How Retractable Awnings Work

Homeowners across Hampton Roads look for ways to beat the heat and still enjoy the perks of being outdoors. There are several different shading systems that keep you cool when the sun is out. The most common shade system homeowners gravitate towards is retractable awnings. In this blog we will discuss the two different types of retractable awnings, and how retractable awnings work.

There are two different types of retractable awnings. Motorized retractable awnings and manual retractable awnings – both provide shade. However, how they work depends on material and design factors such as which mechanics the awning uses to extend and retract.

Learning about the two types of retractable awnings and how they work will help you determine the best awning solution for your home.

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Motorized Retractable Awnings Vs. Manual Retractable Awnings

The main difference between the two types of awnings is whether the awning is motorized or manual. The design and function of a motorized retractable awning versus a manual retractable awning impacts how each works.

Motorized Retractable Awnings – Powered By Electric Motors

Motorized retractable awnings are powered by a motor. The motor is designed to fit neatly hidden inside the roller tube of the awning. The roller tube is the width of the awning, and the fabric rolls on to it. When operated, the motor will wind the roller tube, opening or closing the fabric of the awning. As the fabric cover unfurls, the arms supporting the fabric extend. As the fabric cover furls, the awning arms contract.

The motor is powered by electricity. The electric wire which the motor runs on will pass through one end of the awning and be plugged into a regular 110-volt outlet or wired directly to your home’s power supply by a trained electrician.

This more modern technology allows motorized retractable awnings to extend and retract with the push of a button. Motorized retractable awnings are as simple to furl and unfurl as operating a garage door with a garage door opener. Most motorized retractable awnings come equipped with an easy to use remote.

Closed motorized retractable awning gray front view with straight valance
Motorized retractable awning gray sideview with straight valance
manual retractable awning

Manual Retractable Awnings – Powered By Hand Cranks

Manual retractable awnings require the use of good old fashioned elbow grease and the use of a hand crank. In order to extend or contract a manual retractable awning, the user must crank a shaft either clockwise or counterclockwise. Using a hand crank system, a manual retractable awning is much less convenient than motorized retractable awnings.

Retractable Awnings Require Specialized Arms

Most retractable awnings will have two specialized arms with multiple heavy-duty springs inside them that enables the awning to extend and retract. For larger awning models, there may be three or more arms to support the awning. Each awning arm has two main sections connected by an elbow joint. When the awning is being extended or retracted the awning arms function similar to a human arm.

Manual Retractable Awnings Use Articulated Arms

Manual retractable awnings use articulated arms to furl and unfurl the awning. Articulated arms open and close the awning in stages using loaded springs to retract and extend the awning. First, the spring-loaded arms extend. The articulated arms are operated using a hand crank. Cranking the awning shaft allows the articulated arms of a manual retractable awning to fold in or out, opening and closing the awning.

Motorized Retractable Awning Arms

Motorized retractable awnings use the same arms as a manual awning. However, they are engaged by the motor. The motor is inserted into the left or right side of the roller tube.  When you want the awning to go out, the massive springs that are built into the arms of the awning help unfurl the fabric until it gets to the coverage area that you desire. When you push the button to retract the awning, the motor reels in the fabric which pulls in those spring-loaded arms until the awning is back into the closed position. Motorized retractable awnings usually have a wireless remote control that can be operated from either inside or outside the house.

A retractable awning is partially extended - ECCO Sunroom & Awning
Beige Straight Valance Awning
Patio shaded by awning

Benefits of A Motorized Retractable Awning

While both types of retractable awnings will provide you with the benefits of shade you can control, improved energy efficiency, extended life of your furniture, and added value to your home, a motorized retractable awning is far superior to its manual counterpart.

Motorize Awnings Offer Benefit Of Convenience

Motorized retractable awnings are designed with convenience in mind. The motor allows for the awning to protract or retract at the press of a button. On the other hand, manual retractable awnings require physical labor as you hand crank the shaft to operate the awning. The intention of the awning is to keep you from breaking a sweat.

Remote controls for motorized awnings allow you to control the shade without getting up and fiddling with the awning. You can continue to relax and simply press a button to engage your awning to extend or contract.

Spring-loaded forged aluminum arms, which are used in the design of motorized awnings are also made of stronger material. These arms allow for a safer, smoother, and softer open and close of your motorized retractable awning.


Motorize Awnings Offer Benefit Of Discretion

Because the opening and closing of your motorized awning is initiated by the press of a button, you can discreetly furl or unfurl your motorized awning. The motor of a retractable awning and telescopic arms are also quiet. Unlike the manual awning with a clunky hand crank you must turn to operate a manual awning; a motorized awning quietly opens and closes. Your guests may not even notice that your motorized retractable awning has been activated.

Motorized Awnings Are Easy To Use And Maintain

Unlike the manual awning which requires you to physically hand crank a shaft to open or close, a motorized awning is easily opened by pressing a button on a remote. Cleaning and maintaining your motorized retractable awning is simple. Keep up with light cleaning of the awning fabric. The joints are self-lubricating and should not require maintenance. Once a year you can lubricate the moving parts with a dry silicone spray to ensure your awning continues optimal, quiet operation. Store your awning properly off season. Read more about how to clean and maintain retractable awnings here.

Woman holding motorized retractable awning remote

How Do Retractable Awnings Work Wrap-Up

Retractable awnings can be either motorized or manual. How each type operates to open and close the awning differs based on the source of power used to operate the awning (a motor or hand crank) and the type of extending arms it is equipped with (telescopic or articulated). Motorized retractable awnings offer many more benefits than manual retractable awnings. Both awning types provide you with comfortable outdoor living.

Retractable awnings are the top solution to keep you in the sun or shade when you want it. They are easy to install and can be designed to seamlessly match the exterior style of your home. With the variety of fabric styles and colors, a retractable awning is a great choice to personalize your outdoor living space and maximize comfort.

Schedule A Free Design Consultation

Looking for a team to help you select and install a retractable awning? ECCO Sunroom & Awning has been creating customized outdoor living spaces for over 30 years in Hampton Roads. We’ve got you covered with ideas and plans to keep you cool when the sun comes out. Need inspiration? Check out our gallery. Call today 757.424.0022.

Motorized Awnings

Up To $1,750 Off Or More

Featured discount figured from 25% of average cost of $7,000 for a motorized awning. Awning installation time based on average duration of orders for in-stock awnings. One offer per household. Offer not valid on prior sales, prior booked jobs, or combined with any other offers. Offer valid only at time of initial in-home quotation. Some restrictions apply. Call for complete details and pricing. Some restrictions apply. Offer ends 5/31/24.

Call ECCO Sunroom and Awning today for a FREE In Home Estimate at 757-424-0022.