Author Archives: Marcion Albert

Cattle Shading Guide – Everything You Need to Know About Livestock Shade

What is livestock shading?

There have been some recent studies done by the Australian government which measured the impact for both dairy cows and beef cattle. They have discovered that excessive heat can lead to significant reduction in milk production as well as considerably lower meat yield. This is a ratio of the pounds of meat from the cow per pound of grain consumed. This is simple biology as the calories obtained from the food are used by the cow to maintain body temperature.

Livestock shading is a technique that really became popular from this study. There have been several companies that now manufacture and sell these awnings for livestock. This can benefit other animals too; however, nearly all the research has been focused on the financial impact for cows.

What are the benefits of livestock sun protection?

The main reason a farmer wants to protect his herd from the sun is to maintain a consistent body temperature for the cattle. While 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit is the average temperature for humans, the average for cows run a tad higher ranging between 101.5 and 102.7 depending on the breed. Additionally, the majority of the heat generated by cattle comes through eating and digesting. Because of this the best place to provide overhead protection from the sun is around the hay bails or feed stalls. If the cows are free range and roam around an open field, then you can either use stationary awnings at the salt blocks or water stations or portable awnings distributed around the field. We will cover the portable livestock shade options below as these are one of the most effective and best value tools to help you regulate your cow’s temperature.

We have created a list of the impact and corresponding benefits that shade can provide to your herd.

  • Milk Production: Extreme heat can reduce production by 1.5 liters per cow. (Source)
  • Milk Protein Production: Milk protein per liter drop by 0.15% (Source)
  • Lean Beef Mass: This can drop 10% for adult cows (Source)
  • Conceptation Rate: For year round calfers, the conception rate can decrease by 10% to 12% (Source)
  • Gestation Length: The usual cycle range from 279 to 284 with a mean of 283. Heat stress can add 1-3 days to this average. (Source)
  • Calf Size: Initial research has suggested a decrease in birth weight; however, we have not found a peer reviewed scientific study. (Source)

What is the ROI Impact?

Most of the large farmers that we have spoken with already use a software to measure their ROI. For these farmers, we encourage them to plug in the data to their existing systems. There are are many government funded research projects that provide independent validation to the changes. From there, it’s merely a matter of comparing that with the cost of adding the awnings to your farm.

For small farmers who may not have the software tools, we recommend creating a DIY solution first. This can either be a portable residential style awning that is attached to the side of a barn to see if they cows go to the shaded area. Additionally, you can compare this with the Year over Year milk production for days of similar temperature. For farmers who do “Skip Day” milking the impact seems to be even more significant to overall milk production. If you are going with the DIY residential option, we highly recommend a permanent, non-retractable awning that can be kept up most of the year. In the summers, the awning will protect the cattle from the heat whereas in the winter it will shield them from the impacts of the snow or rain by providing a dry place for them to stand as we know a lot of the small farms don’t have dedicated barn space. Our top recommendation is the Super Amazing Cow Shade, and we have written a full review article.

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Guide to Managing Cow Temperature

  • Increased Respiration Rate
  • Wandering for Shade
  • Eating Less
  • Swarming Water Sources
  • Splashing Water from Trough on Body
  • Multiple Cows Clumping for Shade
  • Open Mouth Heavy Breathing
  • Drooling from Mouth
  • Fall Over
  • Convulsions
  • Death

The list above is an overview of what happens to cattle as their body temperature increases. The purpose of this is to allow farmers to quickly asses how their herd is acting so that they can determine what actions are necessary. The reason shading is so crucial is because it provides a self-service cooling option for the cattle. The awning is totally reusable which will greatly cut the amount of water consumed by the herd.

