Retractable awnings are now becoming very popular with homeowners in the United States. They have been popular in Europe for many years, due to higher energy costs and lack of air conditioning. Retractable awnings can include the following types:
Retractable patio cover systems
Retractable patio cover systems are the latest “entry” in to the retractable market. Most of these systems are water-proof as compared to water-resistant (lateral arm awnings) and therefore allow no water penetration through the fabric “roof” section. These systems meet Beaufort scale wind loads up to Beaufort 10 (55-63 mph) depending on model and size. Another advantage of retractable patio cover systems is that they can be enclosed on the front and sides using solar shade screens (see below). This allows for an “outdoor room” that can be heated in the winter and air conditioned in the summer.
Retractable lateral arm awnings
These are a modern version of the old storefront crank-up awnings of the last century. Tension arms and a roller bar are supported by a torsion bar. The torsion bar fits into wall or soffit brackets that spread the load to the width of the wall. Hand-cranked awnings are still available, but motorized awnings are now most common. The motor is inside the roller tube. Many motors now have a built-in receiver and are operated by remote control or home automation.
Lateral arm awnings are also known as deck or patio awnings, as they can extend as far as 18 feet (5.49 m) and be as long as 30 feet (9.14 m) or more – thus covering a large outdoor space.
Retractable side or drop arm awnings
Commonly used to shade a window, with a roller tube at the top, spring-loaded side arms, and a motor, crank or tape-pull operator. Awnings with sides are commonly known as traditional style awnings as they have been used for many years dating back to the early 19th century using cotton canvas fabric. Traditional style awnings are appropriate for historical buildings and are still popular today using a more weather resistant fabric such as a solution dyed acrylic fabric such as Sunbrella Fabric and a rope and pulley system for retracting the awnings. Awnings without sides do not provide as much sun protection as those with sides. Awnings without sides come in many different styles. Drop Arm Awnings without sides come with roller tubes at the top and are available with motors and wind sensors for automatic retraction. Spear Awnings are made without sides and are made with Wrought Iron Frames and they can be retracted with a rope and pulley system but are not available with motors.
Awnings with sides provide the best sun protection for east and west facing windows. North and South facing windows can be protected from the sun with awnings without sides. Awnings provide shade keeping your house cooler, awnings are also great shade creators around porches, decks and patios.
Portable, pop-up canopies
A portable pop-up canopy or tent provides a cost effective temporary solution to people who want to enjoy shade. The portable designs offer versatility to take the unit to social events. The frame usually incorporates an accordion style truss which folds up compactly.
Retractable solar shade screens
Shade screens utilize acrylic canvas or a mesh fabric, which allows some view-through while blocking the sun’s rays. The roller at the top may be hand-cranked or motorized. The fabric is gravity-fed, with a weighted bottom rail pulling the fabric down between guide rails or guy wires. Exterior shades are much more effective at blocking heat than interior shades, since they block the heat before it enters the glass. This style of framed screens is typically done by professional installers, because of the specialized frames and tools required. A recent advancement is frame-less shade screens, which allows a “DIY-er” to install their own exterior shades.