Category Archives: Shade Solutions

Solar Shades – What are the Benefits?

Solar Shades

Coolaroo Roll Up Shade

Reduce Home Energy Costs with Solar Shades

Saving money on home energy bills can be a challenge when hot, sunny days increase our dependence on air conditioning. According to Consumer Reports, “Americans spend more than $22 billion a year…to cool their homes with air conditioning” (July 2008). Reducing our need to turn on the home cooling system is possible with the simple and inexpensive addition of solar window shades, also known as sun shades, to our windows and doors.

Solar shades are quite different from standard window shades and offer a number of benefits that go beyond lowering home cooling costs. Sun shades are constructed using a specially designed, breathable fabric that allows light and air to filter through. Sun shades are not black-out shades, but they do reduce the amount of direct sunlight that streams in through a home’s windows and sliding doors or French doors. Unlike interior window shades, solar shades are installed on the outside of a home’s windows or doors. This prevents up to 75% of sunlight from penetrating the window and significantly lessens the heat transfer. Solar shades can reduce a room’s temperature by up to 25%, making the indoor environment inviting and pleasant, even on the hottest summer days.

Sun shades not only make our homes cooler, thereby saving us money on air conditioning costs, they protect our indoor furnishings from the destructive effects of the sun’s ultra-violet (UV) rays. Over time, UV rays will discolor, fade, and crack the various materials we keep in our homes. Fabrics, furniture, upholstery, carpets, paintings, and more are negatively affected by exposure to sunlight. Damage increases over time, too, so the more sun exposure our home interiors experience, the more our belongings will suffer the consequences. The specialized fabric in solar shades can block up to 90% of the sun’s UV rays and protect our interior spaces.

In addition to being breathable and able to block significant amounts of UV rays, sun shades are easy to maintain; they are weather resistant, mildew resistant, and can be quickly cleaned with warm water and a mild detergent. Sun shades offer the benefit of privacy, as well. The breathable fabric allows us to see out of the windows and doors, but neighbors and passers-by are unable to see into the home.

Saving money on air conditioning costs would be reason enough to install solar window shades on our homes, but the additional benefits described here — protection of interior furnishings from UV rays, easy maintenance, and privacy — make sun shades an even more attractive home improvement option.

Awning Alternatives

Flexy Awning

When Will A Retractable Awning Work For You

Retractable awnings are a popular solution for outdoor shade. Because they can be partially or fully opened and closed, either by hand crank or motor, they allow a homeowner to control the amount of sunlight or shade that a patio, deck, or porch receives throughout a day. Traditional retractable awnings, though, are not ideal for every homeowner or every situation. Luckily, not all are built the same. Two alternatives which often meet the specific needs of many homeowners are Fiesta patio and freestanding awnings.

Fiesta patio awnings are an ideal option for shade when a patio, deck, or porch receives a significant amount of direct sun throughout the day. In a situation like this, retractable awnings are not necessary because homeowners may wish to have their outdoor living area shaded at all times. The Fiesta patio awning is simple and does not retract. Because of this, the Fiesta is supported by its own legs at the front of the canopy, unlike with a retractable awning which has no front support legs. The advantage to support legs is that they take a large portion of the awning’s weight off of your home’s outside wall to which the awning is attached. That weight is then distributed to the support legs. The frame on a Fiesta patio awning is constructed of a rugged and heavy duty galvanized steel tubing for superior strength and durability. Some additional features of a Fiesta include a choice of multiple widths to accommodate just about any size patio, deck, or porch as well as a choice of valance styles.

Another alternative to retractable awnings are freestanding awnings. Freestanding awnings, unlike retractable or Fiesta patio awnings, do not attach to the side of the home. Instead, the awning’s legs are mounted to a deck or sunk into the ground, or they are supported by two freestanding bases. Freestanding awnings are an ideal choice for shade when mounting a structure to the side of a home is not desired or simply not an option. These awnings offer a great deal of flexibility, too, which cannot be matched by awnings that attach to the side of a home. A freestanding awning can provide room-sized shade on the porch, patio, and deck, but also in the garden, by the pool side, or in any sitting area that is situated away from the house. The freestanding awning has the ability to tilt from front to back to provide the best coverage throughout the day as the sun’s position changes in the sky. In addition, the canopy on some freestanding awnings retracts with the help of a patented drawstring. This feature allows homeowners more control over the amount of shade or sun to which they are exposed.

