Title:
Method for breaching ice dams on the roof of a house
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An apparatus and a method for its installation are described for melting breaches in ice dams. The apparatus is spherically or cylindrically shaped, filled with salt, another ice melter or a resistance heater. It is laid on the ice dam along the roof pitch to create a path for the drainage of water behind the ice dam. The method of installation uses grippers or hooks attached to a pole for remote placement.



Inventors:
Petroff, Christopher (Groton, MA, US)
Application Number:
11/070805
Publication Date:
09/08/2005
Filing Date:
03/02/2005
Assignee:
PETROFF CHRISTOPHER
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04D13/00; (IPC1-7): E04D13/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
CAJILIG, CHRISTINE T
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CHRISTOPHER PETROFF (227 RIVERBEND DRIVE, GROTON, MA, 01450, US)
Claims:
1. A method that melts cuts through an ice dam by breaching the ice dam along the pitch of the roof

2. A method according to claim 1 that breaches the ice dam in one or more independent locations

3. A method according to claim 1 that allows the installation of the ice melting apparatus before or after the ice dam has formed.

4. A method according to claim 1 in which the ice melting apparatus doesn't need to be mechanically attached to the roof. The friction of the surface of the apparatus keeps it in place. The apparatus may be textured and/or weighted to improve the friction.

5. A method according to claim 1 for melting an ice dam that uses a salt or another ice-melting chemical. As the salt or another ice-melting chemical is consumed more of it is exposed to the ice. The chemical may be a substance or a combination of substances that are commonly used for melting snow such as sodium chloride, calcium chloride, potassium chloride, urea magnesium chloride, sodium acetate and calcium magnesium acetate

6. A method according to claim 1 for melting an ice dam that uses a salt or another ice melting chemical bound in a permeable sleeve. As the salt or other ice melting chemical is consumed, the sleeve allows more of it to be exposed to the ice but does not allow the ice melting chemical to fall out.

7. A method according to claim 1 for melting an ice dam that uses a salt or another ice melting chemical held together with a binder. The binder controls the rate of consumption of the salt or other ice melting chemical.

8. A method according to claim 1 for melting an ice dam that uses the exothermic reaction of two mixing chemicals.

9. An apparatus according to claims 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 and 8 that is generally straight and elongated and generally long enough to span the ice dam

10. An apparatus according to claims 1,2,3,4,5,6 and 7 that is generally spherical and melts a breach in the ice dam below it.

11. An apparatus according to claims 1,2,3,4,5,6 and 7 in which the ice melting chemical is bound according to claim 6. The sleeve may be rigid or get its structural integrity from being stuffed with the salt or another ice melting chemical. Additionally, this sleeve can decompose so it does not need to be retrieved once the ice melting chemical is consumed.

12. An apparatus according to claims 1,2,3,4,5,6 and 7 in which the ice melting chemical is mixed with a binder A string internal to the apparatus may be present to provide strength and a method of attachment. Additionally, this string can by decompose so it does not need to be retrieved once the ice melting chemical is consumed. Optionally, the string can be unobtrusive so that if left on the roof it will not be seen easily.

13. An apparatus according to claims 1,2,3 and 4 filled with chemicals that when mixed will cause an exothermic reaction. The chemicals are separated from each other until the user mixes them.

14. A potentially reusable apparatus that uses electrical resistance heaters to melt a breach in the ice dam.

15. An apparatus according to claim 14 for that uses an external electric power supply.

16. An apparatus according to claim 14 for that uses batteries as a power supply

17. An apparatus according to claims 14, 15 and 16 in which the ice melting apparatus doesn't need to be mechanically attached to the roof. The surface friction of the apparatus keeps it in place. The apparatus may be textured and/or weighted to improve the friction. The weight may be concentrated on one end.

18. An apparatus according to claims 14 and 15 filled with resistance heater(s) and connected to house current.

19. An apparatus according to claims 14 and 15 in which a voltage reducing transformer is used to improve safety and provide a more flexible connection.

