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9 places to buy aluminum awnings — including from three companies in business since 1946, 1947 and 1948 — revisited

Summer’s coming soon. What did folks do before electrified air conditioning? They put awnings — including for much of the 20th Century, aluminum awnings — on their windows. And yes, you can still still get these low-tech solutions to keeping cool. [Originally published in 2011.]

Occasionally I follow environmental and energy issues as they pertain to homes. And from what I read, while technologies like solar panels and wind turbines sound very sexy, I still don’t see much evidence that they make economic sense — yet. Moreover: Our “first fuel” is: Conservation.

That’s where awnings come in. Properly placed, these old-time solutions — low-tech common sense! — can reduce heat gain into your interior and reduce the need for air conditioning. I believe there is even a science to placement of the awning canopy, in that you want to block sunlight from penetrating windows in the summer and maximize it in the winter (passive solar gain).

Here is what a 1994 Department of Energy study had to say about the efficacy of window awnings to conserve energy [link now broken]:

Although their effectiveness can be affected by many factors including location, climate, window size, and glass type, the energy efficiency advantages of awnings are clear. According to the Department of Energy, awnings can reduce heat gain up to 65% in south facing windows and up to 77% on windows facing east. Awnings reduce stress on existing air conditioning systems, and make it possible to install new HVAC systems with smaller capacity, thus saving purchasing and operating costs. Air conditioners need to work less hard, less often. When used with air conditioners, awnings can lower the cost of cooling a building by up to 25%.*

Where to buy aluminum awnings

house with aluminum awningsThere’s almost nothing I like better than finding a company that’s been in business for more than 60 years — and with a product that is more relevant today then ever. Craft-Bilt, based in Souderton, Pennsylvania, started selling aluminum awnings in 1946 and from the looks of their website, they are marketing the same design today as then. They offer three styles of aluminum awnings (shown above) — for windows, doors, even patios and carports.

 

Back to Craftbilt awnings. Like I said, three styles, 16 colors. Looks like you can order these assembled to size, or there is a DIY kit. Hey, on their website, they even recognize their awnings’ back-to-the-future appeal, saying:

They have a popular “retro” look that is a perfect enhancement to houses built in the 50’s and 60’s.

Yup: Classic for mid century homes, when air conditioning was still a rare feature. In addition, the company is second-generation family owned, and the awnings are Made in the U.S. There is also a Canadian partner in Ontario.

Link: Craft-Bilt Aluminum Awnings.

After discovering CraftBilt, I continued with the google thing and found a number of other aluminum awning manufacturers across the country. Alas, I can not tell you how to differentiate quality. I am guessing “gauge” — but then there also is assembly, hardware and paint quality, not to mention service, price and warranty. Ummm: Buy locally, so you can see what you’re getting and have someone to stare down if there is a problem?

Here are links to other companies that manufacture (and usually also install) their own awnings… I did NOT try to capture dealers.:

  • ClimateGuard aluminum awnings in Chicago looks like a big company, with local manufacturing.
  • Standard Awning in Northeastern Pennsylvania has been in business since 1948, woot!
  • Ballews Aluminum Products was founded in 1958, and has manufacturing in three southern states.
  • Silver-Top has been in business since 1947.
  • Looks like you can get a lot of NuImage products at Home Depot.
  • West Coast Awning in Northridge, Calif., designs, manufacturers and installs aluminum awnings.
  • Crossworld Awning Company is in the Cleveland area. I am unclear whether they are a manufacturer. They also will remove than repaint existing awnings. Gosh: Maintaining something rather than just throwing it away and buying new; what a concept.
  • Kohler Awning in the Buffalo area. Not sure if they are a manufacturer, but they look to be a longtimer.
  • General Awnings looks to be an aggregator of various designs, with an easy-to-view website.
  • There may be more… I ran out of energy after three pages of search. If you know of another company, leave it as a Comment, and we’ll work to build a comprehensive national list. Thank you!!

These aluminum awnings are not cheap. Patient bargain hunters can:

  • Watch for new neighbors who rip theirs out.
  • Re-Store and salvage places — take your measurements now, and keep them with you.
  • And remember, old products and their layers may contain hazards — such as lead paint. For more info see our page Be Safe / Renovate Safe.

  1. Dan says:

    We lived in a wonderful MCM house in New Mexico that had what you might consider a “built-in” awning; an overhang over the bank of south facing windows that was at just the right angle to block the high summer sun but let in the lower winter sun. It was a low tech solution that made a remarkable difference in cooling the house.