Best Cool Weather Strategies

While most of this article is about keeping cows cool in the summer months, there are also benefits from keeping the cattle warmer during the winter. Cows lose heat through three main methods, and these are:

  • Convection – This is when a cow touches something cooler such as the ground or shaded wall.
  • Conduction – This is when cows heat up the air around them. This is the primary benefit from cattle awnings.
  • Radiation – This is the heat from getting solar radiation. This is irrespective of temperature, and being in shade can lower this by more than 50%.

Best Warm Weather Strategies

The one item we want to call out when evaluating any terms of movable covers is that they can sometimes be caught by the wind so it is extremely important to have them attached well to the ground. If you are on a parking lot or other paved area, we recommend tent weights. For the times you are on a beach, you can use sandbags that are tied to the legs, and if you are camping in a grassy or wooded area, additional tent stakes are the preferred option as they can secure your structure to the ground without adding significant weight to your pack. Regardless of what environment that you are using the tent on, it is better to err on the side of attaching better than not enough.

Heat Exchange in Cows

Standalone awnings are ideal for RVs because they can easily be pulled from the vehicle and placed adjacent to it. This will create extra usable living space, and it will also create a welcoming social spot. For people who frequent RV parks, a portable awning is a must have.

DIY Cattle Awnings

While this applies to a small number of visitors, the question I have received most is about portable shading options for pets or livestock so I have created an entire section on this. Once we complete additional research, I will break this out into its own page so we would love to hear if you have any specific experience with a product either good bad. Finally, we appreciate any time you can send us an image as it really helps our information come to life.

Professional Awnings for Cows

While this applies to a small number of visitors, the question I have received most is about portable shading options for pets or livestock so I have created an entire section on this. Once we complete additional research, I will break this out into its own page so we would love to hear if you have any specific experience with a product either good bad. Finally, we appreciate any time you can send us an image as it really helps our information come to life.

Best Sizes for Cow Shade Areas

While this applies to a small number of visitors, the question I have received most is about portable shading options for pets or livestock so I have created an entire section on this. Once we complete additional research, I will break this out into its own page so we would love to hear if you have any specific experience with a product either good bad. Finally, we appreciate any time you can send us an image as it really helps our information come to life.

Author:
Marcion Albert

Date Published:
4/12/2017

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Best Patio Covers

What is a patio cover

The term patio cover is a broad term that can be applied to many different types of structures. At a high level, it is merely a structure that provides shade and possibly protection from rain for a backyard area. We are expanding the term “Patio Cover” to also include stand-alone options such as pergolas and gazebos. For us though, we do not consider a carport to be a patio cover because it has a different and unique set of requirements that aren’t present for the other options.

The primary purpose of a patio cover is to provide additional livable and useful square footage to a home. Some patio covers are entirely enclosed to create sunrooms while others merely have the roof and act more like a deck with an awning.

For the purpose of this article, we will divide our results into three different categories based on their construction material. We will explain the benefits and drawbacks of each material, and then include a link to our complete review of the best for each type. The types are:

  • Metal
  • Wood
  • Fabric

Metal Patio Covers

Metal patio covers are the most expensive choice and most rigid. They are typically built by hand by a licensed handyman or construction company. There are some kits that include all the components needed; however, most professionals choose to purchase the base materials by hand so they have total control over the entire project. Between labor and material cost, you can expect to spend about $4.75 per square foot for aluminum and $6.50 per square foot for steel or composite metal.

The two primary metal choices are aluminum which is a lightweight metal. It can be used for homes in the southern states. The aluminum covered patio can create a nice covered porch without needing a huge budget. The biggest drawback is that there can be issues in either heavy wind or with significant snow weight which is why we don’t suggest these for northern states or any area that receives any accumulation of snow.

The second metal is steel covered patios. These don’t necessarily need to be stainless steel but can be composed of any composite metal. These should always be setup by a professional company because the weight of the frame can cause serious injury to anyone around or the home if it collapses. A steel frame can weigh more than 200 pounds including the support poles, and this is not something that should be done as a DIY project as a beginner.

