Many people have the question of whether a retractable awning can withstand high winds and if so how much they can stand. The answer to this question really depends on the awning and how it is made. It will also depend on how much wind your awning exposed to.
Remember that the purpose of awnings is to shade you from the sun which does not necessarily mean that it will shade from the wind too. In many cases the manufacturers of retractable awnings say that they can withstand winds up to 35 miles per hour. The challenge with this notion is that unless they have been tested to do this you really do not know.
When you think about wind you also have to understand that wind is not the same all the time. On any given day the wind can start out slow, gain speed and then speed can lessen all in a few minutes. Also, there are several factors that can determine how wind will affect your awning: where your house sits, the landscape around your house that includes trees, your geographic location, and the awning itself. Depending on how your awning sits on your house you may have it withstand more or less wind.
There are several ways to tell if your awning has too much wind and you need to retract it. Some people say that if you can’t read a newspaper or magazine comfortably under your retractable awning the wind is probably too high and you should retract it. Other people say that if you are sitting under the awning and the wind becomes uncomfortable for you to sit within, it’s time to retract your awning.
One of the challenges for homeowners is that they install their awnings with minimal pitch. This can create a problem later because the slant of the awning will allow wind to get underneath the fabric and cause the draft to go up, which can damage the frame of the awning; this means you will have to replace it. You may be able to repair some if they are minimally damaged but again it depends on the wind.
Wind creates pressure on the awning and compromises its ability to do what it is designed to do. In one example, a 20 mph wind was shown to create about 2 lbs of pressure per square foot. If you had a 20′ x 13′ awning this pressure would translate into about 520 lbs of pressure on your awning.
Some people think that with automated controls they are safe when in a high wind but think again. The time that it takes an automated control to retract an awning can be longer than the gust of wind that comes up. Since winds happen quickly and usually come in big bursts your awning will not have the time to read the fact it needs to close quickly enough. A good rule of thumb is to retract the awning as soon as you see that they wind is picking up.
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