What To Know About Retractable and Automated Awnings

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If you are thinking about creating an outdoor room or outdoor space in your backyard or adding a shade solution to your house, you may be considering an awning. An awning makes a beautiful addition to any home. Before you invest in one, it’s a good idea to become familiar with the different options available–from material and aesthetics to size and price.

Let’s start with the basics. An awning uses a metal frame to extend a piece of fabric and create a shaded area. The awning frame should be strong and sturdy, with a beefy look. The frame works with either a wall mount, a roof mount or a soffit mount, depending on whether your home is vinyl/brick/concrete; a condo or single story; or an older home with an eave. A good awning can reduce the temperature on your deck or patio by about 20-percent. And don’t forget about the 15-percent cooling affect it has indoors if your awning is covering a sliding door or windows).

With this in mind, it makes sense that the awning fabric be a high quality, long-lasting one, designed to withstand rays from the sun and other environmental conditions. We recommend Sunbrella brand awning fabric, which is a heavy, acrylic, breathable, marine-grade material. Whichever material you decide on, keep an eye out for a warranty on the fabric. A 10-year warranty would indicate a quality product that you can count on for a substantial lifespan.  It also means that the product is likely resistant to mildew and fading within that time period, which are two of the biggest threats to the longevity of your awning. Fading is the act of UV degradation, meaning the sun eats away at the fibers. By the time your eye notices the fading, the damage is done: the fabric has thinned and a tear will follow shortly. If you’re looking to replace the material, keep in mind it often makes more sense financially to replace the entire unit, rather than just the fabric.

Depending on the awning, you may have a lot of colors to choose from. Different colors and pigments reflect different percentages of UV rays. So darker colors reflect the sun more so than lighter colors, but they also retain more heat. Consider this when you envision the amount and type of shaded space you are creating. Awnings come in all different sizes, from widths of 8 or 10 feet to 25, with projections often varying between 8 and 12 feet. We always recommend leaving enough space to still enjoy the uninterrupted sunshine on part of the deck or patio from time-to-time, but also planning ahead and thinking about the activities you want to do in the shaded area (reading on a chaise? enjoying a meal with loved ones? entertaining a large group of friends and family?). Remember, an awning can provide valuable shade that will keep you and your loved ones protected from the harmful effects of the sun while still allowing you to enjoy the outdoors. Keep an eye out for a material that is recommended by the Skin Care Foundation.

Another tip for purchasing an awning is to find one that is motorized rather than manual (think cranking to open and close), and therefore has the capability of offering a wind sensor. A wind sensor will give you peace of mind. Even if you forgot to retract your awning when you left the house and that rain storm crept in. the device will automatically be drawn in when the first droplets hit. We highly recommend these wind sensors, which make bent and damaged awnings a thing of the past. Of course, a light drizzle won’t trigger the wind sensor, but anything heavier will. That’s a good thing, because pooling water will damage the material of the awning. Remember, while an awning does create an outdoor room of sorts, it is a shade product, not a rain/snow product.

Depending on the size of the space you’re looking to cover, awning prices range from about $600 from big box stores (think possibly DIY, and a relatively short lifespan because construction may not hold up over many seasons), to several thousand for a high quality unit that comes with warranties and rated materials.