In the winter months, we know how to take care of our driveways, porches and outdoor steps. We shovel, we spread salt. That’s how we prevent injuries.

What we don’t always do, however, is protect our roofs from accumulating ice that can not only damage the roof and cause water damage inside the house, but can also cause injury as well. That is why more people are installing roof de-icing systems that prevent our roofs from building up snow, ice and icicles.

These systems are fairly basic. A series of heating cables are laid on the roof and connect to a power outlet. The heating cables melt a path through the snow and ice on the roof to prevent water damming that would otherwise leak into the house and cause the large icicles from forming off your gutters. Here are the benefits:

Safety. Icicles will eventually fall and potentially strike people, causing injury (and potential liability). Or, they lead to ice buildup on the driveway, which can cause people to slip and fall.

Roof protection. These systems prevent ice from building up and causing cracks in the roof and potential leaks into your home if the cracks get too big. So a system can not only make your roof last longer, but also prevent expensive and damaging leaks.

Easy to install. Heating elements are easy to cut to size, and either nailed or stapled to the roof.

Low maintenance. These systems require virtually no maintenance.

Take up little space. The system is controlled by a small control box that is mounted on a wall either in the home or garage. So it takes up virtually no space, and is barely noticeable.

Efficient. These systems are fully automated and energy efficient. Almost all of the energy goes to de-icing.

Low-cost operation. The actual cost depends on where you live, but generally you can provide continuous snow melting for 300 square feet for about $0.35 per continuous hour.

Fully automated. Systems consist of devices that automatically detect precipitation and temperature so that the system only operates as needed. When not needed, the system shuts down.

Of course, these systems are not a substitute for a properly constructed roof. And make sure you install self-regulation cables. They can be cut to any length, are more energy efficient than heating or parallel resistance cables, and can overlap without the risk of overheating.