1. Welcome to PlowSite. Notice a fresh look and new features? It’s now easier to share photos and videos, find popular topics fast, and enjoy expanded user profiles. If you have any questions, click HELP at the top or bottom of any page, or send an email to help@plowsite.com. We welcome your feedback.

    Dismiss Notice

steaming off Ice jams on roof

Discussion in 'Ice Management' started by mricefish, Mar 3, 2011.

  1. mricefish

    mricefish Member
    Messages: 31

    HI looking to get into steaming off ice one roofs. most of the roofs that we had to shovel off the snow this year had ice formed from the gutters a ways up the roof. And yes some were already leaking into the house. have done a little research on using a steam machine to melt the ice off. Is there anyone out there that is doing this and would share some info with me? What i am looking for is what type of equipment are you useing, (would like to know the dif. between a hot pressure washer and an actual low pres. steam machine if there is one.) How much hose do you recommend to start out with, and how much fuel do you think it takes to run the machine for an hour. well if there is anyone doing this and would share some info with me that would be great thinking would like to offer this service for next year.
  2. tuney443

    tuney443 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,847

    All you need is a garden hose tapped off a hot water source.I've done it a few times,not commercially,just for my own houses.
  3. mricefish

    mricefish Member
    Messages: 31

    more thinking of doing this commercially, and with garden hose the water useage/runoff would be quite high. but that is one of the questions i forgot to ask, are the steamers able to just use a regular outdoor water garden hose hook up with out anything else freezing up? I do plan on visiting a place that sells pressure washers and some of my questions I think will get answered there, but have not had time away from work to get that done yet.
  4. DodgeBlizzard

    DodgeBlizzard Senior Member
    Messages: 526

    This is one of those things if I lived across the street I would definitely grab my camcorder and yell ''hey honey, you gotta come see this''. haha ps: Our main business is pressure washing.
  5. tuney443

    tuney443 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,847

    I did the R+D for you.Took 2 minutes to find.Cut me in for 5% of your first year's profits.:)
    www.americanpressureinc.com/ - Actually,this wouldn't be a bad gig to get into by me maybe--got me thinking now.
  6. leon

    leon Senior Member
    Messages: 872


    In order to do this properly is to use a steam jenny mounted on a truck or trailer.

    You will need to decide on whether you want an electric steam jenny or a fuel powered unit.

    The electric ones are easier to manage as the repairs are quick to acccomplish.

    The monster under the bed is lime scale in the hot water tubing where it passes on its way to make steam.

    This is why you want a water softener tied into the water supply to provide soft water to eliminate scale build ups.

    IF you can use the clients water its simple enough to attach a garden hose to the water softener and have conditioned water to prevent scale build up.

    The other issue is needing a lot of water other wise and it stil needs to be softened to prevent
    scale build up.

    Once the coils have scale building up in the coils its bye, bye, and you need new coils.

    You can get around this by using a very small home heating boiler to make steam to use to do the job but you still need a water supply AND soft water.

    The home heating boiler will heat water to make steam with much less trouble for you.

    It will simpler and less costly to use an electric heated boiler with a generator for 220 volts to do the job for you,

    The home heating boiler will be easier to take care of and clean and repair as it has fewer parts and better heat exchanging methods using a boiled water basin below the burner if using fossil fuel of submerged electric elements.

    If you have to haul water you will need a trailer with at least 1500 gallons to manage a job as you will be using water to make steam and using low pressure steam to melt and break up the ice jams at 4-5 gallons per minute.

    You have to fully under stand that the shingles will get very warm and warmer AND the steam will strip paint in the blink of an eye.

    A simpler option would be a fossil fuel fired forced air furnace and using insulated portable ducting securing it where needed with ice spikes and simply let the hot air work in small areas as the heat will follow the roof line until the ice is melted and you need to move the ducting again.

