LESLIE: Well, awnings have always been a functional addition to your home’s exterior. But today, they’re gaining popularity as an improvement that can deliver not only energy savings but also an increased home value.
TOM: And if you’re thinking that awnings are those dreary and dated structures made of aluminum, canvas and rusty bolts, well, it turns out that’s not true anymore. Here to discuss the new generation of awnings is This Old House host Kevin O’Connor.
KEVIN: Hi, guys. Great to be here.
TOM: So, the thought of awnings always reminds me of 1950 suburbia.
KEVIN: Well, I mean I think that’s a pretty good image, right? That’s the one we have in our minds and it’s not necessarily a bad image. But the image of those sort of rusty aluminum ones probably is a bad image.
And today, I think awnings have come a long way.
KEVIN: They are resurging in popularity and so I think it’s good that we’re talking about them.
TOM: So let’s start with the numbers. Awnings extending from windows and doors and patios can actually cut your household energy bill, right?
KEVIN: If you think about the solar gain that you get from the sun blasting through your windows, the primary function of an awning, back in the day, was to throw some shade onto those openings. And it can cut down on your cooling bills, for sure.
Now, they probably sort of fell out of favor because air conditioning became so popular in this country. And all of a sudden, we could overpower all of that solar gain and that heat. But …
LESLIE: Just beat it down. Beat the sun.
KEVIN: Well, just crank the A/C, you know? The amount of houses in this country that have air conditioning has skyrocketed over the last 50 years. That being said, they’re a good alternative to actually cutting down the operating costs of your air conditioning if you could put some shade on those windows and patio doors.
LESLIE: And I think what’s important to also consider is that a fabric awning can look so beautiful on the right type of home. They really can invoke sort of a vacation-y sort of escape type of feeling. And why not have that at your house every day?
KEVIN: If you think of – we see this all the time on projects that we work on – the transformation that a house goes through when you put shutters on the windows.
LESLIE: Oh, completely.
KEVIN: Completely changes the look of the house. Well, an awning can have the same effect and I don’t think people think about them as commonly as they think about shutters. But it can have a dramatic effect similar to what shutters do to a house.
TOM: And awnings have now gone high-tech. There’s a lot of options on them, aside from what we used to see.
KEVIN: You can think of the old, permanent ones that are out there constantly or if you had to sort of go out and you had to crank them over with a long rod. Nowadays, they’ve got light sensors and anemometers, things that actually measure wind speed. Because one of the concerns is if you’ve got a big awning on, let’s say, the patio, you don’t want it out there when the winds kick up. And so these things now can actually sense those gusts of wind and retract themselves so that – I just say, Tom …
TOM: Oh, that’s great.
KEVIN: Yeah, lots of high-tech solutions and alternatives to just leaving that awning out there fixed all the time.
TOM: And it really continues to help us extend that living space that we’re all so passionate about today, getting outside and enjoying that outdoor area but with some protection from the weather.
KEVIN: It gives you good shade for a deck so you can use it during the hottest part of the day. You can put it over a dining table outside so that it doesn’t get the leaves and the rain on a regular situation, keep the chairs drier. It’s a great way to extend that living space, as you say.
LESLIE: Yeah. And I think it’s also important to talk about the materials. The awning material, itself, today is so much different than the traditional canvas we saw years ago that would fade and stretch even.
KEVIN: Yeah. I mean the cotton canvas is sort of that classic look and maybe people would like to get that look. But as you say, it’s not going to perform as some of the alternatives out there. It could fade, you can get some mildew, mold buildup on those things. So, thinking about a material that is waterproof, something like an acrylic-coated polyester, something that’s stretch-resistant and weatherproof is probably going to serve you better than the old-fashioned cotton canvas.
TOM: And of course, the other options are whether or not it’s stationary or retractable. If you want the functionality to be able to pull it in in high wind, you can have that. And if it’s stationary, it’s probably going to be a little more structural in terms of having more framing to it.
KEVIN: I think you’re going to end up – if it is stationary, I think you’re going to end up with sort of an aluminum frame, where it is made to withstand those gusts of wind to be out there permanently. It can be a great look. It means you never have to touch it but you should also consider the fact that, if it is retractable, you can step it up a notch and have it retract automatically when it’s supposed to.
TOM: Well, it sounds like awnings are back and they’re better than ever with many new options that increase their functionality and their value.
Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for filling us in.
KEVIN: They make me want to go on vacation. Great to be here, guys.
LESLIE: Alright. Well, you can catch Kevin on his vacation on the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.
TOM: And Ask This Old House is brought to you on PBS by Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating.