As the sweating and panting through hours of oh-my-back shoveling played out Monday across snow-laden sidewalks and driveways, one industry sat idled - and was delighted to do so.

Solar installers were calling Sunday's storm a nonevent. The proof: Their phones were not ringing with customer complaints or pleas for help.

As it turns out, Rudolph's hooves and Santa's clunky boots were more of a risk to the well-being of the region's rapidly sprouting crop of solar panels than the foot or more of snow that fell on them.

In fact, bird droppings, pollen, squirrels chewing through wires, and birds building nests on the panels are more of a hindrance to their working properly than snow is, said Michael Perillo, who started Dynamic Solar L.L.C. in Berwyn in 2008.

Sun usually can penetrate piled-up snow enough to trigger photovoltaic systems to heat up, Perillo said - to the point that the snow pack will begin to melt and slide off the angled panels.

The weekend's storm was even less problematic than others have been because of the high winds.

"It was so windy, there was no snow on the roof [systems]," said Charles Reichner, owner of Heat Shed Inc. near Quakertown.

Ground-mounted systems got more accumulation because they were less exposed to the wind. But the mounds were nothing that a snow rake couldn't easily clear if you didn't want to wait for the sun to do the job, Reichner said.

A rather unfamiliar tool around here, a snow rake resembles a hoe but has a much wider head and a significantly longer handle, so the user can reach a roof while standing on the ground.

Snow rakes are more common in New England and other parts of the country where hefty snows that linger for weeks are common and roof-clearing is essential to prevent cave-ins.

Reichner has customized his with a squeegee, so that rubber rather than metal passes over the solar panels he clears. Panels usually are made of tempered glass and could be scratched with, say, a shovel.

The way Reichner and Perillo see it, what the weekend storm did was prove what they emphasize in every sales pitch they make: that solar panels, once installed, are virtually maintenance-free.

Attesting to that was Karen Johnson, a spokeswoman for Public Service Electric & Gas, the New Jersey utility that earlier this year announced plans to install 200,000 solar panels on roadside poles, roofs, and undeveloped land. The panels are part of PSE&G's effort to meet a state mandate that 20 percent of electricity come from alternative-energy sources by 2020.

During the snowstorm Sunday, Johnson said, no utility crews were occupied with solar-panel maintenance, as far as she was aware. Downed power lines due to the wind were the problem, she said.

Even though the storm did prevent solar panels from cranking out peak amounts of electricity - on cloudy days, electrical generation is less than half what it would be under full sun, according to PSE&G's website - "it's not an issue," she said, because snow days are accounted for when a solar system's anticipated output is calculated.

Perillo has already moved on to next weekend, when temperatures are expected to reach the 50s.

"Snow will be gone!" he gloated.

Contact staff writer Diane Mastrull at 215-854-2466 or dmastrull@phillynews.com.