Retractable Awnings Growing in Popularity and Home Add-On

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Cool Shade Plus Protection from Hot Sun, Showers, and UV Rays Top HomeownerÂ?s Reasons, with Convenience a Close Second. But How Do You Choose the Right Awning for Your Home?

With gas prices hovering at all-time highs, and election-year travel worries and hassles to consider, the summer of 2004 saw the increasing popularity of home retractable awnings, as people put vacation money back into their homes, and used awnings as a way to create a “backyard getaway” on their own decks and patios.

“In the past four years we have seen exceptional growth in the industry,” says Jonathan Hershberg, President of SunSetter Products, the largest retailer of retractable awnings in the country. “Part of it is a growing awareness of the danger of too much sun and ultraviolet rays, part of it is the comfort and convenience factors, but a great deal of the popularity of awnings comes from the fact that people love their decks and patios, and awnings are a way for them to get the maximum use and enjoyment of their decks, beyond the ordinary patio umbrella.”

Retractable awnings let homeowners control the weather on their own terms. When passing showers threaten, or when the sun gets hot, they unroll the awning for near-instant protection and shade. (Lab test measurements show that it can be as much as 20 degrees cooler under an awning’s canopy.) When they want to enjoy the sunshine, they roll the awning back inconspicuously against the house.

Awnings also offer other benefits that many homeowners appreciate. Because awnings prevent the sun from shining through windows and sliding glass doors, they can keep temperatures inside the house cooler as well, which saves on air-conditioning costs. They can help prevent carpets and furniture from fading in sunlight. Awnings also provide a sheltered place for children and pets to play, shielded from direct sun.

Some of today’s awnings also offer accessories that can greatly increase the versatility and usefulness owners get from their decks or patios. A Screen Room add-on can easily turn an awning into a virtually bug-free “outdoor room,” side screening cuts down on wind and mist coming under the sides of awnings, and patio lights let people enjoy their decks evenings and nights.

Robust Growth in Awning Usage Nationwide — Despite Some Myths...

The home awning market has shown considerable growth in recent years. But with the advantages awnings offer, why isn't there an awning on nearly every deck or patio? “I think the main reason is a misconception about cost,” says Hershberg. “People seem to think that a good awning must cost thousands of dollars, but in fact you can get a top-of-the-line manually-operated model for just a few hundred dollars, and an unsurpassed quality motorized awning for not much more,” he adds.

“Instead,” says Hershberg, “people go out and buy a patio umbrella set, only to find that whenever the sun shines or the rain falls, there’s not enough room under the typical umbrella for everyone to keep from getting sunburned or wet. In contrast, there’s more than enough space under an awning. You can get an awning that is up to 10 ft. by 20 ft. That’s a lot of shade and protection.

“Homeowners also think that they can't install an awning under low eaves or overhangs, such as those on ranch-style homes or additions,” Hershberg continues, “but it takes less than seven feet of vertical space under an overhang to be able to fit one of our awnings.”

Model Types, Convenience, and Ease of Use.

Today’s awnings come in two basic types: Manually-operated models which are opened by hand, and motorized models which operate by electricity. Each offers its own advantages. SunSetter’s manually-operated models, for example, are designed so that any adult can open and close them easily, without any tools, in just a minute or so. Benefits include low-cost affordability, easy adaptability to almost any deck or patio, and support arms that can be angled back against the house or set vertically on the deck or patio floor. These arms provide extra support and stability which some owners prefer in windy areas such as seacoasts, and increase the awning’s versatility by making the attachment of certain options available.

Motorized Awnings have no vertical supports. Instead, they have retracting ”arms” instead of vertical supports. These arms are operated hooked by cable and to an electric motor, generally hidden inside the roller bar of the awning, which opens and closes operates the awning at the touch of a wall-mounted switch. SunSetter’s motorized model also offers a Remote Control option that lets you open the awning from anywhere, even from inside your home. Motorized awnings are the ultimate in convenience, with classic simplicity and beauty.

Most awnings do not have to be taken down at the end of the summer, They can remain retracted against the house all winter long. Yet they can be removed and taken with you if you move to a new home. (Most homeowners, however, choose to sell the awning with the home as a value-adding feature.)

Awnings such as the SunSetter can be installed quickly and easily over any kind of siding including vinyl siding, brick, and stucco, and on the underside of soffets and overhangs, using brackets made for that purpose. They can also be mounted on fences, garages, and other outbuildings, which makes them wonderfully suitable for use by pools and near permanent barbecue terraces.

Considerations When Choosing an Awning    

“I’d look closely at the awning fabric,” says Jonathan Hershberg. “Many fabrics are not 100% waterproof, which can let a fine mist through during a shower. Don’t assume that all fabrics block UV rays. Get one that blocks out 99% of all ultraviolet radiation. Coated fabrics are also easier to keep clean, and tend to hold their color far longer without fading.”

“One note about fabric color that most people don’t realize,” adds Hershberg, “is that awning fabric comes in all sorts of color options, but awnings that are light colored, or go from stripes to a light solid are generally cooler and more efficient than solid, dark colors. Dark colors tend to absorb heat and can defeat the purpose of having an awning for cool shade.”

“A retractable awning is a very low cost investment that provides big returns in comfort, enjoyment”, says Hershberg. It’s almost like getting an extra room on your house. It allows people to expand their living space, and at the same time add value to their home.”

Some Other considerations:

Quality aluminum components, and baked enamel finishes. These help prevent rust, and eliminate painting and maintenance.

Somfy® Electric Motors. If you’re shopping for an electric powered awning, Somfy Motors are internationally recognized as the best in the industry.

Warranty and other indications of quality. A good warranty is generally an indication of the quality and service you can expect from your awning. The SunSetter Warranty, for example, is a 5-Year Limited Warranty. SunSetter Awnings also have been awarded the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, the only awnings to have earned this designation.

Home Trial. Many The highest quality awnings come with a No-Risk Money-Back Home Trial period, some as long as 3 months. This usually indicates a manufacturer that stands behind the design and quality of their product. If you don’t like the awning for any reason, you can get your money back (less shipping.)

Strong customer service after you buy. If you ever have questions after you buy an awning, customer service assistance via a Toll Free phone number and web and email support is a great peace of mind.

Contact Information for sources in this article:

Jeff Stepanik

SunSetter Products

184 Charles Street

Malden, MA 02148

  • Manually operated awnings in widths from 7 to 20 ft.
  • Motorized awnings in widths from 10 to 18 ft.

To learn more about SunSetter Products, go to, or call 800-876-2340 Ext. 11542 for a free information pack and video without obligation.

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