    The issue with ice is clogged gutters and poorly insulated homes and that will never go away.
  7. TDS Landscaping

    TDS Landscaping Junior Member
    Messages: 15

    I saw a great market opportunity in my areas this year for ice dam removal, so i put a rig together and was QUITE profitable, even in the first year here. Rates around here are $250 for the 1st hour and $150 an hour thereafter. One large ice dam will take between 3 and 4 hours to get rid of, if you don't want to damage the shingles. North of me, in the Twin Cities i heard of rates as high as $400 an hour to remove ice dams because demand was so high.

    We purchased a Northstar hot water/steam pressure washer (http://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/product_200324565_200324565) and had good luck with it after initial repairs.. It had a few issues right off the bat, but luckily Northstar is right here in Southern MN, and turn around time at the factory was only about 24hrs usually. Would have been a pain otherwise. Once they got all the warranty issues taken care of, the thing has been flawless and worked great. Not to mention it will make a great summer rig for house washing, deck washing, cement cleaning/degreasing, etc..

    Due to high volume of business we also purcased an Aaladin (http://www.aaladin.com/site/) steamer from a local dealer. This is an electric model with a diesel burner, so its not as versatile as the Northstar rig, but it is much simpler and has much less to potentially go wrong with it, and it puts out hotter steam than the Northstar, so it is a little quicker in some cases (but overall you are limited by what you can do without damaging the roof). I think if i wanted to do ice dams only, (and maybe some degreasing) i would definitely purchase an electric steam only unit.

    We have 150ft of commercial garden hose and 150ft of high pressure steam hose for each unit, and have found this almost always allows us to reach a water source and reach the roof surface. But we purchase in 75ft lengths to allow flexibility when we don't need all 150ft.

    We learned not to run the rigs below 0, or at high wind chills below 0, because the process between hooking up and turning water on often led to problems.. When running in the winter, to be safe, you do need t run anti-freeze through all the lines between every job.

    The amount of diesel used really depended on how cold it was out, and how much of the time was spent with the trigger down.. On colder days with huge dams we saw usage rates of around or slightly above 2 gallons per hour, but normal usage was between 1 and 1.5 gals per hour.

    As far as what leon said.. We have never worried about hooking up to soft water supply... We simply descale the machines every 25-100 hours, depending on how quickly it scales. You just run a special detergent through it, let it sit, then turn on full flow with no wand, it blasts most, if not all of the scale out.. This is the way we were instructed by both Northstar and Aaladin, and it works great. If scale ruined machines no one would buy them, because it builds up reasonably quickly under commercial use.

    We also offered seasonal roof snow removal accounts on a 2-3" trigger.. many people who previously experience ice dams realized it was cheaper to pay for preventative snow removal than to pay for ice dam removal.

    Good luck!


    Good luck, its a good business to be in when there is alot of snow..
  8. White Gardens

    White Gardens 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,665

    Instead of a Steamer, has anyone thought about installing the electrical heating system for gutters?

    Seems like that would be profitable too.
  9. duane1982

    duane1982 Member
    Messages: 30

    Grab and sledge hammer and some salt.

    We bust most ice on the eaves standing on it and wacking it.

    Some will stick to shingles and use salt or calcium to melt the little tiny pieces left if you want it 100% gone.

    I'm sure everyone will jump all over me for this. This is how it's been done forever, never had a problem hurting anything and it doesn't hurt shingles and salt doesn't stay in the gutters long enough to do any harm.
  10. leon

    leon Senior Member
    Messages: 872

    steam etc.

    Rep to you Jordan for your comments;

    I mentioned the household steam heating boiler due to
    its very compact size as an option small foot print on a trailer.

    Another viable option with even less labor invvolved is this one;

    In Holland they sterilis all the bulb gorwing fields with steam, yes steam!,

    The previous seasons bulbs have been harvested and the residue being
    the bulb leaves are reclaimed and the land left for the season.

    The next season long before the new bulbs are planted to make more bulbs
    the gorund they will be planted in is sterilised with steam.