To ensure that Fiesta or freestanding awnings stay in top shape for the duration, they should be protected from heavy snow accumulations. In the case of Fiesta patio awnings, this means taking down the canopy top and storing it away until spring. For the freestanding style, this means closing the canopy and using a protective cover to keep harsh weather out. No matter which type of patio awning is preferred, one feature that every homeowner should insist upon is a high quality, durable, and weather-resistant fabric canopy. A fabric, such as Sunbrella fabric, that blocks a significant amount of ultraviolet rays, is resistant to mildew and fading, and is easy to clean is the best choice and will last for many years.

Overall, when retractable awnings are not a viable or desirable option for providing shade, it’s good to know that there are alternative types of shade that will more than adequately meet the needs of any homeowner.

Retractable Awnings

Retractable Awning

Making the Best Choice for Outdoor Shade

Retractable awnings for decks, porches, and patios offer an ideal solution for outdoor shade. Screened-in enclosures, on the other hand, while they provide much desired protection from sun and many weather conditions, do not offer the kind of flexibility that many homeowners seek. Retractable awnings allow you to choose how much sun exposure or shade you’d like, and adjusting them is usually fast and easy. Knowing a little more about them can help you make the best decision when it’s time to purchase.

Retractable awnings are either manually operated or motorized. One of the more obvious advantages of manually operated awnings is that they require no electricity to operate. If an electrical outlet is not conveniently located near the awning, it doesn’t matter. These awnings come with a hand crank that should allow you to fully open the awning quietly and smoothly in less than a minute. Motorized awnings, on the other hand, come with a specialized motor and remote control which allows you to easily open and close the awning from the comfort of your seat or even from inside your home. They plug into any standard outlet, so a visit from the electrician is not required if an outlet is located close by. The clear advantage of motorized awnings is that they offer convenience, but they may also be a better choice for homeowners who have physical limitations that would prevent them from using a hand crank.

In general, retractable awnings, whether manually operated or motorized, should be able to attach to most types of siding, including wood, masonry, stucco, brick, aluminum, and vinyl. They should also be able to attach to either the outside wall of your home or to an eave or overhang. While retractable awnings can be installed by the handy homeowner, it may be preferable to hire someone with prior experience to complete the installation. This will cost a little more, of course, but the extra cost will most likely save you a significant amount of hassle and frustration.

Also important to consider is the fabric that comes standard with retractable awnings. Insist on only the best quality, durable outdoor fabric with the ability to protect you from damaging UVA and UVB rays. Additionally, awning fabric should be waterproof, resistant to mildew, and easy to clean. Settling for cheaper fabrics initially will inevitably turn out to be a regretable decision because poor quality fabrics tend to fade and wear quickly and are expensive to replace.

Finally, accessories for Sunsetter retractable awnings, while they may not come standard with the awning, should be available to purchase so that you can customize your awning for additional comfort and protection. A wireless wind sensor is one handy accessory to consider for motorized awnings if you happen to live in an area that experiences occasional high winds. The sensor will automatically close the awning if winds become strong enough to potentially damage it. Another helpful accessory is a screen panel that can be attached to the side or front of manually operated or motorized awnings to create even more protection from sun, wind, rain, or other weather conditions. Yet another practical accessory is an awning cover that protects retractable awnings when they are closed and not in use. The cover helps keep awnings clean and free of dirt, cobwebs, leaves, and other debris.

A little knowledge goes a long way when it comes to making significant purchases for your home. Even though retractable awnings offer superior outdoor shade for much less money and effort than a screened-in enclosure, it is still important to take some time to understand the product before buying. Knowing what to look for and what to insist upon in retractable awnings will allow you to make the best possible choice. When a decision is made with care, the choice you make is always the right one.

