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
There’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.