Our patio is south facing, and it’s sometimes too hot in the summertime to sit outside on. But then again we haven’t invested in an awning yet.
Awnings absorb heat and harmful UV rays so you don’t have to, and in the process of doing this they do heat up in the sun. A light awning has double the cooling effect of a dark colored one. They also protect windows, cool interior rooms and lower your summer air conditioning bills.
Let’s dive down into how awnings keep out heat, the best colors for heat and UV reducing awnings – and also consider how long they last and exactly how much they can save you on your energy bills.
Do Awnings Keep Heat Out?
Awnings are a stylish and simple way to keep the heat at bay. As well as providing welcome shade for your patio or porch, the awning can also reduce thermal gain into your home through the windows.
They are especially effective fixed to south-facing elevations, turning a previously too-hot area into a usable outdoor room.
With an awning, you can still sit outside on the sunniest of days, enjoying your book without the pages glaring back at you. You can enjoy family BBQs without the guests becoming overheated, and your pets will love the comfort of curling up outdoors in the shade. Unlike a parasol, the shady area is fixed, enabling you to site your patio furniture in the best places.
And speaking of furniture, the awning will also offer some protection against UV fading, keeping the colors of your outdoor cushions and rugs brighter for longer. An awning fixed over a south-facing window will also help the sun’s heat and rays from reaching your indoor furnishings, too.
An awning doesn’t have to be for your patio. You can also attach one to your garage or workshop to create a handy outdoor working space, or keen gardeners can fix one to the shed as an outside potting area. If you have a swimming pool, an awning against your pool house creates a wonderful chill-out zone.
The awning will truly turn your patio or balcony into an extra room, providing shade from the sun, and a bit of shelter from a sudden shower of rain. You can maximise its thermal reduction properties by making sure you have the best materials and colors for the job.
Which Materials Are Best For Blocking The Sun?
There’s a choice of awning material, and it’s worth looking into the options to find the best one for your home.
Metal awnings create a more permanent-feeling structure. They are the ultimate in UV blocking because they are completely solid, and you’re guaranteed a cool and shady patio. However, this may result in a darker space than you’d like, as no light will filter through. This can also have an impact on the interior of your home.
Metal awnings are not the cheapest option, but they are durable and less likely to tear or become indelibly stained. They are easy to clean and you won’t need to apply or reapply sealant like you would with a canvas awning. As a bonus, some designs can double as storm shutters by being pulled down over the house: worth considering in some regions.
The classic awning is made from canvas with a metal or wooden frame. Fabric awnings have different levels of heat and light protection, depending on the weave.
For the highest level of protection, look for a fabric with a tight or close weave, which won’t let the sun filter through as much. The awning’s UPF rating will tell you how protective the fabric is: the higher the rating, the greater the protection.
If you want some light to filter through, go for a looser weave and a lower UPF rating. The great thing about canvas awnings is the choice, with a great variety of colors and prints available. Make sure your fabric is coated for a longer life, and be prepared to clean it regularly.
If you want something more structural and permanent, you can also get wooden awnings. Wooden canopies are actually more like porch roofs, providing a shady overhang. In the right setting, these can look absolutely lovely, and have the advantage of creating a year-round sun and waterproof shelter. Choose a pale-colored wood for greater heat reflection.
What’s the Best Color For An Awning To Keep Heat Out?
Dark colors absorb the sunlight while light colors reflect it. If you want to keep your patio nice and cool, the paler the color the better; and a light awning has more than double the cooling effect of a dark one.
Naturally, white is the best shade for heat reduction; however, you need to weigh this up against the difficulty in keeping a white awning clean. You may like to go for a pale but more forgiving shade, like a light dove gray or a rich cream. Pale yellow brings a sunshiny feel, whole light sky blue accentuates the sensation of coolness: perfect for a warmer climate.
Before you dive in and order a light-colored awning, pause a moment and think about how you use your patio. Do you ever use it as a summer home office, or sit back on your garden chairs and look at your cell phone? If so, stay away from bright, light shades, as the glare will spoil your relaxing experience. Instead, pick a pale color with more muted tones, like light green, gray or blue.
And don’t forget, you can still go for a pattern without compromising too much on heat gain. In fact, if you want a splash of color without overheating your porch, this is a great solution. Go for a pale base with a brighter or darker stripe for a classic look.
Pick up on the color of your window frames and doors, or choose a stripe that complements your brickwork or wood cladding (we love a green stripe against red brick, for example, or a rich red against white-painted wood). This lets you achieve your decor ambitions while still benefiting from the shade of a lighter color.
Conversely, if you live in a colder spot, choose a darker awning to gather in that warmth, and enjoy being outdoors without feeling too chilly.
While we’re on the subject of color, it is worth noting that while the consensus is that lighter colors are best (certainly for awnings which would create loads of shadow if darker), there is some evidence that dark colors are better at absorbing heat and keeping you cool – especially in the case of patio umbrellas.
So I guess all this comes down to your own personal taste and preference.
How Awnings Reduce Air Conditioning Costs in Summer
If you have a western-exposed window, an awning can reduce that room’s heat intake by up to a massive 77%, and there can be a 65% heat reduction for south-facing windows.
This means that there is less heat entering your home, and so of course, your aircon won’t have to work so hard. It’s unlikely that you will want to lose your air conditioning altogether if you live in a warmer state; however, with the awning and aircon working together to cool your home, you’ll definitely see cost savings.
This green benefit is a reason why more people are installing awnings these days, saving the planet as well as up to $200 a year on energy bills.
If you have a retractable awning, simply take it down in the colder months. This allows that solar gain back into your home on sunny winter days. If you live in a state where the weather changes with the seasons, go for metal or canvas rather than permanent wood, so you can choose whether the awning is up or down and enjoy energy-saving benefits all year-round.
How Long Do Awnings Last After Years of Sunshine?
This depends on a number of factors: what your awning is made from, what your local climate is like, and how much time you have to spend on taking care of your canopy.
A good-quality canvas awning should last a minimum of five years, ideally ten. After that, it’s probably time to replace the fabric, although hopefully the frame will still be in good condition. Look out for a rust-proof aluminum frame, or a traditional one from treated wood.
Your canvas awning should be treated with a UV, water, and stain-resistant coating, which can be reapplied every so often. For general housekeeping, a good regular brush or vacuum will keep away dirt, dust, leaves and bugs, and soapy water should keep the fabric looking smart.
Metals awnings are tough, especially aluminum ones which are ideally suited to outdoor life. They could last as long as 30-40 years, making them a great investment if you don’t plan to move home.
A metal awning will stand up to bad weather as well as heat, without bowing, stretching or fading. And even better, metal awnings are virtually maintenance-free: simply keep it free from debris, and rinse it down with the hose pipe from time to time.
If you have a wooden porch-like construction or a canvas awning with a wooden frame or elements, the wood will need regular treatment to keep it in good condition. The manufacturer will be able to let you know what type of wood has been used and how it’s been treated, so you’ll know how best to care for it.
A good quality light-colored fabric awning with a metal frame is a great investment – and boy do we need one.
Not only do they absorb the heat of the sun to keep your patio cool, but they also protect you and your family from those harmful UV rays.
To top all this, window awnings can reduce your summertime air conditioning bills, saving you around $200 a year (and helping to save the planet in the process).
So what’s not to like? I’m off to Lowe’s to get myself a new awning asap!
Homeowner and property investor Larry Jones founded Take a Yard in 2020 to bring you the very best outdoor living content, based on his years of experience managing outside spaces. Read more >