Shade Canopies

Goliath Shade Canopy

Versatile Outdoor Protection

One of the most versatile and useful structures for the outdoors is the shade canopy. Shade canopies, which are often portable, have four sturdy poles and a durable, weather resistant canopy top that provides instant shade in just about any location at any time of day.

Portable shade canopies can go with you anywhere and set up quickly and easily. Many come with their own tote bag, which makes carrying and storing your shade canopy much easier. There is no limit to the number of situations in which these structures can prove useful. Create a shady spot over the sandbox, kiddie pool, or outdoor play area. Enjoy a comfortable, shady picnic at a sunny park or even in the back yard. Protect yourself from the harsh sun during all day garage sales, soccer games, or visits to the beach. Many people prefer to keep a portable shade canopy in the trunk of the car because it comes in handy more often than expected.

Larger, less portable versions of the shade canopy have more permanent uses. For example, there are some that can serve as a spare garage for an extra car or recreational vehicle. They protect your vehicles from a major portion of the direct sunlight that they might otherwise be exposed to throughout a day. They also decrease the amount of snow that can pile up on your vehicle during winter storms. Enclosed shade canopies offer even more protection for your vehicles and belongings because, in addition to the standard canopy top, they have walls to keep out the weather. Enclosed structures can be used for any number of purposes. Create your own outdoor room at home or at the campsite. Use it as an outdoor play space for the kids and their friends. Host an outdoor party, and never worry about rain showers spoiling the fun.

Shade canopies, whether portable or more permanent, provide an inexpensive solution for anyone wishing to create more shade and more protection for people or possessions. They are easy to put up and easy to take down, and their durable construction ensures that they will be able to withstand many years of steady use. No matter how you use them, shade canopy structures keep you covered when it counts.

History of the Umbrella

black_umbrella_clip_art_20394“History of the Umbrella”

Excerpt from RL. Chambers’ Book of Days, Vol. 1 (1864) at 241-44  and his view of  umbrella history at that time.

The designation of this useful contrivance (from umbra, shade) indicates the earliest of its twofold uses. Johnson describes it as “a screen used in hot countries to keep off the sun, and in others to bear off the rain;” and Kersey many years before (1708) had described it as “a kind of broad fan or screen, commonly used by women to shelter them from rain; also a wooden frame, covered with cloth, to keep off the sun from a window.” Phillips in his New World of Words, edit. 1720, describes the umbrella as “now commonly used by women to shelter them from rain.”

As a shade from the sun, the umbrella is of great antiquity. We see it in the sculptures and paintings of Egypt, and Sir Gardner Wilkinson has engraved a delineation of an Ethiopian princess, traveling in her chariot through Upper Egypt to Thebes, wherein the car is furnished with a kind of umbrella fixed to a tall staff rising from the center, and in its arrangement closely resembling the chaise umbrella of the present time. The recent discoveries at Nineveh show that the umbrella (or parasol) “was generally carried over the king in time of peace and even in war. In shape,” says Layard, “it resembled very closely those now in common use, but it is always seen open in the sculptures. It was edged with tassels, and was usually adorned at the top by a flower or some other ornament. On the later bas-reliefs, a long piece of linen or silk, falling from one side, like a curtain, appears to screen the king completely from the sun. The parasol was reserved exclusively for the monarch and is never represented as borne over any other person. On several bas-reliefs from Persepolis, the king is represented under an umbrella, which a female slave holds over his head.”

From the very limited use of the parasol in Asia and Africa, it seems to have passed both as a distinction and a luxury, into Greece and Rome. The Skiadeion, or day shade of the Greeks was carried over the head of the effigy of Bacchus; and the daughters of the aliens at Athens were required to bear parasols over the heads of the maidens of the city at the great festival of the Panathenea. We see also the parasol figured in the hands of the princess on the Hamilton vases in the British Museum. At Rome, when the veil could not be spread over the roof of the theatre, it was the custom for the females and effeminate men to defend themselves from the sun with the umbrella or umbraculum of the period; and this covering appears to have been formed of skin or leather, capable of being raised or lowered as circumstances might require.

