How Do Retractable Awnings Work?

How Do Retractable Awnings Work

Retractable awnings or retractable patio screen enclosures are versatile awnings that are mostly used in homes to provide shade for a back patio or deck, during summer. They can be retracted, especially during harsh environmental conditions like heavy snowstorms or heavy wind. This makes them a great choice, especially if you’d like to make your outdoor space more attractive and comfortable to combat the summer heat.

But you still need an awning of the highest quality for it to be effective. To decide on the best awning to pick, you need to check the details of the inner workings of retractable awnings. Here’s more information about how retractable awnings work.

How Do Retractable Awnings Work?

There two types of retractable awnings, motorized and manual awnings. Motorized retractable awnings automatically unfurl and roll-up. They use an electric motor to function where you have to press a button on a control panel or remote control for the motor to function.

On the other hand, manual retractable awnings require that you turn a crank or handle clockwise or counterclockwise to open and close the awning. This makes them inconvenient compared to motorized awnings. If you might be wondering which retractable awning to purchase, let’s first look at how these two types of awnings work.

How Manual Awnings work

As the name suggests, manual retractable awnings operate manually using “human power”. They have vertical support rods which are not present on motorized versions that fold down when the awning is opened.

While most people consider anything that is operated manually to be hard to operate, this is not the case with manual awnings since they have undergone great advancements. They have been constructed and advanced to where you no longer need to use a great deal of strength to turn the crank.

They make an excellent choice in homes with no electricity or whenever the electricity is not working for some reason. They can also be opened to provide some shade. Compared to using a motorized motor which can have mechanical problems as they age, manual awnings are durable and easy to maintain.

You will not have to worry about additional labor costs for connecting them to your home’s electrical system, battery burnout or damaged parts. They are also cheaper to purchase.

How Motorized Awnings Work

How a motorized awning is structured is different from a manual retractable awning. Motorized awnings have telescopic arms and not vertical support rods. These arms extend and retract with the opening and closing of the awning.

This design gives the awning a better structural appearance since it provides a cleaner and more linear look making it an awesome choice for a more modern home look. You only need a push-button to operate their motorized retractable awning. The button triggers the motor to spin resulting in either the retracting or extending of your awning. The retracting or extending your motorized retractable awning is unnoticeable.

In some cases, motorized awnings might be equipped with sensors that utilize the wind where they automatically retract back in especially in climatic conditions like a quick storm. Other versions even have sun sensors that allow the awning to come out on a bright sunny day cooling your space. This can help you cut down on your monthly energy bill.

A motorized retractable awning is an excellent pick for people that prefer home automation systems. It’s convenient, requires less time and effort to open and close due to the motorized function and is a great choice for elderly or disabled homeowners.

Parts of a Retractable Awning

Retractable Awning Fabric

Retractable awning fabric is one of the major parts of an awning. Canopies were previously constructed with a coated canvas but these are no longer available. Instead, the material available will either be solution-dyed acrylic or polyester/vinyl with the latter being the most budget-friendly option.

Polyester and vinyl are suitable for entry-level shelters and can serve you for 5-10 years with yearly maintenance. The only disadvantage is that it’s prone to fading and discoloration and can tear during heavy storms. This makes the weight of whichever fabric you’d like to purchase a very important factor to consider when picking a retractable awning fabric.

On the other hand, solution-dyed acrylic is a higher-end fabric created from individual extruded acrylic fibers woven into a large cloth. This material absorbs color making an awning made from it incredibly resistant to any fading or discoloration. With proper maintenance, the fabric can last decades and in most cases it comes with a 10+ year warranty on the product.

The Header Bar

This is the long metal rod at the front of the awning. All fixed frame awnings have a header bar, but it is optional for retractable awnings. One of the benefits of a header bar is that it offers support making the entire canopy more wind resistant. It can be retracted and stored when not in use.

Support Arms

There are different types of awning arms, telescoping hydraulic arms and folding mechanical arms. The telescoping hydraulic or gas-driven arms have a lower lifespan compared to the folding arms. Their maintenance levels are also a bit high and you have to fix any leaks in the fluid.

The folding support arms are the majority in the market and are made of aluminum. Depending on the size you purchase, some awnings are over 8′ wide and will have additional support arms placed in the middle. Other models have 3 and 4 support arms so always consult to determine the right size.


Similar to any other product that you buy, deciding between a motorized and a manual retractable awning depends on several factors. These include your preferences in terms of color, style and design, the intended function, budget and automation comfort level. The good thing is that you can find both types of awnings. But due to their pricing, always consider a retractable awning an investment for your property and carefully weigh the pros and cons before making a decision.

Written by Frederick Jace

A passionate Blogger and a Full time Tech writer. SEO and Content Writer Expert since 2015.

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