Even in the midst of economic turbulence, it still is important to continue to invest in your home as an asset. Now more than ever, home improvements should go beyond just adding aesthetics and provide return on investment.

One home improvement that provides ROI in any climate – hot or cold, economically good or bad – is awnings. Awnings, both aesthetically appealing and functional, can provide savings on home cooling costs by reducing heat gain, and therefore the load on air conditioners. In most homes, more cooling energy is lost through glass doors and windows than any other part of the house. No one wants to see their dollars flying out the window in the form of energy costs.

When added above a window or door, an awning reduces the amount of heat that enters a home by blocking the sun’s rays from penetrating the glass. Keeping excess heat out reduces the load on the air conditioner, allowing the unit to cool the space and maintain a constant temperature more efficiently.

“Awnings over a patio or deck can in essence create a cost effective additional room in one’s home,” says Michelle Sahlin, managing director of the Professional Awning Manufacturer’s Association (PAMA). “The combination of contributing to the house’s character while conserving energy makes awnings an outstanding home improvement.”

An energy study conducted by the Center for Sustainable Building Research at the University of Minnesota revealed the impact of awnings in residential buildings. According to the study, awnings can reduce annual cooling energy by as much as 16 percent in hot climates, such as Houston, and as much as 14 percent in moderate climates, such as Washington, D.C., compared to homes with completely unshaded windows. The amount of cooling energy saved varies depending on the number of windows, type of glass in the windows, window orientation and the climate the house is in. The homes that receive the greatest energy-savings benefits from awnings have mostly west-facing windows.

Homeowners who already have installed awnings are noticing the difference and are wanting more. “A long-time customer of ours had four awnings and was thinking of adding nine more awnings, but needed to convince her husband,” says Ann Hunzinger, co-owner of Evanston Awning Co. in Evanston, Ill. “She just needed to do a bit of math to see how her home’s cooling costs would be reduced, and was able to convince her husband in no time that they would easily be able to recoup the cost of the awnings.”

Beyond the return on investment, awnings have simply served as an effective substitute for central air conditioning for some homeowners. Sahlin decided to install awnings instead of central air conditioning in her century-old home to keep cool.

“Installing central air conditioning would have required knocking holes in the walls and disrupting the house layout,” says Sahlin. “By adding awnings, I was able to keep my house cool and intact while adding color and beauty to the exterior.”

Awnings can provide benefits to people living without air conditioning by reducing inside temperatures by as much as 8 to 15 degrees. A well-placed awning can add thousands of dollars to the price of a home, especially in smaller homes where square footage is at a premium — and is less expensive than putting on an entire sunroom.

To learn more about how awnings can provide a return on your home improvement spending, please visit www.awningstoday.com. (MS)

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