Although the use of the umbrella was thus early introduced into Italy, and had probably been continued there as a vestige of ancient Roman manners, yet so late as 1608, Thomas Coryat notices the invention in such terms as to indicate that it was not commonly known in his own country. After describing the fans of the Italians, he adds: “Many of them do carry other fine things, of a far greater price, that will cost at least a ducat (5s 6d), which they commonly call, in the Italian tongue, umbrellaces; that is, things that minister shadow unto them, for shelter against the scorching heat of the sun. These are made of leather, something answerable to the form of a little canopy, and hooped in the inside with divers little wooden hoopes, that extend the umbrella into a pretty large compasse. They are used especially by horsemen, who carry them in their hands when they ride, fastening the end of the handle upon one of their thighs; and they impart so long a shadow unto them, that it keepeth the heate of the sun from the upper part of their bodies.” It is probable that a similar contrivance existed, at the same period in Spain and Portugal, whence it was taken to the New World. Defoe, it will be remembered, makes Robinson Crusoe describe that he had seen umbrellas employed in the Brazils, and that he had constructed his own umbrella in imitation of them. “I covered it with skins,” he adds, “the hair outwards, so that it cast off the rain like a penthouse, and kept off the sun so effectually, that I could walk out in the hottest of the weather with greater advantage than I could before in the coolest.” In commemoration of this ingenious production, one species of the old heavy umbrellas was called “The Robinson.”

The umbrella was used in England as a luxurious sun-shade early in the seventeenth century. Ben Jonson mentions it by name in a comedy produced in 1616: and it occurs in Beaumont and Fletcher’s Rule a Wife and Have a Wife, where Altea says:

“Are you at ease? Now is your heart at rest?

Now you have got a shadow, an umbrella,

To keep the scorching world’s opinion

From your fair credit.”

In those days, as we may infer from the passage in Drayton, the umbrella was composed exteriorly of feathers, in imitation of the plumage of water-birds. Afterwards, oiled silk was the ordinary material. In the reign of Queen Anne, the umbrella appears to have been in common use in London as a screen from the rain but only for the weaker sex. Swift in the Tatler, October 17, 1710, says in “The City Shower:”

“The tuck’d up seamstress walks with hasty strides,

While streams run down her oiled umbrella’s sides.”

Gray speaks of it in his Trivia; or the Art of Walking the Streets of London:

“Good housewives all the winter’s rage despise,

Defended by the riding-hood’s disguise:

Or underneath th’ umbrella’s oily shed,

Safe through the wet on clinking pattens tread.

Let Persian dames th’ umbrella’s ribs display,

To guard their beauties from the sunny ray;

Or sweating slaves support the shady load,

When Eastern monarchs shew their state abroad;

Britain in winter only knows its aid,

To guard from chilly showers the walking maid.”

This passage, which points to the use of the umbrella exclusively by women, is confirmed by another passage in the Trivia, wherein the surtout is recommended for men to keep out of the drenching shower.

“By various names, in various countries known,

Yet held in all the true surtout alone.

Be thine of kersey firm, though small the cost;

Then brave unwet the rain, unchill’d the frost.”

At Woburn Abbey is a full length portrait of the beautiful Duchess of Bedford, painted about 1730, representing the lady as attended by a black servant, who holds an open umbrella to shade her. . . .