20. An apparatus according to claims 14 and 15 in which multiple instances of it are wired together to a single connection to house current

21. An apparatus according to claims 14, 15 and 16 which directs heat towards the ice dam. It will tend to rest with its heated side down

22. An apparatus according to claim 14, 15 and 16 that radiates heat equally well in all directions around the generally elongated shape

23. A remote placement apparatus consisting of a pole and an apparatus to attach to the ice melting devices. It uses hook or other attachment device that can attach or detach to the apparatus of claim 11 simply by manipulating the pole or through a mechanism accessible to the user on the ground

24. An apparatus according to claim 23 that consists solely of the attachment device. It is sold without a pole and attaches to a pole that the consumer already possesses.

Description:

BACKGROUND

1. Field of the Invention

The invention relates generally to a method and apparatus for preventing water buildup behind ice dams on a roof. More particularly it pertains to melting channels in the ice dam to allow the water to drain.

2. Description of the Prior Art

Ice dams are created when accumulated snow on a pitched roof melts, flows down the roof and then refreezes when it reaches an area of the roof that is below freezing. The snow melts in the areas of the roof where the roof surface temperature is above freezing because of heat emanating from the building. If the ambient temperature is below freezing, sections of the roof can be below freezing and the liquid can refreeze and create an ice dam. The ice dam usually forms at the lower edge of the roof because the thermal contact between the heat emanating from the building and the roof is not as good there as the rest of the roof.

It is common knowledge that ice dams can cause damage to the building structure. The ice dam forms a barrier that continued runoff is unable to breach. The runoff pools behind the ice dam and if deep enough, is able to go under the roof shingles and get inside the house. Water damage to the interior can then ensue.

Methods for alleviating the potential damage of ice dams are well known in the prior art. They can be divided into two categories. The first category is apparatus and methods that require installation before the ice dam is formed. The second category is apparatus and methods that can be implemented after the ice dam is formed.

By way of example, the first category includes:

    • U.S. Pat. No. 5,890,322 to Fears discloses an attic ventilation method
    • U.S. Pat. No. 6,225,600 to Burris discloses a snow melting strip for a gutter
    • U.S. Pat. No. 6,668,491 to Bonerb discloses an inflatable apparatus for breaking ice dams

In addition, the first category includes commercially available products such as electric heating wires attached in a zig-zag fashion to the roof that melt channels into the ice dam or rubber roofing barriers that create a continuous waterproof surface that prevents the movement of water through the roof. Roofing barriers are expensive and often aren't included in new construction. Zig-zag electric heating wires require going onto the roof to install, require connection to house current and are expensive to operate. They require installation before ice is on the roof, and are considered unaesthetic by many. Consequently they are not very widely used, even in geographic areas that are subject to frequent formation of ice dams.

The second category includes mechanical methods to remove the ice dams. Axes or ice picks are often employed. Ice tenaciously binds to roofing shingles and is difficult to remove. Because roofing shingles are not designed to withstand mechanical ice removal, permanent damage the roof often occurs. In addition, the removal of the ice dam by mechanical means requires walking on the roof or using a ladder, both of which are dangerous when snow cover is present.

Also included in this second category are methods of spraying warm water on the roof in an attempt to melt channels in the ice dam. While this method can prove effective, it is time consuming and needs to be repeated if the conditions for favorable ice dam formation continue. In addition, the apparatus that delivered the water to the roof needs to be drained or brought inside to prevent it from freezing. This is time consuming and messy. Furthermore, the water delivery apparatus could require a window be left open for access to the water source.

A disadvantage of first group of methods is that they can't be implemented after the ice dam has formed. Since ice dam formation is a sporadic event that might not occur annually, prophylactic preparation for ice dams is not common and home dwellers are often left without protection if an ice dam forms.

