Dear Jim: I need a movable awning for sun and rain protection over my deck and windows in the summer. I still want a sky view at night and passive solar heat in the winter. What is the best type of awning to use? — Paul N.
Dear Paul: There are several movable types of awnings available, but the most convenient for your needs is a lateral arm retractable awning. I have used one for the past ten years over my own patio. They are easy to install, to open and to close, and they are very durable.
What is unique about a retractable awning is that it is only supported where it attaches to the house wall. This eliminates the inconvenience of having awning supports at the outer corners that rest on the deck or patio. The awning can be opened from only a few inches out to its maximum depth.
Retractable awnings are attractive with hundreds of styles, patterns and colors of decorative fabrics. Since the fabric rolls up and is stored against the wall when it is closed, it is not continually exposed to the sun's rays or harsh weather. This gives it a long life with little fading.
To visualize how a retractable awning works, hold your arms chest high and tight against your chest with your elbows out to the sides. Now straighten out your arms and imagine them covered with fabric. This is exactly how a retractable awning over your patio or deck opens and closes.
The two lateral arms are spring-loaded at the elbows with the spring force trying to straighten them. These create tension on the fabric in the roll on the wall so that the fabric stays taut in any open position.
Lateral arm retractable awnings can be made in sizes from 4 feet to 40 feet wide with 4-foot to 14-foot projections out from the wall. Since you can open one any amount you wish, it is often wise to get one that has a slightly greater projection than you now need.
Even the largest awnings are easy to open and close with a hand crank mechanism like I have. For more convenience, select an optional electric motor drive. Just push a button and it opens and closes to any position.
If your budget is not tight, consider adding a high-tech wind and rain sensor.
If your deck is not against a wall, consider a freestanding retractable awning design. An easy-to-move butterfly design extends out from the frame on both sides and retracts into a narrow protective hood at the center. There are also non-lateral arm awnings that swing down over a window.
Most of the fabrics used on these awnings allow you to use your deck in the rain. Keep it closed in the winter because the weight of the snow can break the arms. I found out the hard way.
Write for (donwload instantly at www.dulley.com) Update Bulletin No. 465 — buyer's guide of nine attached and freestanding retractable awnings showing widths and projections, features, prices, installation instructions and a fabric selector guide. Please include $3.00 and a business-size SASE.
James Dulley, Deseret News, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244.
Dear Jim: We want to install a central vacuum cleaner system, but we are unsure about whether or not to vent it outdoors. Does it make sense to suck all that heated or cooled air outdoors? — Anita R.
Dear Anita: The central vacuum cleaner in my own home vents indoors. Most of them have high quality filters, so very little dust and dirt escapes back into the air. This also saves energy as you indicated.
If you are installing a central vac because of allergies, it might make sense to vent it outdoors for the best indoor air quality. The heat content of air is relatively low, so the winter heat loss will not be great.