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Retractable Awnings: Choosing the Right Model

Sep 15, 2008
If the title of this article caught your eye, then you probably know something about the benefits that retractable awnings provide to residential and commercial properties. Since they have low up-front costs and are simple to install, awnings are an economical approach to control solar heat, expand your home or business space, save money on energy, and add a unique vibe to a property.

If these awning basics sound familiar to you, it's time to select a model that melds well with your existing styles and architecture. Here are four big questions that will help you buy the right model.

First, how will you put your retractable awnings to use?

This has to do with where the awnings be installed and the sizes of the spaces you are working with. "Dome" models are often installed above doors and windows while "lateral" models are especially well-suited for open areas like patios and decks.

When you have a master plan in mind, you'll be prepared to mix and match various awning types to efficiently address your unique location. By coordinating fabric patterns and colors, you can retain a unified style even if you use several different types of awning.

Second, what's your preferred atmosphere?

Mostly this relates to the fabric you choose for your installation. Hopefully you enjoy artistic options, because the highest grade of awning fabric (solution-dyed acrylic) is produced in over 500 styles. Solid colors come in a full rainbow spectrum, and stripes and patterns are also easy to find.

If you want to be unobtrusive, choose the laid-back green and white stripe pattern that is the predominant style in America today. If you're aiming for a more energized vibe, order a Caribbean blue or jungle green, something that screams, "Party!" Warm reds, oranges, and yellows cause a more intimate, relaxed feel, while people with modern sensibilities can choose something clean and minimalistic, like khaki or black and white patterns.

Third, how important are "automatic" functions?

The genius behind the concept of retractable awnings is their simplicity: unfurl them when needed, store them quickly when the weather changes. However, if you prefer hands-free operation, then you can avail yourself of amenities like remote controls, motors, and weather sensors (to raise and lower the awning automatically depending on temperature and brightness). Adding motorized functions to a package decreases wear and tear over the lifespan of awnings, but the main attraction is probably ease of use.

Finally, do you know the market?

With retractable awnings growing more popular, there are a good number of reputable manufacturers, but as is always the case, there are cheap brands as well. That's why it is an asset to be acquainted with the ingredients that go into an awning that will last for decades. As I said earlier, acrylic fabric is the most durable choice.

Here are a few more elements to look for: Aluminum frames are lightweight and easy to work with, but they're also very durable. Metal that is coated with electrostatic powder will survive better in rough weather. Pay attention to how the frame is put together--weather-proofed straps in the arms are better than steel cables because they don't rust. The thread that holds the awning fabric together should be water proof too (Gore-Tex is a good option here). Generally speaking, a company that specializes in manufacturing awnings (SunSetter, ShadeTree) is a better bet than a bulk supplier (Lowe's, CostCo).

Consider these questions, and you'll end up with awnings that will suit your location and last for decades.
About the Author
AJ Vanderhorst writes about residential retractable awnings . A world of bright aesthetics and cool, flexible, outdoor living awaits your discovery. Explore contemporary awnings at Retractable Awnings Guide .
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