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Ice Dam Scam: You Best Check Out His Equipment

As industry pioneers in ice dam removal and ice dam prevention, we have been asked many times about the best method to use for ice dam removal in Minneapolis.  The answer is without question true steam.  The ‘true’ in that answer is intentional because there are many ice dam removal companies in Minnesota who are claiming to use steam even though they are not.  Buy our count the majority of the steaming companies are in fact using high-temp pressure washers.  It’s not like the homeowner would know the difference anyway.  Not until their roof is inspected the next summer when excessive granular loss (in the case of asphalt roofs) is discovered.  More on that later.

Let’s get back to the difference between a steamer and a high-temp pressure washer.  The easiest way to distinguish the two is to ask a simple question.  What is the average operating temperature of the machine throughout the course of a typical job?  You see, steamers emit steam at a minimum of 275 degrees from the time they are fired up to the second they are shut down.  Our steamers normally run at around 315 degrees.  High-temp pressure washers achieve temps of up to 300 degrees at start up but after a few moments of operation drop to just over 100 degrees.  Why should you care?  Because these machines need to rely on pressure to remove ice instead of temperature.  Pressure damages roofs, steam does not.  Here is a handy graphic that displays the fundamental differences between these two types of machine: Steamers vs. High-temp washers.

I can’t entirely blame homeowners for being duped by companies claiming to use steamers when in fact they are not.  It’s hard to tell the difference unless you know what you are looking for.  Both machines have a large kerosene fired burner assembly (either vertical or horizontal), both appear to produce steam out of the end of the gun when used, and both remove ice.  The differences are really, really important if you talk to anyone who knows, however.  In fact, a company called American Pressure sells the most ice dam steaming equipment and industrial pressure washers in the Midwest and is headed up by a father-son team named Gary and Ben Hagemann.  Here is there website: www.americanpressureinc.com, and here is their phone number: (763) 521-4442.  Call them and ask about the difference in performance between steamers and high-temp washers when it comes to removing ice dams.  Ask them which type of machine is faster.  Ask which is less likely to damage roofs?  Ask what equipment they would like to be used on their own homes.

This begs the question, Why doesn’t every contractor just buy steamers in the first place?   It comes down the oldest incentive in the book.  Money.  They buy the very cheapest machines that they can use for as many things as possible.  Enter the high-temperature pressure washer.  At one quarter the cost of a steamer, a high-temp pressure washer can be used all year long for washing cars, boats, decks, fences, roofs, sidewalks and more.  Sure they slower at removing ice dams than a steamer and far more likely to cause damage to asphalt shingles, but their sheer versatility is too much for the average contractor to resist.  Our steamers run around $4,000 before we customize them for our work and they can only be used for one thing; steaming the shit out of ice dams. (I was told I could swear because it’s a blog…sorry).

We guarantee that the machinery we are using are in fact true steamers.  Period.  I suggest that anyone hiring a company to remove ice dams in Minneapolis using steam check very carefully into the accuracy of that company’s claims.  Look closely at the machine that shows up in your driveway.  Write down the make and model, run inside and call Gary or Ben to get their opinion.  If you care about spending as little possible to safely remove the ice dams from your business or home and you hope to not find damage when the snow melts off the roof in the spring, you will kick those guys off your property before they get started.

Here’s the popular article Steve Kuhl wrote for JLC in 2011: Ice Dams 101.  If you care to geek out on the topic of ice dam removal and ice dam prevention you should really check it out.  None of our competitors can claim to be nationally published in this way.  Not to brag.


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