Clean those gutters


Autumn has officially arrived. Now is the time for tuning up heating systems, adding attic insulation where necessary, sealing out unwanted air infiltration and removing or winterizing window air conditioners. If you’d like a refresher in these areas, previous Smart Energy Tips columns can be found online at

Furthermore, if your house has rain gutters, fall is the time to inspect, clean and perhaps even consider some type of cover that eliminates gutter clogs. You may be wondering what gutters have to do with energy efficiency. Properly installed and performing gutters help channel away unwanted water away from the home — water that not only can damage the home, but affect energy efficiency.

We can thank many folks who came long before us for gutters. History reminds us that people in the Middle East were using clay drainage gutters around 3,000 to 1,500 BC. Also, the Romans had several uses for gutters from 27 BC to around 50 AD. In 1240, the Tower of London is believed to have had gutters and the first downspout to protect its whitewashed walls. Fast-forward to the 1960s and seamless gutters became popular in the United States due to the light weight, durability and strength of aluminum. Today, aluminum gutters are installed on nearly 70 percent of all homes in America.

The job of your gutters is to drain rainwater from your roof and relocate it to a place where it will not pool around the home’s foundation. Gutters are an important component for longevity of the home and do require periodic maintenance. Regrettably, they are often overlooked, and trouble can silently be in the making. Even gutters that have various protective covers can and do become clogged.

Water cannot reach the downspout of this gutter because it is filled with leaves and sticks.

Clogged gutters can create a host of problems. Over time, if gutters are not maintained, water can saturate the fascia board, which connects rafters, soffit and the outer wall. Wood materials that remain saturated over time will rot and eventually fail. Gutters that remain full of debris and water may cause the gutters to sag. When they are finally cleaned, water may not drain properly. Water-filled gutters also provide a breeding ground for mosquitos.

In worst-case scenarios, protracted water ponding in gutters may eventually wick, or reach the outer wall. When this happens, stains may be visible from inside the home. Furthermore, and out-of-sight, the wall insulation can absorb the water. Once this happens, the wall insulation becomes less effective and even ceases to provide a thermal barrier. With winter on the horizon, we’ll want our insulation to be nice and dry so it can do its job to help keep us warm in the winter and keep our electric bills manageable.

If you have gutters without a debris cover, be sure to safely clean them twice per year, or as needed. Hire it done if ladders and heights are not your thing. Also, consider proven gutter-debris covers. Online search engines are full of products, and I suggest researching their reviews before deciding on a product.

If you are in doubt about whether your gutters are working properly, have them inspected. A simple do-it-yourself method is to watch the downspouts during a rainfall, or use a garden hose and spray water up on the roof to make sure water is freely flowing from the downspout. Lastly, make sure rainwater is draining away from your home’s foundation, and ensure that landscape projects have not created water dams next to your home.

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Bret Curry is the residential energy marketing manager for Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation (AECC), which supplies wholesale electricity to the state’s 17 electric distribution co-ops.



Water cannot reach the downspout of this gutter because it is filled with leaves and sticks.

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