Snow Melting Flat Roofs

The nature of flat roofs can cause problems in snowy areas if snow loads are not accounted for. Many flat roofs utilize a built-up roofing system, or BUR, consisting of layers of insulation, waterproofing membranes, with a top finish of gravel or crushed stone. These systems are typically heavy on their own, but adding a few inches or a foot of snow and that extra weight could cause some serious problems.

The average weight of saturated snow per cubic foot is 20 lbs. Allowing snow to accumulate on flat roofs could compromise the structural integrity of the building. Removal of snow can prove difficult with a BUR system because the gravel top layer is not compatible with radiant tubing and it is difficult to shovel.

Snow melting flat roofs requires high output over a large surface area due to the heat transfer properties of gravel. Radiant tubing technology just can’t get enough energy to the surface to effectively melt snow. A ThermaPANEL system can be installed on the roof and beneath the gravel and deliver enough heat to melt the snow load.

A thermal image comparing ThermaPANEL to tubing with standard spacing

If the flat roof utilizes a TPO, PVC, or EPDM, then another option for new construction or retrofits is to implement pedestal-mounted pavers. Pedestal paver systems provide a finished surface that allows for pedestrian traffic and proper water drainage without harming the membrane layers. We have talked about, snow-melting flat roofs with architectural pavers before, so if you are interested you can read that post.

If pedestals are not an option, or zero-pitch isn’t necessary, ThermaPANEL can be installed directly on top of a built-up foam assembly with a drainage mat. This installation would be finished with ballast pavers instead of gravel.

ThermaPANEL system installed on a flat rooftop in Fort Drum, NY for the North American Missile Defense System

Whether the goal is to create an amenity space, improve safety, or prevent extreme snow loads, snow-melting flat roofs are an effective solution. Effectively snow-melting flat roofs require a modular system that works with a variety of pavers and roof finishing systems and are efficient enough to transfer heat through a variety of masses. Out of the options currently available in today’s market, only one product meets these requirements.

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