The primary strength of the composite metal patio cover is the strength. It is a very durable material, and it can be painted many colors so that to fit in style of the home. This will create a nice livable outdoor space, and this is a bargain at the $6.50 per square foot. The steel frame also lends itself to be fully walled in by either screen or glass to make a sun room.

Wood Patio Covers

Wood patio covers are more aesthetic than functional in our opinion. They are incredibly popular for homeowners because of their beauty, and they lend themselves to having many different layouts. The cost of the wood patio cover will depend entirely on the type of wood selected. There will be a huge difference in price of pine which will be $5.31 for a 2″x4″x 8′ compared with cherry which has a single board cost of $64.96. Regardless of the type of tree you select, you will always want it to be fully treated to prevent weather damage. One of our experts is working on a guide that will help homeowners identify the lower cost wood and stain it to appear as a higher value wood.

The primary advantage of the wood covers is the wow factor because when they are built correctly will be beautiful, and it can completely transform the exterior of the home. These can also be created by a skilled DIY craftsman. The drawbacks are the financial costs because these are the most expensive on our list, and additionally, they also require ongoing maintenance. In the rural areas, the frame can become the home to birds or bees which build nests that can damage the structure.

Fabric Patio Covers

Park Awning

These are the polar opposite to the wood covers listed above. They don’t create a wow factor; however, they are incredibly functional and versatile. The fabrics will either be a poly-vinyl, canvas, or composite material. Some of the top awning makers use a proprietary blend of components to create their fabric so that it gets the water resistance of vinyl with the strength and ease of cleaning of the canvas. Most of the cases the covers are sold as awning kits that come prepackaged with everything required for a moderately skilled homeowner to attach to their home. Depending on quality these cost around $1.10 per square foot making them the best value if you are simply looking to add outdoor living space.

The primary benefit to these is that they serve as a fantastic gateway for the homeowner to evaluate how much they would use a covered outdoor living space. For less than $200, a home could have a covered deck or patio, and it is easily removable if it becomes an issue with a homeowners association or neighborhood council. Additionally, these are built in many different colors that can either blend with the roof or add a pop of color to liven up a boring exterior. To be fair, we may be a bit biased toward this option as our site began focusing on fabric based awnings before we branched out to cover all types of exterior shading. The drawbacks are that they should either be retracted or fully taken down before the winter. Most are not designed to be load bearing, and they can have a catastrophic failure when a lot of snow accumulates on them.

Frequently Asked Questions on Patio Covers

Below we have compiled a list of the most common questions we see on this topic. If you would like to know something that is not covered on this page, please feel free to send us either an email or post in a comment below. While we certainly don’t know everything on the topic, we are happy to share the information we have learned.

  1. What is the usual height?

    Most range from 8′ to 12′ feet, and this greatly depends on the layout of the exterior of the home.

  2. Do open air patio covers work?

    Absolutely! Open air covers are an amazing option especially in the southwestern that don’t receive a lot of precipitation. Most of the kits offer a 50% shade coverage, and can often be cooler than their closed roof counterpart. The reason is the excess heat can escape through the top.

  3. How are they supported?

    When the area is less than 10′ x 10′ then there will be a single pole that is load bearing at each corner. If the cover is attached to a home, it only requires two poles as the side adjacent to the residence can be used for support instead of the poles. When the structure is wider than 16′, we recommend using a third pole in the middle.

  4. What’s the best patio cover?

    This is truly going to decide on what you want. There isn’t a one size fits all model because homeowners have different goals. Once you choose whether you want, metal, wood or fabric, we have guides created for each of those.

  5. What are your thought on Solar Panels?

    I would only consider adding solar panels to a patio cover if all other usable roof space has been converted. The supports are designed to handle a specific amount of weight, and adding the solar panels could possibly lead to structural failures. If you are going to add these, we recommend working with a licensed contractor to ensure you will be within building code.

