Solar, Snow Loads and Chicken House Roofs

Submitted by Sunrise Solar on Wed, 10/03/2018 - 3:22pm
residential solar

Research shows that 1” of ice on a 12”x12”x1” or One Square = 10 pounds of weight. A light to
moderate snow equals one pound per square foot. The average weight of solar panels and racking is
approximately 3 - 4 pounds per square foot.

 Why can a residential roof hold solar panels and a chicken house possibly not?


  1. House roof structures are typically engineered heavier and most chicken houses are not engineered for additional loads.
  2. Chicken houses are a clear span.  Spanning anywhere from 50’ - 100’ wide with no walls in the center.
  3. Snow loads typically are at a bare minimum: usually never more than 5 lbs. per sq. ft. top and bottom chord. This means if you installed solar that weighed 3 lbs. per sq. ft., you took half of your top chord load. This does not take into consideration the additional weight that feeders and water lines add by hanging internally from your chicken house roof structure
  4. Heavy snow on the panels would require removing the added weight.  It is not recommended by any aluminum-framed, glassed-faced solar panel manufacturers to walk on them. This could void the warranty if proved that there are micro-cracks in the solar cells.
  5. Wind is another concern. Panels are held off roof anywhere from 5”-8” becoming a giant sail allowing a hurricane wind to lift solar, roofing material and purlins in one swift but the ugly site. Solar arrays can have as much as 600 volts of electricity flowing through the panels that could electrocute chicken and humans or start a fire.

There has not been a major blizzard since 2010, but the weather here on the East Coast is unpredictable. The 2010 Blizzard took down approximately 80 chicken houses and agricultural buildings on the Delmarva.  Chicken houses that have solar arrays mounted on them will be in danger at the next major snow event.  

We have been in the construction business for many years and know the important factors that go into every detail of a structure.

So, to answer the question: Can solar panels go on your existing chicken house roof? “NO”, unless there has been pre-planning at the time of construction or an extensive amount of retrofit bracing in knee braces, x-bracing, plywood gussets, and uplift plates to tie in purlins and trusses with an engineers approval.  

Sunrise Solar does not recommend Installing on an existing chicken house roof.  

If you are considering building new chicken houses and would like solar mounted on that structure, then you should include the additional costs of increasing truss capacity for the solar array.  Unless these steps are completed We recommend installing a ground-mounted solar array.  This is a matter of concern and integrity for the team at Sunrise Solar.

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