    This is accomplished with peforated steam hoses covering the entire field
    where the parent bulbs will be planted.

    The portable steam generator is set up and the hoses covering the field are
    set up through the field.

    Then the easy part comes; heat proof tarpaaulins are laid over the ground and the
    steam hoses and the edges are sealed. the steam generator is started and the
    steam is manufactured.

    The amount of steam required is enough to sterilize the ground to the depth
    required for planting depth of the bulbs

    I believe the temperature generated is 165 degrees and the pressure is 15 pounds
    per square inch with the perforations in the steam hoses acting as the relief valves in
    the field.

    The amount of steam required depends on the size of the growing field of course.

    Using steam hoses like this and heavy tarpaulins would be very easy but you would
    want Yak traks on your boots and a full body harness tied off with a drop stop or a
    partner winding and unwinding the rope as you work and pulling you back after the lines and tarpaulins are set.

    The best thing is that you can leave it and the steam will both melt the ice and also act dry the area as well.
  11. mricefish

    mricefish Member
    Messages: 31


    Thanks for the reply I can really use some of the info to decide if i am going to get into this for next year. from prior post was kind of worried about scale build up. but i can handle a flush of the system once in a while. The only other thing that i can think of right now is do you store your unit in heated building when not using it? my plan is to put it in my attached garage, but dont have heat in there yet, but don't think it should be too bad, we leave pop on the shelf and they have not froze yet, but a pail of water on the floor it has froze once in a while. if i can think of anything else i may pm you for some more info. but thanks again for your response that did answer a bunch of questions i had.
  12. TDS Landscaping

    TDS Landscaping Junior Member
    Messages: 15

    Ya, the scale is not a huge deal.. The worst part about it is when a little chunk breaks off with the wand on and clogs the tip. Then you gotta get down off the roof, turn off the boiler and engine (to be safe, don't want steam in your face), unclog, and start up again. The occurrence is rare, but irritating. Hooking into soft water when possible is certainly a bonus. We never had anyone complain about us hooking into their water supply. I don't know what water rates are in your part of the country, but even for a 4 hr job (not all 4 hours is with trigger down) i figure we use no more than 600 or 700 gallons of water.. In my area, that's around $3 (that includes water and sewer/storm sewer) In the grand scheme of a $750 job, its peanuts. We thought about getting a tank for our rig, but never saw a need. We just load ours on a 5x8 mowing trailer, strap em down, and unload at the end of the day.

    We stored ours in a heated garage maybe about 20% of the time, but most of the time it was not heated. As long as you thoroughly run antifreeze through the pump and coils you will not have a problem. Where the heated garage comes in handy is when its really cold, say 0*F or below, because if the thick metal of the pump and steel coils are warm, the core of the pump will stay fairly warm as long as your job site isn't too far away. Whereas if you store it in a cold area, what can happen is that when you turn the water on, if you don't get high flow right away from the garden hose, the water can hit the freezing pump and literally freezup as it is trying to pass through the pump. We had this happen twice but quickly learned our lesson. When we had to work when it was real cold and were too far from the job site to keep the pump warm on the drive, we would carry around a 85,000btu kerosene heater to warm the pump before and during start up of the machine. Once you get high pressure flowing, you will not have a problem. The problem mainly comes at start up. Once you get a system down, you will not have a problem. We learned from our mistakes and so will you.

    Our plan for next year is to buy a 5x8 covered trailer, run a triple wall stack out the top to vent the boiler, and insulate the trailer..That we between job sites we won't have to worry so much about it gettin' cold.

