What to Do When Roof Solar Panels Create an Avalanching Snow Hazard

July 13th, 2015

The Problem

GZO Sheet Metal & Roofing specializes in Architectural Metals and Custom Metal and Copper Fabrications in Aspen, Colorado and the Roaring Fork Valley for over 12 years.  But they came upon a problem they weren’t quite sure they had the expertise, time or desire to tackle.

Their customer had a PV solar system mounted on his metal panel roof, but the solar panels were creating a dangerous snow and ice problem.  Every time the garage door opened to let a car in or out, a huge avalanche of snow spilled off the first row of panels and slid over the eave, right onto the incoming or outgoing car.  This was a real nuisance and concern to the owner, who also happened to be an architect!  His family learned to open or close the garage door, wait for the avalanche, and then move in or out.  There had to be a better and less dangerous way to enter and exit the garage.

Naturally, the solar arrays were installed to capture as much of the sun’s rays as possible, but the desire for optimal sun capture on the first course of panel arrays became a secondary issue in light of the danger of falling snow and ice. The decision to protect people and property became paramount.  Rows of panels further up the roof could continue to shed snow so that sunlight could be captured on them, but the first row needed some type of snow retention.

The Solution

Tom Hegerty, owner of GZO, was called in.  GZO did not want to create a make-shift snow fence in their shop sothey turned to TRA, who had helped with custom designed systems in the past.  This was a very unusual issue Hegerty and TRA had not run into before.

Hegerty provided TRA’s technical experts with a simple, hand-drawn sketch of what he envisioned- a taller than normal clamp which would raise the snow fence a few inches higher than the downhill edge of the panel, stopping the snow and ice from moving over the edge.  Using that simple drawing, the engineers at TRA Snow & Sun then computer designed a custom 2 rail fence, and provided an exact detail to scale so Hegerty could approve it.  An appropriate power-coated color was matched to the existing metal panel, the homeowner approved the design and production began on the unusual snow fence.  The process of designing the new, customized snow fence began in March, with manufacture and shipping following soon after.  Installation of the fence was completed in April, just in time for unexpected and unusually heavy snowfalls in May.

The Result

The end result was a manufactured, custom C22Z Standing Seam Snow Fence, that clamps onto the standing seam metal panel, and wraps around the front edge of the solar panel to prevent snow from falling off the panel.  The snow fence extends high enough at the bottom edge of the panels to keep snow and ice from damaging property or people on the ground below. The new design was tested earlier than expected when heavier than normal snowstorms hit the area during May.  TRA’s customized snow fence performed perfectly.  Vehicles and people now enter and exit the garage with no further waste of time or fear of being bombarded by snow and ice.

GZO Sheet Metal & Roofing Inc. specializes in architectural metals and custom metal and copper fabrications for all types of roofing – wood shingles, standing seam, slate, asphalt shingles, membrane roofing and tapered deck systems They are focused on superior craftsmanship, attention to detail, clear communication, honesty and integrity.

TRA Snow and Sun, Inc., located in American Fork, Utah, offers Roof Snow Retention Devices, Solar Mounting Systems and Roof Flashing Solutions. They supply to all types of customers, from the individual homeowner to the big developer and free engineered designs of all their systems. For more information call Devin Hancock at TRA Snow and Sun at 800-606-8980, devin@trasnowandsun.com, or visit https://trasnowandsun.com