Alpine SnowGuards in 2020: A first-of-its-kind research facility

It’s January 2nd, 2020. As I sit down to collect some thoughts for the business year and decade ahead, it’s hard to believe how quickly the last 10 years have passed. I heard a news announcer yesterday use the expression “The Roaring 20’s”. I like that. And I like that the outlook feels much more optimistic than it felt at the beginning of 2010.

Wishing you all the best in 2020!

New Plans for 2020

For years, Alpine SnowGuards has been asked just what it is that snow guards do. I’ve written a fair amount about this topic so I’ll try not to repeat myself. In short, snow guards are designed to impede the sudden release of snow and ice from roof surfaces. Yes, impede (Webster’s definition: “to interfere with or slow the progress of”). Results vary based on a variety of variables like roof type, pitch, snow density, device in question….the list goes on.

The question is still often asked, “but what do they do?” or sometimes asked differently, “what can we expect in terms of performance?” This often then leads to the question, “are they tested”? This is a much-misinterpreted set of questions. Yes, our snow guards are structurally tested but that’s really not what’s being asked. The real question is: “are there performance tests? What do they do?”

This feels like a good spot in the story to stop and take a minute to dispel the nonsense being spread by one particular competitor, who has been implying that they’re the only company who has actually tested their product. Alpine has tested every product line that we produce and sell with the exception of custom “one-off” products (those are tested upon request, sometimes by the customer with a specialized application – cost is often shared). We’ve been conducting product structural testing since the early 1990’s, with the results being incorporated into our design tool, the Online Project Calculator (sign up using the link, or contact the Alpine staff if you would like more details). The calculator is certified by a structural engineering firm who’s licensed in all 50 states. A certified or “stamped” calculation for all projects that utilize the calculator is available at no charge. Project-specific structural engineering stamps are available – if you’d like more details, please give us a call at 888.766.4273.

Just like the passing of the years changes things, materials can and do change, specifically (but not exclusively) in the metal roofing business. Material thicknesses will vary, coatings will vary and sometimes, substitutes are used on projects in order to save money. Slate thicknesses vary also, synthetics sometimes change formulations and tile is all over the map. In addition, installation techniques have evolved. Natural slate, for example, has at least 3 new, less expensive installation methods due to the use of less material. Some synthetic slate is installed in interlocking tile configurations instead of a typical overlapping slate style, etc. For this reason, January is the month we’ll start to retest every product that we offer. As the owner of Alpine SnowGuards, I believe that product testing is essential. If a manufacturer cannot provide structural testing values that are less than 10 years old, those values should be questioned.

As I said above, structural testing in this business doesn’t address the questions that are really being asked. What our customers, building owners, architects, engineers, etc., really want to know is, how do these products perform? So, we began conducting performance testing in Toronto, Canada (a few photos from the initial testing are below).

A first-of-its-kind research facility

One of the ways we’ll continue to stay on top of research and snow guard performance is by employing the use of the new building that we’ve recently constructed at our facility in Vermont. The sole purpose of this building is to study and monitor snow guard performance. This is the first and only project of its kind that we’re aware of.

The building is a salt box configuration. One side is 7/12 pitch and the other side is a 12/12 pitch. The roof is divided into 3 separate roof sections. Section one is metal, section two is composition shingles and section three is synthetic slate. This allows us to monitor each roof type, on different roof pitches, side by side with other common roofing materials so that we aren’t just monitoring snow guard performance, we’re simultaneously monitoring snow guard performance on different roofing materials.

We’ve also constructed a roof with natural slate next to clay tile, a membrane mock up and a solar panel mock up. All of these mock ups are monitored by 16 cameras operating on a 24/7 basis. One of the cameras captures images of our factory roof which has a 3/12 pitch standing seam metal roof, both with and without snow guards.

This ongoing, multi-year study (which will evolve and change as we document data) will be the topic of many future blogs as winter conditions in Vermont allow us to capture data. We’ll begin posting video clips soon to show our customers how our products perform in varying conditions.

Since the early 1990’s, Alpine has spent a great deal of time and money on structural testing of snow guards. Some of these results are now 20 years old. As we begin a new year, we’ll begin the process of completely retesting every product we offer. Our first-of-its-kind research facility will allow us to start the process of testing for performance – not just for strength. Structural testing is important, but on its own, it doesn’t answer the questions that are really being asked.

We’re both optimistic and enthusiastic going into 2020, as we continue to lead the snow guard industry with up to date structural snow guard testing, combined with the first of its kind performance studies that will help answer the questions that no other firm has been willing, or able, to tackle.

2020 will also see the launch of 2 new product lines, Fusion-Guard and one yet to be named, giving our growing customer base better options to meet their varying needs.

We look forward to working with you!

Brian Stearns

President & Founder

Alpine SnowGuards

We keep snow in its place


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Alpine SnowGuards designs, engineers, and manufactures snow management systems from our facilities in Morrisville, VT. We work closely with leading roofing contractors, engineering firms, developers, solar installers and roofing manufacturers to ensure we deliver quality products that do what we say they’ll do. Alpine SnowGuards can help a building qualify for LEED® credits.

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