  2. Pam Kueber says:

    Yes, a well-designed house can include this feature. Architects can calculate overhangs to take best advantage of the sun in all or most seasons, as I understand it! A so-called “passive solar” design feature now.

  3. Emma says:

    We’ve purchased the DIY awnings from Craft-Bilt for our mc modest house. They have terrific customer service, the awnings are beautiful and easy to install. So glad you posted this today, as we’ve been trying to find option for our kitchen window which is too tight for a stationary awning. A good reminder that Craft-Bilt has the roll-ups that should work. Yay!

  4. Barbara says:

    Love…those awnings!
    We all had them on our houses.
    No air conditioning is correct. And, we all had full size basements. Which we spent days and nights in when it really got hot. Best air conditioning ever!!
    Cooking the meals for the family was dealt with outside. My family and neighbors had some serious strategies when it came to dealing with the heat.
    I still do it the same way they did, today. But, without the awnings. If I didn’t live in a ranch, that has a 3 ft. overhang around the entire house, you would see those gems covering my windows. No air conditioning!
    As far as passive solar energy, it’s going on 24 years now. It’s easy when you bought a house that already faces south. And it works!!
    Also, you might want to try cooking some meals outside using only the sun. It’s amazing!
    Thanks Pamela for the info!
    Barbara
    p.s. No: air conditioning
    micowave
    TV

  5. Carolyn says:

    I always thought a house was “done” when they had awnings, they just add that extra something to the facade.
    We got two from a friend tearing them off and used the smaller for over the service door. The big one over the DR windows allows me to keep the drapes open most of the day. You wouldn’t think that little bit would make a difference but it really does work with the passive solar.
    I think the only reason I’d permanently remove good awnings was if a tree now provided the shade.

  6. Karin says:

    My parents’ 1956 MC Modest house didn’t have these, but almost every other house in the neighborhood sported a set of awnings. Many came in nifty color combos like turquoise and white. Electricity costs are going through the roof (literally) here in Toronto, Canada. There’s a reason they’re still in use by current owners. They look cute on the houses too.

  7. Heidi E. says:

    Hmm. I have air conditioning, and my home is technically a bit later than mid-century. But it gets insanely​ hot compared to the outdoor temps and I have had to run the AC much earlier in the season than I expected to. This is definitely something to consider.

  8. Barbara says:

    Proper placement is the key. We had one over our front door but had to get rid of it. There was something wrong with how the rain water coming off the roof hit it and drained off. The excess water caused our front steps to crumble and we had to have them rebuilt.

  9. AnnF says:

    I have been thinking about awnings for a long time — maybe next year — yet I am surprised at the number of people who see them on houses and ask, “What are those THINGS on the window?”

  10. Pam Kueber says:

    Perhaps you need more insulation in the attic? When we moved in, we were able to get a free energy use assessment for our house. We beefed up the insulation — it was subsidized by the program, too.

  11. Martha says:

    Hi Pam,
    In south Florida these awnings were used to cut back on the sun and heat and were also used for hurricane protection, when lowered completely they cover the window and protect the glass from winds and flying debris. My 1960 house has them on the south and east facing sides. I recently had my house painted and was told I should get rid of them. No way, I had the awnings repainted to match the house and they look brand new! Nowadays, I have hurricane windows installed, however, it’s amazing how much the shutters cut out heat and glare, plus they give the house an additional architectural feature!

  12. RAnderson says:

    We love the 8′ wide aluminum awning over the picture window in our 1955 MCModest ranch! The window faces due west so our awning is a huuuge help keeping cool in the summer!

    We’re also going hi-tech by installing solar panels this year, improvements to PV panels the last few years have been major, they are now quite cost effective, return on expenditure being far better than investing at current low interest rates… I urge everyone to check them out while the feds are rebating 35% of the cost!

  13. Heidi E. says:

    Well, the home inspector said the attic insulation was excellent before I bought the house, but I suppose more( or a second opinion) couldn’t hurt. I think a lot of the problem is that the front of the house is a dark coffee-colored, almost black, matte-finish brick, with a black metal storm door that actually blistered my hand the first time I approached it incautiously. Painted brick looks weird, and I don’t really want to dramatically alter the exterior, but this house was definitely built with the dead of winter in mind by someone who forgot that our summers are equally extreme.

  14. GlenEllyn says:

    I like the way awnings add to the exterior look of a house – they take it up a notch – a finishing touch.

    I’ve thought about adding them to my house because I don’t have air conditioning and have no plans to install it, either. My house faces west and I think they would be helpful on hot summer days, but don’t they make the house feel more closed in? Aren’t you losing half the view from your window? How much sunlight they block would depend, I imagine, on the angle of the sun, right?

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