Awnings and Exterior Solar Shades
What happens when the sun shines directly on a window? It heats up the window that conducts heat onto the surfaces it is attached to, which in turn heats up the surrounding air thus increasing the temperature indoors. To maintain comfort levels indoors, the air conditioning is cranked up, resulting in higher utility bills. In winter, the reverse happens with the cold and heating systems. Utilities depend on technologies that exploit natural resources making this effort to remain comfortable harmful to the environment. All evidence indicates that this cycle of events is leading to climate change and an unpredictable future. Can we as responsible homeowners do something about it? From the above it appears as if one minor step towards reducing our impact on environmental degradation can be through intelligent exploitation of free natural resources and less dependence on utilities to maintain comfort levels indoors.
Decorative considerations apart, doesn’t it appear as if window treatments are necessary, mostly to protect ourselves from outdoor influences? So shouldn’t our first level of defense start from the outdoors rather than the indoors?
When we look at the outdoor of our homes just as we do the indoors we realize the immense opportunity it offers to protect us from heat, cold, the wind, rain and snow happening outdoors while making our façade functional and attractive – a style statement about ourselves long before viewers have stepped indoors . The following treatment types though not the only ones, come to mind:
• Solar shades
• Awnings – retractable and fixed
Projecting roof-like above windows, awnings protect windows from direct sun rays, prevent glare and block UV rays from damaging expensive items installed indoors. By preventing sun rays from striking directly onto windows, they are very effective in hot seasons for minimizing the solar heat gain that is responsible for increasing indoor air temperature. In northern climate zones requiring constant heating in winter, awnings can be adjusted to allow maximum exposure to heat up windows and increase the indoor air temperature. Fixed awnings are suited for the southern climate zones with predominantly cooling requirements. Retractable awnings are best suited for colder climate zones requiring cooling in summer and warming in winter. They can be motorized or operated manually or through sensors. Awnings do not come in the way of window shutter operations or any other window treatment or fixture.
Exterior Solar screens and shades are window treatments that are uniquely suited for any home where solar heat gain is a factor contributing to discomfort resulting in high cooling costs. The screens have the finish and elegance to be used indoors too, however, they are very efficient when fixed outdoors because they act as a barrier between the window and the sun’s radiation. Made up of polyester fabric coated with PVC or a polyester fiberglass combination infused with reflective properties they can be used to reduce heat gain in summer with the reflective surface facing outwards and reduce heat loss in winter with the reflective surface facing inwards. Solar screens fit against windows, and solar shades enclose decks, arbors, verandahs and other sit-out areas.
Round shapes refract light better than any other form. The round fiber used for solar screens and shades diffuse light entering a space through refraction. When talking about solar treatment solutions we need to be aware of the two factors that come into play that results in the percentage of radiation that is reflected or absorbed by a solar screen — its openness and the color of the screen.
Openness is the combined area of the fabric that is open space, rather than filled with fiber. Higher the openness less the density of the weave and more the view, and less the light blockage and solar heat gain. However, the color of the fabric changes the portions of sunlight absorbed and reflected. Color is a commonly used factor to reduce glare and solar heat gain.
Both awnings and solar sun screens and shades make for excellent exterior treatments. They complement each other rather than compete with each other as options.
1. Awnings throw a shadow over the window, providing a cool area around beneath and nulling the effects of the sun’s radiation while not interfering with the windows in any manner. They are positioned to provide protection to the windows from rain and snow.
2. When retractable, awnings allow for a remote control to be easily adjusted to allow direct radiation and heating.
3. External solar screens are installed close to window frames. They work very well with fixed windows having sliding panels preventing solar gain in summer and heat loss when it is cold.
4. External solar shades can be installed on sitouts, arbors, decks and verandahs to enjoy the outdoors, free from insects and exposure from direct EM and UV.
External window shades are essentially the first level of defense against the unpleasant aspects of natural phenomena, and they entail an additional financial outlay. However, there will be a payback every time a utility bill is paid which in effect means that they help in reducing the load imposed on the environment.