Awnings provide a distinctive accent to any building exterior, and are available in a variety of styles and materials. But they also offer more functional uses, including protecting those using the doorway from UV rays, harsh winds, rain and snow. In addition, awnings provide a barrier between the door and the sun, decreasing the amount of thermal energy that enters the building and, in turn, lowering the building's dependence on air conditioning. Finally, awnings shield expensive or historic woodwork and finishes around door frames from the elements. From high-tech polycarbonate to more traditional aluminum, awnings are available to suit almost any type of building and climate.
The sturdiest option and the easiest to maintain, aluminum awnings wear extremely well against rain and heavy snow. Though not available in as many colors and patterns as textiles or plastics, aluminum units with baked-on enamel finishes will last many years without fading or chipping. Some models even feature built-in rain gutters to accommodate run-off.
Textiles can be easily customized to a building's aesthetic -- or a company's logo -- and are inexpensive to install. However, because they don't protect as well from the elements, it's important to look for innovative synthetic fibers that are able to stand up against the rain, like polyvinyl laminates, or offer resistance against sun deterioration, like textiles with fluropolymer.
Polycarbonate, PVC and Acrylic Options
Plastic awnings are virtually indestructible and hard wearing against UV rays. They can be ordered in a large variety of colors and sizes. A more durable alternative to glass, these units are lightweight and can often be installed without the need for a contractor.
For more customized protection against the sun, retractable awnings are available in many different materials. An arm crank usually operates manual units, while automatic versions expand at the touch of a button. Many automatic awnings come with remote controls, which allow the user to change or close the awning from a distance. These types of awnings are especially useful with fabric units that are less-suited to heavy snowfall, as they can be retracted in inclement weather.
Solar Panel Awnings
Photovoltaic awning systems use solar panels to shade the doorway while collecting valuable thermal energy. While such units aren't readily available on the market as of early 2011, prototypes of this nature are in development.
- Photo Credit brick building with blue awnings image by dav820 from Fotolia.com
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