Tips from NYSERDA for Preventing Ice Dams

Cash Back, Low-Interest Financing Available through Home Performance with ENERGY STAR®

January 11, 2013

If you see ice build-up and icicles hanging from the eaves of your home, you may have an ice dam, a major cause of roof leaks and energy loss in winter. Take steps now to prevent ice dams, recommends the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

Ice dams usually occur after a heavy snowfall and several days of freezing temperatures. Warm air inside your home leaks into the attic and warms the underside of the roof, causing snow and ice on the roof to melt. The melted water drains along the roof to the cold overhang and refreezes, forming an ice dam and icicles. The ice dam enables the trapped water to get under the roof shingles, causing water to leak inside.

If you already have an ice dam problem, hire an expert to solve the immediate issue. Don’t climb on your roof, and avoid standing on the ground and “chipping away” at the ice. Not only could your chipping damage the roof, but you can be seriously injured by falling ice, debris or tools.

NYSERDA recommends the following ice dam prevention tips:

Seal air leaks and take care of insulation and ventilation.

  • Seal air leaks and duct air leaks in your attic to stop warm air leakage, the source of ice dam problems. After sealing leaks, add additional insulation in your attic.
  • Provide adequate attic ventilation so the undersides of the roof and outside air are at the same temperature. Check to make sure attic insulation is not blocking roof ventilation. Incorrect ventilation can cause mold and mildew problems.

Clean gutters.

  • If you didn’t clean leaves and other debris from gutters before the first snow, see if you can have it done now. This will help prevent ice build-up in gutters.

Hire a participating contractor.

  • Hire a participating Home Performance contractor accredited through the Building Performance Institute (BPI) to conduct an in-home comprehensive energy assessment. The comprehensive home energy assessment will not only suggest specific home improvements to prevent future ice dams, but will also recommend ways to reduce energy use, save money and improve the health and safety of your home.
  • This “whole house” approach can cut total energy costs by up to 40 percent, saving a homeowner up to $700 annually. NYSERDA provides financial incentives and financing options with low interest rates to help pay for energy efficiency improvements.

For information on NYSERDA’s Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program and a list of contractors, visit NYSERDA’s Residential Program pages.


NYSERDA, a public benefit corporation, offers objective information and analysis, innovative programs, technical expertise, and funding to help New Yorkers increase energy efficiency, save money, use renewable energy, and reduce their reliance on fossil fuels. NYSERDA professionals work to protect our environment and create clean-energy jobs. NYSERDA has been developing partnerships to advance innovative energy solutions in New York since 1975.