Q -- The sun bakes our walls and deck. I need some type of movable
awning for shade and rain protection while still having a sky view at night and
solar heat in the winter. What is the best type of awning to use?-Paul N.
A -- Providing shade for your house and deck is very important for reducing
your peak air-conditioning load on hot afternoons. In particular, if your house
has brick or masonry walls, the sun's heat is absorbed and this can keep your
house uncomfortably warm well into the evening.
There are several types of movable awnings available,
but the most convenient for your needs is a large lateral arm retractable awning
to cover your deck and wall. In addition to providing shade, by selecting the
proper fabric, installing one can provide protection from even heavy rains and
A lateral arm retractable awning is unique because
it is supported only where it attaches to the house wall. This cantilever design
eliminates the inconvenience of having awning supports at the outer corners
that rest on the deck or patio. Since it is attached flush against the house
wall, it provides very effective and complete shading of the house wall when
it is opened.
There are hundreds of styles, patterns, and colors
of decorative fabrics that can be used on a retractable awning.
Since the fabric rolls up and is hidden against the
wall or under the roof soffit when it is closed, it is not continually exposed
to the sun's rays or harsh weather. This, along with ultraviolet ray inhibitors
in the fabric, provides it a long life with little fading. A lateral arm retractable
awning can be opened any amount, from just a few inches to its full projection
length. This gives you complete control over the amount of shading and rain
Although the lateral arms are very strong, they are
not strong enough to handle a heavy snow load in the full open position. I found
this out the hard way one winter when one side broke. This is generally not
a problem because you usually keep it closed in the winter for maximum passive
solar heat gain.
The two lateral arms are spring-loaded at the elbows
with the spring force trying to straighten them out. These springs create just
enough tension on the fabric, stored in the roll on the wall, so that it stays
taut no matter how far the awning is opened.
Mounted at the proper slope angle, rainwater will
not puddle on it.
Lateral arm retractable awnings can be made in sizes
from 4 feet to 40 feet wide with up to 14-foot projections out from the wall.
Since you can open one any amount you wish, it is often wise to get one that
has a slightly greater projection than you currently need. A larger one just
has slightly longer arms and a larger fabric roll against the house wall.
Even the largest awnings are easy to open and close
with a hand-crank mechanism. For more convenience, though, select an optional
electric motor drive that is hidden up against the house wall by the fabric
roll. Push a button and it opens or closes to any position. If your budget is
not tight, consider adding a high-tech wind and rain sensor to control it automatically
when you are away.
Another movable shading option for a window or wall
is a retractable vertical awning. The width can be as narrow as 2 feet for small
window shading or as wide as you need. They have hand cranks or are motorized
and they are available with see-through, colorful acrylic or total blackout