Sometimes, we get so caught up with the high-tech solutions to green building that it's easy to overlook the simple solutions. Awnings are a simple way to keep summer sun and heat out of your house. We like how they can soften the lines of traditional and contemporary homes, too.
We haven't found awnings that are exceptionally green—most are made of UV-resistant, plastic Sunbrella fabric. Most natural materials would fade or rot too quickly in strong sunlight to be practical. We did find a link to a study conducted by an association of awning manufacturers that found, not surprisingly, that awnings cut energy use. Another, and slightly less obvious, finding from the study: taking awnings down during the winter in cold climates helps to let more warmth from the sun into the house.
Built-to-order awnings are expensive, but we did find ready-made ones at Sears that range in price from $150 to $280. Or, you can also follow Maxwell's example and make your own from some canvas, clips, and rope.