While apparatuses in the second group fulfill their respective roles, they have downsides as already described. The present invention substantially fulfills the need for a method and apparatus that can be installed after the ice dam has formed, is easy and safe to install and effective in breaching the ice dam.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Broadly outlined, the present invention overcomes these limitations by a method that involves remotely laying down an apparatus on the ice dam. It can be installed after the ice dam has formed or it can be placed in a location that an ice dam is expected to form. It melts its way down through the ice dam and creates a path that the water behind the dam can then drain. In the low cost embodiment of the current invention, the apparatus is filled with a self-contained consumable chemical that melts the ice dam. In the higher cost embodiment the elongated shape contains an externally powered resistance heater that melts the ice dam.

Before describing the present invention in detail, the invention is not limited to the arrangements of the components or details of its construction. It is capable of other embodiments without giving up the spirit and scope of the invention

It is an object of the present invention that it can be installed after the ice dam has been formed.

It is another object of the present invention to provide an apparatus that does not need to be reapplied over a reasonable period.

It is a further object of the present invention that it can be placed on the roof without mechanical attachment to the roof.

Another object of the invention is that it can be placed from the ground by the user.

An even further object of the present invention is that the low cost configuration does not require an external power supply.

Even still another object of the present invention is that both the high and low cost embodiments are inexpensive enough that they can be a last minute purchase by a consumer after the ice dam has formed.

A final object of the present invention is that it can be used whether or not gutters are present.

These objects, and the other features of the invention will be made clear in the following drawings and description

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a schematic view illustrating the preferred placement of the present invention

FIG. 2 is a schematic view of the one low cost embodiment of invention illustrating a long, straight cylindrical shape without external power for ice dam breaching

FIG. 3 is a schematic view of another low cost embodiment of the invention illustrating a spherical shape without external power for ice dam breaching

FIG. 4 is a schematic view of the remote placement apparatus for the present invention.

FIG. 5 is a schematic view of a cross section of the low cost embodiment of the invention illustrating the ice-melting chemical bound by an external sleeve

FIG. 6 is a schematic view of a cross section of the low cost embodiment of invention illustrating a matrix of the ice-melting chemical and a binder

FIG. 7 is a schematic view of a higher cost embodiment of the present invention in which resistance heating powered externally does the ice dam breaching.

FIG. 8 is a schematic view of the higher cost embodiment in which the heating is axisymmetric

FIG. 9 is a schematic view of the higher cost embodiment in which the heating is directed towards the ice dam.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIEMENTS OF THE INVENTION

As shown in FIG. 1, in its general form, the preferred embodiment consists of an apparatus 101 that is laid across the ice dam 102, parallel to the pitch of the roof 103. Through heat or chemical action it melts the ice beneath it. By its own weight, it melts down though the ice dam 102 until it rests on the roof 104. A drainage path through the ice dam 102 is thus created directly underneath it. The liquid water 105 behind the dam 102 is thus allowed to drain and leakage of the water 105 into the house 106 is averted. Alternatively, the present invention 101 can prophylactically be placed on the roof before the ice dam 102 forms. In that case, a drainage path will be maintained and a dangerous buildup of liquid water 105 will not occur.

As shown in FIG. 2, in one low cost embodiment, an ice melting chemical 201 is used. In one embodiment, the chemical is enclosed in a sheath 202. This embodiment is generally cylindrical. Its length 203 can vary. It does not need to be the length of the ice dam 102 to be effective. In one embodiment it is two feet long. The diameter 204 of the cylinder is large enough to hold enough ice melting chemical to last through long periods of weather that ice dams can be created. In the preferred embodiment enough chemical is held that it will last through the winter. As described later, a loop 205 can be employed for remote placement of the embodiment.

Once the ice melting chemical 201 has melted down to the roof 104, and the water behind the dam 105 is drained, consumption of the ice melting chemical 201 will be stop. It will be available to prevent the ice dam 102 from reforming. Eventually, through further contact with water, whether it is water running down the roof, snow or rainfall, the ice melting chemical 201 will be used up.

