Homeowners looking to reduce air conditioning costs and shield interior furnishings from the sun's harsh glare may want to consider adding awnings.
Fixed or retractable awnings can significantly reduce a home's air conditioning usage in the summer, saving an estimated $200 or more annually, according to a study from the Professional Awning Manufacturers Association (PAMA).
“The sun's rays through glass are responsible for almost 20% of the load on your air conditioner,” says Michelle Sahlin, managing director of PAMA. “Awnings reduce direct solar gain through windows.” The study found that awnings not only save money for homeowners but also contribute to a reduction in demand for energy, making them an environmentally responsible choice for homeowners concerned about greenhouse gas emissions.
“People don't realize that there are more eco-friendly ways to stay cool,” points out Byron Yonce, chairman of PAMA. “While turning up the air conditioner results in higher energy bills, awnings and shades work with the air conditioner to keep your home cooler and reduce the need for additional energy.”
The American Society of Heating and Air Conditioning Engineers recommends that homeowners use “optimized and/or moveable external shading devices, such as overhangs, awnings, and side fins” to minimize a building's heat load. A fabric awning reduces heat gain by 55% to 65% during those hours when the sun shines directly on southern-facing windows or glass doors. That figure jumps to between 72% and 77% for western exposures.
Several different types of awnings are commonly available, including portable, fixed, and retractable designs. One important benefit of the latter is that they can fold up in winter, allowing the sun's rays to penetrate through windows and glass doors, reducing energy usage by contributing to the temperature indoors.
Some retractable awnings are motorized and can be retracted or extended with the push of a button. Manual styles use a simple pulley-and-cord system. Most awnings have variable settings, so they can be opened partially, fully, or halfway.
Awnings can be aesthetically pleasing, especially as homeowners may choose among an array of fashionable fabrics (woven, coated, laminated and mesh) and trendy colorations (solids, stripes, and patterns).
Most awning fabrics are treated with water-repellent, plus soil- and stain-resistant finishes. Some are treated with a flame retardant. Awning frames are typically constructed of either galvanized steel or aluminum.
If you are looking to cut down on air conditioning costs and beautify your home's exterior, add an awning… and beat the heat!