There are several different types of gutter covers but there are only 2 basic ways of preventing your gutters from getting clogged. The first is to cover them with a system that keeps blockages out but lets water in. The second way is to put something in the gutter itself that won’t allow leaves and other debris in but will allow the water to flow thru easily.
Available Gutter protection systems fit into the following categories:
Protective screens. These are made of metal or plastic. They are relatively low-cost and easy to install. Some fit on top of the gutter and some fit into the gutter. They are prone to bending or to damage and can still become blocked by snow, ice or fine debris and require some cleaning, even if less frequently. When screens become clogged they tend to weight down the gutter itself and this can weaken or even damage the gutter system.
Hooded products rely on water adhesion between the water and the gutter cover to direct the water streaming off the roof into the gutters while the debris gets deflected over the edge to fall harmlessly to the landscape below. Fine pieces of debris are carried by the water flow out of the downspouts. A quality Gutter Cover system will also strengthen the existing gutters.
Gutter fillers or “in-the-gutter” products fill the gutter with some sort of material, either a “brush” or foam filter which allows the passage of water but keeps large pieces of debris excluded while smaller debris may be retained. They are inexpensive and easy to install. They are prone to a build-up of mold and also need to be cleaned periodically. This may involve removal and refitting. Some of the materials can degrade over time and exposure to the weather and elements the filters become hard or brittle.
Dispersal systems replace conventional gutters and instead rely on breaking-up the water into smaller drops which fall in a pattern around the home. There is little control over the water and pooling around the foundation can occur, leading to expensive repairs, possibly erosion and damage to surrounding property, including that of the neighbors could result.
Integral (one-piece) systems replace the gutter with a gutter and protection in a complete, integrated unit. They are relatively expensive and would only be advised if complete replacement of gutters is necessary. Repairs are more expensive. Often multiple, awkwardly positioned downspouts may be required.
So the real question is up to the homeowner; which type of gutter covers work best? Systems which strengthen the gutter system are preferred as gutters may be required to bear loads for which they were not designed, leading to damage. Proven gutter cover systems can handle rain water during a heavy downpour. Preventing blockages is far more of a factor leading to damage. As one of the objectives is to eliminate cleaning as much as possible, those systems which may themselves require cleaning cannot be recommended. So although the screen and “in-the-gutter” types may be inexpensive and easy to install, this knocks them out of the equation. Dispersal types can’t get blocked but can allow water to damage the home or property, so they shouldn’t be considered, either.
This leaves the hooded or integral types. Although the hooded types have certain advantages in terms of repairs, it is a close call, especially if the gutter system needs replacement. Both will handle as much water volume as can reasonably be expected of them. A positive side to hooded systems is they also strengthen the gutter system and provide a more complete water management system, so a search here should provide a system of gutter covers which would satisfy all requirements.