As shown in FIG. 1, when there are long, continuous sections of roof, for proper draining of the water behind the dam 102, multiple instances of the present invention 101 may need to be placed on the roof 104 to create multiple breaches in the ice dam 102. Testing on a roof with a rise of 4 feet over a 12 foot horizontal distance has shown a spacing of fifteen feet to be effective at preventing a harmful buildup of water 105 behind the ice dam 102.

FIG. 3 shows an alternative low cost embodiment. In this embodiment the ice melting chemical 201 is in a spherical shape 301. The diameter of the sphere 302 is chosen so that it is large enough to hold an adequate amount of ice melting chemical. The performance of the spherical embodiment is not orientation specific. Therefore user installation during remote placement is easier.

The surface area to volume ratio of the spherical shape 301 is lower than the cylindrical shape 204. This will slow the consumption of the ice melting chemical and allows for the packing of more ice melting chemical for the same sheath area. This can reduce the cost of the apparatus.

The preferred placement location for the spherical embodiment 301 is at the top edge of the ice dam 102. When located there it will melt down through the ice dam 102 and rest on the roof 104. The melted snow will now be a mixture of water 105 and the ice melting chemical 201. Its freezing point will be depressed and it will dissolve the ice dam 102 below it. It will thus breach the ice dam, allowing the potentially damaging buildup of water 105 to drain. The ice dam breach might be a tunnel under the ice dam 102 or it might be a clear channel in which the roof 104 is exposed.

An additional advantage to the low cost embodiments shown in FIGS. 2 and 3 is that the mixture of melted snow and ice melting chemical 201 will often flow into the gutter and melt a path in the ice through the gutter and downspout. This allows liquid to flow down the gutter. It can stop the formation of unsightly icicles because the water will drain down the gutters and not over the edge of the roof 104. Tests have shown the low cost embodiments are especially effective at unclogging the gutters when the air temperature remains above freezing for an extended period of time or if it is placed on the roof 104 before the roof 104 is covered in significant snowfall.

As shown in FIG. 4, the present invention can be remotely placed. The preferred embodiment for the remote placement apparatus consists of a hook 401 attached to a pole 402. The hook 401 can be in the shape of a “U”. The pole 402 length is long enough so the user can reach the ice dam 102 from the ground. In the preferred embodiment the ice melting material has a loop 205 on it for attachment to the remote placement apparatus. The remote placement apparatus allows the user to put the present invention on the roof 104 without the use of ladders. Thus the user is not required to do dangerous climbing on ice and snow to place the present invention.

The user places the ice melting material loop 205 on the hook 401. He then picks up the pole 402 with the loop 205 still on the hook 401. From the ground he places the ice melting material into the locations previously described. The pole 402 is then rotated so that the ice melting material 101 is unhooked from the hook 401. The remote placement apparatus is then lowered and put away.

Alternatively the remote placement apparatus can be sold with the hook 401 only and not pole 402. The user would then use a pole 402 that he already has. The hook has provision to attach to a wide range in pole diameters. Often users of the present invention already have a roof rake. The hook 401 can be attached on the roof rake pole. The hook 401 is designed so the roof rake will not interfere with the hook's 401 function.

In another embodiment, multiple hooks 401 and loops 205 can be used, such as one at either end of the ice melting chemical 201. In another embodiment, the loop 205 can be eliminated if the hook 401 is large enough to go around the ice melting material.

Other embodiments do not large hooks 401 and loops 205. One embodiment uses miniature hooks and loops commonly found on children's clothes. The “hook” side, which is a piece of fabric covered with tiny plastic hooks, is on the remote placement apparatus and the “loop” side, which is covered in tiny plastic loops, is on the ice melting material 101.