Cantilevered Umbrellas have a Post on the side

Side Post Cantilevered Umbrellas

. . . The eighteenth century was half elapsed before the umbrella had even begun to be used in England by both sexes, as we now see it used. In 1752, Lieutenant-Colonel (afterwards General) Wolfe, writing from Paris says: “The people here use umbrellas in hot weather to defend them from the sun and something of the same kind to save them from the snow and rain. I wonder a practice so useful is not introduced in England.” Just about that time, a gentleman did exercise the moral courage to use an umbrella in the streets of London. He was the noted Jonas Hanway, newly returned from Persia, and in delicate health, by which, of course, his using such a convenience was justified both to himself and the considerate part of the public. “A parapluie,” we are told “defended Mr. Hanway’s face and wig.”  For a time no others than the dainty beings then called Macaronies ventured to carry an umbrella. Any one doing so was sure to be hailed by the mob as “a mincing Frenchman.” Once John Macdonald, a footman, who has favoured the public with his memoirs, found as late as 1770, that, on appearing with a fine silk umbrella which he had brought from Spain, he was saluted with the cry of  “Frenchman, why don’t you get a coach?” It appears, however, as if there had previously been a kind of transition period, during which an umbrella was kept at a coffee-house, liable to be used by gentlemen on special occasions by night, though still regarded as the recourse of effeminancy. In the Female Tatler of December 12, 1709, there occurs the following announcement: “The young gentleman belonging to the Custom House, who, in the fear of rain borrowed the umbrella at Will’s coffee-house, in Cornhill, of the mistress, is hereby advertised that to be dry form head to foot on the like occasion, he shall be welcome to the maid’s pattens.” It is a rather early fact in the history of the general use of the umbrella that in 1758, when Dr. Shebbeare was placed in the pillory, a servant stood beside him with an umbrella to protect him from the weather, physical and moral, which was raging around him.

Much of the clamour which was raised against the general use of the umbrella originated with the chairmen and hackney-coachmen, who, of course, regarded rainy weather as a thing especially designed for their advantage and from which the public were entitled to no other protection than what their vehicles could afford.

In all the large towns of the empire, a memory is preserved of the courageous citizen who first carried an umbrella. In Edinburgh, it was a popular physician named Spens. In the Statistical Account of Glasgow by Dr. Cleland, it is related about the year 1781 or 1782 the late Mr. John Jameson, surgeon, brought with him an umbrella on his return from Paris, which was the first seen in the city and attracted universal attention. This umbrella was made of heavy wax-cloth, with cane ribs and was a ponderous article. Cowper mentions the umbrella twice in his Task, published in 1784.

The early specimens of the English umbrella made of oiled silk, were, when wet, exceedingly difficult to open or close; the stick and furniture were heavy and inconvenient, and the article generally very expensive; though an umbrella manufacturer in Cheapside, in 1787, advertised pocket and portable umbrellas superior to any kind ever imported or manufactured in this kingdom; and “all kinds of common umbrellas prepared in a particular way, that will never stick together.” The substitution of silk and gingham for oiled silk, however, remedied the above objections.

The umbrella was originally formed and carried in a fashion the reverse of what now obtains. It had a ring at the top, by which it was usually carried on the finger when furled (and by which also it could be hung up within doors), the wooden handle terminating in a rounded point to rest on the ground. The writer remembers umbrellas of this kind being in use among old ladies as lately as 1810. About thirty years ago, there was living in Taunton, a lady who recollected when there were but two umbrellas in that town; one belonged to a clergyman, who, on proceeding to his duties on Sunday, hung up the umbrella in the church porch, where it attracted the gaze and admiration of the townspeople coming to church.

Bases for Umbrellas

Umbrella Bases

Parasols or Umbrellas Today

The word “umbrella” evolved from the Latin word “umbra“, meaning “shaded.” The word “parasol” is from “para” meaning “to shield” or ” to stop” and from “sol” meaning “sun”. Umbrellas are now usually made some kind of fabric canopy that is either hand held or fixed to a stationary wood or aluminum pole,  and used primarily to protect us from the elements like rain, sleet, snow or the sun’s rays.     Fabrics for the canopy can vary quite a bit.    SunBrella (acrylic) holds up well to the elements, but olefin, nylon, Coolaroo are common too!     Canopies are held out  in place by wood, aluminum, and now fiberglass ribs.      There are also a large variety of  bases and stands for umbrellas.