Retractable Awnings – Are They for You?

Retractable awnings offer a slew of advantages over fixed awnings, from easy installation to longer lifetimes. As the name indicates, retractable awnings retract, folding to help control the placement of the shade or to protect the awning. Because of their durability, retractable awnings can be long-term fixtures on the exterior of a home or commercial building, providing better outdoor living and working spaces; offering, sun, heat, glare and ultraviolet ray (UV) protection; and enhancing exterior appeal.

Finding Purpose: Uses for Retractable Awnings

Retractable awnings are most commonly used for element protection. Over 70% of awnings are purchased specifically to provide shade. This shade is primarily for comfort, to cut down on the brightness of the sun, cool off outdoor ambient temperatures, and make entrances more welcoming, but there are other benefits as well:

o Energy savings. Retractable awnings and vertical drop screens can lower indoor temperatures by 75% and cut air conditioning use by 25%, which significantly lowers energy bills.

o Element protection. Awnings and drop screens protect areas from weather like rain and wind or from glare and UV rays from the sun.

o Allergen protection, particularly by vertically-hanging awnings used as screens around patios.

o Privacy for activity areas such as spas or hot tubs and pools.

Retractable awnings can be used for any kind of outdoor exposure, like patios and seating areas, and for indoor areas, such as over windows and doors. There are significant differences between
retractable and fixed awnings:

o Visibility. Many fixed awnings use stanchions or posts which can block the view; retractable awnings are suspended, either by springloaded arms or with guidewires, depending on the syste. Since they do not require external support, they allow uninterrupted views.

o Easy installation. Retractable awnings are very simply mounted onto the structure at points like a wall or beam without heavy labor or construction.

o Variety of use. Retractable awnings can go in small or special areas, such as over windows, where fixed canopies would not be appropriate.

o Changeability. Retractable awnings can move according to different weather conditions, such as changing the slope of the awning during rain, closing during storms, or using a series of awnings across a long outdoor area that follows the sunlight.

Saving Your Environment – Where Awnings Can Go

The protection from retractable awnings can apply in unexpected places. The most obvious places where shade would be appealing are in Sun Belt states with sunny and dry climates. Interestingly, retractable deck and patio awnings for sun protection are extremely popular in Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey, despite long winters and heavy precipitation, because the high cost of electricity makes energy savings important.

Whether a retractable awning is useful depends on how that area will be used and if it is possible to find a design suited to that specific need. Ask yourself a few questions to help identify if a retractable awning can meet your needs:

Why is the awning being used?

Figure out clearly why that area needs protection and what element you want to control. The requirements for the awning are different for rain protection and sun protection. For example, to use the awning in wet areas, have at least a 3 inch slope, or pitch, to the awning per foot of extension. If an awning extends 12 feet, the pitch should be 36 inches, meaning that the awning must be mounted 3 feet higher than the height at the end of the awning fully extended. Awnings in sunny locations with little can be nearly flat. For other situations, awnings may not be ideal; high, sustained winds can seriously damage awnings, as can the weight from snow, ice, and hail. Accessories like wind or motion sensors can also be used to protect the retractable awning in less than ideal conditions.

Where should the awning be placed?

If the goal is to lower energy costs, than the awnings should cover windows or doors facing the direction that receives the most sustained sun. If the awning is to extend comfortable living areas outdoors, consider large awnings or series of awnings that track the sun and control glare, heat, and UV rays.

What design suits the living space and purpose?

Retractable awnings can be custom-sized to fit the target area exactly. Additionally, there are dozens of different retractable awning styles, like small canopies for windows, elongated dome canopy awnings for wide exteriors, or vertical screens and side arm / drop arm retractable awnings for patios. Make sure you find the kind of style that best fits your space.

Does the awning need to retract? Under what circumstances?

Retractable awnings have a variety of sensors and accessories which control the awning automatically. Sun, rain, motion, and wind sensors can automatically retract the awning to protect them from the elements or to extend them to provide protection at the required time.