  13. SamWJones13

    SamWJones13 Member
    Messages: 30

    I've been looking to get into this myself. I really like the gas powered units from North Star but I've heard the pressure of a hot water pressure washer can damage a roof. I know the actual steamers have pressure closer to 200-300 PSI rather than the 4000 PSI one I'm looking at. I think you can turn down the pressure on certain North Start machines but has anybody else had problems with this at all? I did hear that pressure washers can damage roofs from a guy that only uses steamers and obviously wants to promote his own business so I take it with a grain of salt.
  14. mricefish

    mricefish Member
    Messages: 31

    Ok, Would also like to get down to the 200 300 lb of pressure (or what ever a good lower setting is) instead of 4000, so when they say a machine is classified as as a steamer, is that basically a hot water pressure washer that can just be turned down to the lower pressure? I also think that if you went at full pres. 3/4000 lb it would do more damage than you wanted, and would be too much water run off to sidewalks/driveways to get rid of. Now I have only been to one shop where they sell these to get some research done and they could not get me out the door fast enough lol, gave me a brochure and just said when you pick the unit you want let us know and we will order it..... and walked away. So as you can guess none of my questions got answered there, so am back to here now. But have all summer too to figure out what one i am going to try to go with. There is a shop over in MN that looks to be a good one to go to, so thinking will stop at that one when we get over that way sometime in the summer. otherwise will call them, on there web site it shows that they have used machines and sell just for this purpose so need to talk to them i think.
  15. SamWJones13

    SamWJones13 Member
    Messages: 30

    I talked to someone from Northstar who said the 4000 psi machine I'm looking at can be turned down to 1000 PSI. I would think having the pressure all the way down and using a 15 or 30 degree nozzle would prevent damage.

    I know there are some differences between hot water pressure washers and real steamers but I really don't want to spend that kind of money on something is usless in the summer. What I'm gathering from my research is that there are low pressure steam machines that are made specifically for this type of work, and then there are hot water pressure washers that have the capability to get water hot enough for steam. I've seen pressure washers that get up to 250 degrees max and I've heard steamers can get up to 300 or 350 and use 1.5 gpm or so.
  16. Knockah22

    Knockah22 Senior Member
    Messages: 245

    Never had any expeirence doing this, but have you ever thought of using acetate(runway de-icer) and a small sprayer?
  17. leon

    leon Senior Member
    Messages: 872

    ice jams


    You will create a lot of damage with a steam gun before you recognise it as the asphault will heat up and the grit will break loose.

    If you have LOW PRESSURE steam at 15 P.S.I., or less in a header pipe with holes in the pipe to distribute the steam under a heavy tarpaulin it will work much faster with zero damage to the roof.

    The smallest steam boiler for home heating and heavy canvas tarpaulins employed with a steam header pipe are the only reliable damage free way to remove ice dams short of deicing cables

    and it will cost you less money to own and maintain as there are no coils to plug.
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2011
  18. SamWJones13

    SamWJones13 Member
    Messages: 30

    any machines you would recommend? I've been looking for something in the $4000 range. I don't see how lower pressure (1000 psi) hot water (210) would do any more damage than a 350 degree steamer no matter how low the pressure is? I've never done this before so I'm not claiming to be the expert, just going off what I've observed.
  19. leon

    leon Senior Member
    Messages: 872

    ice build ups

    What you need is a basic oil fired steam boiler that will give you continuos

    steam at low pressure to feed the steam to a header pipe under a tarpaulin to

    dissolve the build up.

    The smallest residential steam boiler of 100-200,000 B.T.U. will work well as

    long as you have good tarps and purchase the right flexible hose to feed the

    steam to one or more header pipes.

    The brands I am familiar with are Lennox and Utica boiler and they have been

    building them for a long time.

    Dissolving ice takes time and patience and a header pipe and heavy canvas tarps

    will do it for you as simply dissolving the downspouts ice build up is not going to do it.
  20. SamWJones13

    SamWJones13 Member
    Messages: 30

    From the sounds of it, you guys do it totally different then we do in Minnesota. I've never seen anyone using tarps or anything like that.

    This is what most guys in our area are using http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XVVRCy8jAY&feature=related

    or there's always the fly by nighters with picks, chisels, hammers, chainsaws etc. etc.