Another embodiment of the attachment mechanism for the remote placement apparatus is a clamp that compresses onto the ice melting material. Friction between the clamp and the ice melting material holds the ice melting material to the clamp. The ice melting material is removed by twisting the pole 402 or rapidly pulling up on the pole 402.

Another more elaborate embodiment of the remote placing apparatus is spring loading the hook 401 and attaching it to a string so it can be remotely manipulated from the ground. This makes the detachment of the ice melting material easier.

As shown in FIG. 5, in the preferred embodiment, the ice melting chemical 201 is placed in a sheath 202. The sheath can be cylindrical or spherical. The chemical 201 maintains its cylindrical or spherical shape during its placement on the roof 104 by being tightly stuffed in the sheath.

The pores 501 in the sheath 202 are large enough to allow contact between the ice melting chemical 201 and the ice dam 102 but not large enough to allow the ice melting chemical 201 to fall out.

In the preferred embodiment the sheath 202 and loop 205 are made of a material that will disintegrate when in contact with a liquid or when left in the outdoor environment. This will obviate the need to retrieve the sheath 202 after the ice melting chemical 201 is consumed.

The thickness 502 and pore size 501 of the sheath 202 can be varied to change the rate of consumption of the ice melting chemical 201. A thin-walled and large pore size bag will tend to melt the ice dam 102 more rapidly, but would be more quickly consumed. Regardless of thickness 502 and pore size 501, once the apparatus 101 has melted down to the roof 104 and the water 105 has drained, consumption of the ice melting chemical 201 will cease because there is nothing left to dissolve it. The ice melting chemical will be available to maintain open channels in the ice dam 102 in the event of future ice dam 102 forming conditions.

As shown in FIG. 6, in another embodiment, a matrix 601 is created consisting of the ice melting chemical 201 and a binder. An external sheath 202 is not required because the binder makes the ice melting chemical 201 rigid. As the ice melting chemical 201 is consumed, the binder disintegrates and is washed down the roof 104. The solubility of binder can be varied to control the melt rate. Less soluble binder will decrease the melt rate. Since the sheath 202 is not needed, once the ice melting chemical 201 is completely consumed, nothing is left on the roof 104.

For attachment of the loop 205, a string 602 can be used. One end of the string 602 is formed into the loop 205 for remote placement and the string 602 can run to the center of ice melting chemical 201. In the preferred embodiment the string 601 is made out of a material such as fishing line that is very thin and clear and thus not be aesthetically objectionable if left on the roof after the winter. In another embodiment the string 601 is of a type that will disintegrate when in contact with a liquid or exposed to the outdoor environment

If an ice-melting chemical is used in the present invention, the preferred embodiment is a salt designed to melt ice on walking paths. Salts that are commonly used include sodium chloride, calcium chloride, potassium chloride, urea magnesium chloride, sodium acetate and calcium magnesium acetate. In one embodiment a less expensive salt such as sodium chloride is used. If concrete is present below the roof, in another embodiment, a more expensive salt that does not damage concrete such as calcium magnesium acetate is used. Tests with sodium chloride showed that an embodiment with a four inch diameter 204 will melt through ice dams 102 a foot thick and will remain an effective drain path for months at ice dam 102 forming temperatures.

In another embodiment a liquid deicer such as an alcohol is used as the melting material 201. One embodiment uses a binder or gel that dissolves in contact with water to minimize its evaporation and control its usage rate. The melting action continues until the melting chemical 201 is depleted or the chemical 201 is no longer in contact with ice or liquid water.

In another embodiment, the mixing of two chemicals separated by a membrane creates the melting action. The consumer breaks the internal membrane by squeezing the outer sheath 202, the two chemicals mix and the ice melts from an exothermic reaction of the chemicals. This is an especially effective method to quickly breach the ice dam in the emergency situation when water has already entering the house.

