Snow Guards for Solar Panels

As you’re aware, I’ve retired from the world of solar panel racking. As you may not be aware, Alpine SnowGuards manufactures the only snow retention system for solar arrays. Yes, we make a product that keeps snow and ice from sliding off the roof from solar panels in the form of a sudden avalanche (Take a look at the options!)

Why, you ask? Let me tell you, this is a much more profound issue than most people can possibly imagine.

The lion’s share of rooftop solar arrays that are being installed on residential projects in the United States are being installed/retrofit over existing roofing. Approximately 80% of these projects on steep-slope roofs (3:12 pitch or greater) are installs on composition shingles. The remaining 20% are primarily installs on concrete tiles. Both of these roofing materials have a rough texture that is known to create friction, which helps to retain snow loads.

Now you have that wonderful, green, save the planet, renewable energy solar array installed over the top of the existing “rough texture roof” and BOOM! Snow and ice now slide right off the roof – or to be accurate, right off the solar array – like an avalanche.

I’ve heard people describe the sudden release/avalanche of snow and ice as sounding like a freight train coming off the roof. Wow! Who knew? Well initially, as solar integrators installed arrays, they really didn’t anticipate this issue. However, after more than 15 years of a booming solar market, the fact is, the majority of installers out there have likely faced this dilemma before.

This issue is significant, sudden and dangerous.

So, why are some installers not making homeowners aware of this issue? Best guess: It adds cost that could potentially price them out of a job if the competition isn’t including it in their quote. Yeah, like the old saying goes, “what the buyer doesn’t know won’t hurt them.” In the case of snow and ice avalanching off a solar array, nothing could be further from the truth.

BUYER BEWARE: Work with contractors and integrators who inform you of both the pros and the cons of significant roof changes.

Alpine SnowGuards has designed and engineered a snow retention solution for every roof type including solar panel installations. Be advised that snow guards are available in two basic types; Pad-style and pipe-style. Pad-style snow guards act as a deterrent, helping to manage snow release, while pipe-style snow guards are more of a barricade that holds snow in place. Both styles help, each providing different degrees of protection.

If you would like more information, read through some of our past blogs about snow guard theory – or feel free to give Alpine a call to discuss the options.

At a minimum, know that with emerging technologies and changes in the roofing industry, new solutions can be beneficial; they can also cause unforeseen issues. That’s the way things are, and the best we can all do is design new solutions to mitigate any issues that may arise.

What never seems to change is the amount of detail sales people share when they’re trying to win a job. The system and technology are only as good as the people who install it. There are MANY great installers out there – do your homework, ask questions and ask to see photos of prior installs.

Doing the job isn’t the same as doing the job correctly.

Solar SnowMax-Standard installed on upslope tiers of a residential PV array. Image from Namasté Solar.

Alpine manufactures a handful of solar snow management options, including Solar SnowMax-R2 (for install on eave-edge of array), Solar SnowMax-Standard, for upslope tiers, and Solar Snow Pad, also for installation on upslope tiers. These solutions are being utilized across North America as homeowners, business owners and building owners alike have discovered how to manage the avalanche of snow and ice from their solar array.

I hope this information is helpful – my main goal is to get as much information out there as possible, in regards to rooftop snow retention. There’s a LOT to share. I hope you’ll stick around for the ride.

Until next time…

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, 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.

One thought on “Snow Guards for Solar Panels

  1. David Barrett says:

    How do I know if I need an SSM-R2 between every panel on an edge. My application is portrait orientation, 39″x78″ 2 rows high, 20 #/ft^2 with a 8:12 slope.

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