Small icicles are usually just an after effect of warming and refreezing snow and ice from the winter sun.
Excessive or hefty icicles on your gutters and eaves are usually an indication of attic air leaks and inadequate attic insulation. This can lead to ice dams or blockages, which cause minor to major destruction to the roof deck or shingles and ultimately damage to the inside of your home.
Hot or mild air from your attic causes snow on the roof to melt and spill down the incline of the roof. The air temperature around the eaves and gutters is colder, and when the melting snow hits this cool area, icicles are usually formed. Redundancy of this cycle of melting and freezing generates ice to build up at the edge of the roof, forming icicles and likely an ice dam.
Ice dams hinder the melting snow, causing the water to seep under the shingles and into the insulation, and possibly into the house itself. Imperfect or sparse attic insulation allows the roof deck to become warm, which initiates the melting process.
Air leaks or cracks are another culprit, and commonly occur around vents, chimneys, light fixtures, ductwork or any other area where heated air from the house flows into the attic.
When it comes to removing icicles safely, common sense is important. In addition to the aforementioned preventive measures, there are usually three ways to get rid of these pesky ice formations, consisting of sawing, hacking, and burning. Sawing in sections from top to bottom is generally the safest. Burning is the least safest of all the methods.
Safety goggles should be worn to prevent the possibility of being hurt by the heavy ice or ice "shrapnel."
If you have to use a ladder, make sure someone is holding it.
Clambering over icy roofs is even more dangerous, and it is far too easy to slip off the roof, when it is covered with ice.
The homeowner isn't the only person in danger when it comes to removing icicles.
According to the Death in Society Research Foundation, an undocumented number of people die or are injured every year from icicle related incidents.
It is crucial that for the safe removal of icicles, that the immediate vicinity under the icicles is cordoned off.
This should stop passers-by from accidentally wandering below cascading icicles.
As with most things in life, the safe removal of icicles can be easily done with the application of a bit of common sense.
All that is required is some well-thought judgment about the safety of the person removing the icicles, and anyone else who might be in vicinity.