Awnings offer shady alternatives

By: Terry Oparka | C&G Newspapers | Published April 8, 2015

 Awnings over windows can reduce heat gain to the house, particularly on east and west windows during the summer months.

Awnings over windows can reduce heat gain to the house, particularly on east and west windows during the summer months.

Photo provided by Signature Awning

METRO DETROIT — Most people don’t notice awnings until they decide to buy one.

The main reason most homeowners decide to purchase an awning is for shade. Also, they wish to cut the cost of cooling their home and keep the patio cool in the summer, said Lorraine Strachan, office manager for Signature Awning in Livonia, which serves all of metro Detroit.

“The biggest reason is shade,” Strachan said.

According to the American Society of Heating and Air Conditioning Engineers, an international not-for-profit association organized with the aim that engineers exchange information to improve the quality of life, shadings from overhangs and awnings can reduce unwanted heat gain to the house, especially on east and west windows.

Some homeowners like to put awnings over doors where they let their pets outdoors, Strachan said. And there’s also curb appeal.

Awnings come in a variety of colors, styles and materials: the old-style aluminum with a permanent base, acrylic, vinyl, fabric, retractable, rounded, canopy and straight-style.

“Retractable awnings are not self-sufficient,” Strachan pointed out. “It’s a fair weather awning. If there’s a storm or wind gust, you want that awning in.”

Also, the retractable awnings may be removed or covered up during the winter months.

“They (any awnings) are going to darken your room up,” said Bob Brobst, of Michigan Tent and Awning, based in Detroit, which serves all of metro Detroit.

He said that some of the lighter-colored fabric awnings will allow more light transmission.

Strachan said a customer thought the marine blue, rounded fabric awning on their patio made the space too dark, so crews went back and took down the awning. They then cut and fashioned clear panels in the fabric to let in more light. 

Awnings do require care.

Brobst noted that the fabric and canvas blinds require replacement in eight to 12 years.

Aluminum awnings require maintenance, such as refinishing and cleaning. They typically have 16-22 years before they need replacement, Brobst said.

Scott Bowles, owner of St. Clair Awning, based in Harrison Township, said that snow takes its toll on aluminum-framed awnings.

Bowles explained that the freeze-thaw cycle can basically create a load of ice on the awning that can pull the frame away from the house.

He said his company, which serves the east side of metro Detroit, will remove aluminum awnings for winter and cover retractable awnings with plastic to keep out the snow and ice. Also, batteries for the retractable awnings are changed out in the fall when the awnings are covered, he said.

“There’s lots of (awning) options,” Strachan said. “They are all custom-made. It depends on what the house can handle.”