Awnings have evolved in recent years from basic rain coverings for outdoor spaces to a colorful way to spiff up a dull façade. Now, increased interest in conserving energy has found most home-owners taking yet another look at awnings. With triple digit temperatures an annual occurrence, awnings are an obvious method for cutting home cooling bills, thus saving money and preserving limited natural resources.
"Anything you shade with an awning is going to have a near 100 percent heat reduction," says Bill Welch, owner of Ashland's Deluxe Awnings. "When you consider that approximately 90 percent of the heat in your house comes in through the windows, if you're able to eliminate much of that heat, you're miles ahead on being able to cool your house efficiently."
While awnings, in and of themselves, conserve natural resources by reducing home cooling costs, homeowners can take things a step farther. When awnings wear out, which takes 10 to 15 years with newer materials, go for refinishing over total replacement.
"If frame quality is good, you can be financially ahead to have it redone, versus buying new," says Deluxe Awnings owner Bill Welch.
As for worn out fabric, put the scraps to use as a reusable paint tarp or landscape cloth, giving old awnings a new job instead of filling up landfills.
On average, awnings reduce temperatures by 15-20 degrees or more. Available in a range of custom colors and patterns, quality no-fade fabrics can be custom ordered to match paint colors. A giant step from rusty, awkward framing a half century ago, new awning framework is made of custom-welded, powder coated lightweight aluminum, says Eagle Point's Pacific Northwest Canopy owner John Shawnego. In addition, awnings can be customized for any width and in extensions of up to 12 feet without added support underneath.
Available through local suppliers and online, awnings are available either "fixed" or "retractable." A small porch may want permanent covering while a large backyard deck may require a retractable setup to bring in warm rays on a cold day and offer shade during summer.
If opting for a retractable awning, you can choose a hand crank, electric crank or automatic, timed setup, says Shawnego. Timers are available, but result in more movement than homeowners typically want.
Homeowners opposed to the appearance of awnings can opt for less well-known retractable solar screens.
"Solar screens do an effective job of screening, especially for a west-facing window," says Welch. "With a retractable solar screen, you can see out beautifully (canvas blocks some view from inside) and still block 86 percent of the heat and light coming in the window."
Awnings pay for themselves over time through reduced utility bills. Installed, awnings range from $80 to $250 per linear foot, depending on fabric type, style (fixed versus retractable) and various "bells and whistles," says Shawnego.
For example, a 4-by-4 foot retractable awning, non-motorized, costs $480 while a 10-by-10 foot retractable unit could cost up to $1,220, he says. While local retail stores offer a limited selection of awnings, most awning companies offer free consultations and help determine homeowners' specific needs.
A final word of advice—homeowners who install blinds to block out solar rays are reducing light, but not heat, Shawnego says.
"People don't realize blinds are just defusing light," he says. "Once heat penetrates the window, the air conditioning still has to deal with it. You've got to reflect [it] from the outside or you're wasting your time."