As shown in FIG. 7, in another, higher cost embodiment, the melting action is created by flow of electricity 701 through a resistive element 702. In one embodiment, batteries internal to the ice melting section 705 power the resistive element 702. In the preferred embodiment the ice melting section 705 is attached by wire 703 to house current 701. The melting continues until the resistive element 702 is unplugged, the batteries are depleted or the melting length 705 is no longer in contact with the ice dam 102. Multiple instances of the present invention can be placed on a long roof. In one embodiment they are placed 15 feet apart.

As opposed to the electrical resistance the ice dam melters already on the market, the higher cost present invention does not require physical attachment to the roof 104. There are number of advantages to this. First, the present invention only needs to be installed if the ice dam 102 forms, thus minimizing the amount of time an unaesthetic addition to the house is in place. Second, since the present invention can be installed after the ice dam is formed, the consumer need only buy it when he has a need for it. Third, he will be more motivated to install it once the ice dam has formed. Fourth, the present invention can be removed from the roof simply by pulling on the wire 703 instead of climbing on the roof. Fifth, the present invention can be remotely installed, either by a hook 401 or by simply throwing it on the roof and pulling on the wire to position it. Sixth, the present invention consumes less power. The current commercial products generate heat along the entire length of the roof they are attached to. The present invention only generates heat along its length 705. The space between instances of the present invention is not heated.

The preferred embodiment has multiple instances of the heated sections 705 wired together and plugged into house current at a single location 704.

The resistive element is encased or attached to a stiff jacket that is heavy enough and/or has a coefficient of friction high enough to prevent it from sliding down the roof 104. Loop(s) 205 can be included for easier attachment to the hook(s) 401 on the locating mechanism.

A step-down transformer 706 can be included to reduce the size of the wire 703 and reduce the chance of electric shock. The reduced wire size 703 also allows for the more complete closing of a window or door the wire passes through should the house current 704 be located indoors. The reduced wire size 703 is lighter and more flexible, and therefore less likely to dislodge the heating element 702. In another embodiment, for additional safety, the transformer 706 is circuit breaker protected.

As shown in FIG. 8, in one embodiment, the jacket 801 of the electrically heated embodiment is axially symmetric and radiates heat 803 equally well in all directions about its cylindrical shape 801. It thus can be placed without care for radial orientation. The diameter of the jacket 801 is smaller than the low cost embodiment since it does not have to contain an ice melting chemical. The jacket 801 allows for good thermal transfer between the ice dam 102 and the resistive element 702. Optionally, weight 802 is axisymmetrically added around the heating element 702. The weight 802 has a high thermal conductivity. The jacket 801 can be textured to increase the coefficient of friction between the jacket 801 and the ice dam 102. This will reduce the amount of weight 802 needed to keep the heating element 702 in place.

The weight 802 does not need to be uniform along the heating length 705. As an illustrative example, the weight can be concentrated near the attachment loop 205 located at the top end of the heated length 705. This would anchor the top from movement and improve the ability to locate the heated length 705 along the roof pitch 103 by manipulating the wire 703 it is attached to.

In another embodiment, as shown in FIG. 9, the jacket 901 contents are not axisymmetric. In the preferred orientation, it is insulated 902 on top. The heating element 702 is located near the bottom. Electrical consumption is reduced with this asymmetric design because the insulation 902 directs heat to the ice dam 102. In one embodiment, to ease installation, the loop 205 to attach to the remote locating apparatus is located on the insulation 902 side. Optionally, weight 904 is added to one side so it will want to roll to a preferred orientation.

The higher cost embodiment in FIGS. 8 and 9 can be put in place before the ice dam 102 forms. The heating element 702 can be kept plugged in the entire winter. At the end of the winter the present invention can be unplugged, pulled off the roof 104 and reused the following year.

Although what are described are the preferred embodiments of the present invention, it is obvious to those skilled in the art that variations from the preferred embodiments may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. Therefore, all such changes fall within this invention.