use of steel as a bracket to hold a heating cables to a steel roof or edge means a system that can be 10 times less efficient - requiring more power to achieve the same results. There are others that have copied Bylin's patented design because it works. Bylin RIM Systems are time tested - installations began in the 1990's. There are over 120 miles of RIM panels and over 5 million feet of heating cables installed on homes, condos, businesses, and resorts all over the country.

It is sad that some competition misrepresents power usage. While there are handy calculators on their sites, beware of 'funny' math. Here is the simple equation - Length of heating cables used times wattage of heating cables divided by 1000 gives you the kilowatts per hour. Multiply that by your cost per kilowatt hour. Here is an example. Total heating cables used in system including downspouts, valleys, gutter bottom, etc. = 165'. Cable wattage is 8w in snow and ice. 165 x 8 = 1320 / 1000 = 1.32. In Massachusetts, we average about $.12 per kilowatt hour. The total would be $.158 per hour, $3.79 per day, $341.28 per season on average.

Do the steel single cable systems really use less energy?

This leads us to our next 'straw dog' - that they use 50-70% less energy. Let's look at another example. 100' eave with gutter, 15' of heating cables in downspout. Bylin RIM2 315' of 8w heating cables = 2520 watts for the system. Single cable heated edge system 100' of 12w heating cables, 115' of 8w heating cables = 2120 watts. Seems to me that 2100 is not 50 - 70% of 2500. The single cable system is uses only 16% less energy and does not have the power to catch up once conditions get bad. Couple that with the inefficient, energy wasting use of steel as the heat transfer product and it could be said that power usage is virtually equal.

Do all heating cables have a short lifespan?

One manufacturer of a heating cable ice dam prevention system claims that heating cables last only 5, 10 or 15 years. They indicate their 'revolutionary, patent pending' design allows for easy change out of the heating cables. Top tier heating cable is designed to last 20 - 30 or more years. Self regulating heating cables have proven themselves for decades. They are used in the petrochemical and nuclear industry to keep pipes from freezing and liquids flowing. These self regulating heating cables have to meet rigid standards to be allowed for use in these applications. Bylin's heating cables are manufactured to very high standards.

There are constant wattage (a whole different animal) and inferior self regulating heating cables on the market that do have a short lifespan. These products mean that maintenance and servicing might be important. Bylin's use of high quality, long lasting heating cables means lower overall cost and less headaches. Furthermore, if servicing is necessary down the road, all that is required is removing the durable 040 aluminum cover and replace the cables. Bylin RIM Systems have a 15+ year track record of durability and effectiveness with over 5 million feet of heating cables installed. Why would anyone choose a product that promised you would need to service it in as little as 5 years? What's more -  Bylin warrants its heating cables for 10 years. Some of the competion -  no heating cables warranty indicated on its website.

It should be noted that the above information is not the opinion of any manufacturer nor do we claim to represent Bylin Engineered Systems. We have installed 1000's of feet of heating cables over the last 15 years. We specialize in ice dam prevention. And we have settled on the Bylin Roof Ice Melt System after evaluating and installing a number of systems. Our customers are happy with the results and pleased with the appearance. Bylin's track record and expertise is a comfort to our customers and a benefit to our company.

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