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The New Age of Retractable Awnings

Aug 2, 2008
Retractable awnings aren't just for knowledgeable do-it-yourselfers anymore. Once upon a time, this small, niche marketplace was very focused and catered only to those who were willing to shell out top dollar for custom assembly, shipping, and were proficient enough to install the awning themselves. While we're not talking brain surgery, the installation is certainly somewhat complex, and far from a one man job. With the size and weight of the awning, the hardware, and the supports, it becomes a very awkward item indeed. Plus, any time you're installing something that involves penetrating the outer shell (siding) of your house you want to be careful. You're flirting hazardously close to water problems if you don't follow directions vigilantly.

Today, the retractable awning business is not just for knowledgeable do-it-yourselfers. Most companies have built national networks of dealers who can handle shipping, setting up, and repairs. In many cases the manufacturing has gone from small, custom runs to mass assembly with a core group of choices that the customer can make to personalize their order. This allows them to set a price point of around $1000 for manually operated awnings. Adding features such as motorization usually costs a few hundred dollars extra.

At a time when there's a lot of consumer focus on expanding your living space to the out-of-doors, retractable awnings seem to make good sense. When you're trying to unwind outdoors, direct sunlight is normally the adversary. No one wants to sit on their patio and bake in the sun. Sure, it's fine for getting a tan, but not for general leisure and visiting with friends and family. Retractable awnings bring this livability to any patio, and extend the convenience of your indoor living room to the outdoors.

So what should you expect from a retractable awning? Start with asking about what fabric the company uses in their construction. There's a definite difference between waterproof and water resistant - so ensure you know what you're getting before you sign the delivery paperwork. There's nothing fundamentally the matter with having a patio awning that's water resistant, but you don't want to pay a premium for waterproof and only get water resistant. Second, look for the UV blocking ability of the material, and keep in mind that more UV blocking is better. Usually 99% is as high as they come, and if you're going to spend a lot of time out of doors you probably want a high degree of UV blocking.

Finally, look at the color of the material, and remember that dark colors absorb light and give off that energy in the form of radiated heat. If one of the main purposes of your retractable awning is to keep your outside space cool, a dark material may be something you have to fight against.
About the Author
Allen Wright is a freelance writer who follows whatever topics hold his interest. Look for more information on retractable awnings and other patio awnings here.
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