  6. Ever heard of Frosted Glass covers?

    Yes, we find them beautiful, and we considered adding a fourth type to this page. We ultimately decided to omit them because we wanted to keep the guide more user-friendly, and we believed that topic was a tad more advanced than we wanted to cover in this post.

  7. Do you have a gallery we could use for inspiration?

    We recommend this high-quality video if you are looking for ideas and examples:

Conclusion

Have you decided to cover your deck or patio? If so, we would love to hear from you in the comments below. What were the primary factors in your decision? Did you install it yourself or did you hire someone? We also have a photo contest for decks, patios, and awnings so we would love to receive an image that we can use on your site. The photograph voted our favorite will receive an Amazon gift card.

Author:
Marcion Albert

Date Published:
4/18/2017

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Portable Shading ideas

What is portable Shading

We define portable shading as an item whose primary benefit is to provide cover and protection from the sun. It cannot require any external supports such as a tree, external wall or preset poles such as a clothesline or swing set. The primary uses are for tailgating, family reunions or to provide an area adjacent to a field for kids sporting events. The main products we consider are beach canopies, freestanding golf umbrellas, and popup tents.

Our Research

To understand the best option, we have looked at more than 100 items. We have evaluated each product on the following items:

  • Ease of Setup
  • Weight
  • Price
  • Portability
  • Restrictions

Ideas for Portable Shading

Our company is located in sunny Arizona which can see temperatures exceeding 115 in the summer. For us spending any significant time outside requires sunscreen, sunglasses, hydration and some form of shade. Even a quiet afternoon picnic can be uncomfortable without protection from the sun, and in many places, a fixed shelter isn’t an option. This article will feature products that are available for immediate purchase. We will have a second article for DIY portable shading if you prefer to create your own solution using common household items.

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Ease of Setup and Weight

When we evaluate the products in terms of their setup difficulty, we are really looking at three factors. The ideal product will require only a single person with no special tools. Additionally, the entire setup or tear down should take less than two minutes each. We can unpack that statement by measuring the:

  • How Many People are Required?
  • Any Extra Tools Needed?
  • How Long Does it Take?

Of all the products that we researched the absolute best was the NESO Beach Tent. This tent weighs a mere 3.9 pounds and comes with a convenient backpack. We have included a video demonstrates just how incredibly simple and fast this product is to get up. While it was originally designed for the beach, it can also be used in areas without sand by attaching the robes to the ground with traditional tent stakes.


One other strong benefit to this product are the number of positive Amazon reviews and an incredibly active manufacturer who has answered more than 50 questions. You can read the Amazon reviews here. The only drawback to this product is that it’s designed for people who are sitting or laying rather than standing. This is ideal if you are going to have a picnic or want to have a shaded spot as an option for children playing outside; however, there are some other alternatives if you are looking for something to handle tailgate parties or family reunions.


Best Portable Shade for the Price

For the many people who are looking for covering for their tailgate parties, we recommend the Amazon Basics Popup Tent. This is a low cost, no frills option for customers’ that are seeking value over a choice. The product comes in one color, royal blue and weighs 37.5 pounds nearly double the weight of the products that we cover. While it is possible for one strong person to set up alone, we highly recommend having two people. This shelter covered 100 square feet with a cost of less than $1 per foot of coverage. The weight of the canopy can create a challenge if you are going to use this camping or away from a vehicle. It does come with a wheeled carrying bag; however, the small castor wheels failed when we tried to roll them over a grassy. This is our top pick for “Tailgate Canopy”.

Additional Considerations

The one item we want to call out when evaluating any terms of movable covers is that they can sometimes be caught by the wind so it is extremely important to have them attached well to the ground. If you are in a parking lot or other paved area, we recommend tent weights. For the times you are on a beach, you can use sandbags that are tied to the legs, and if you are camping in a grassy or wooded area, additional tent stakes are the preferred option as they can secure your structure to the ground without adding significant weight to your pack. Regardless of what environment that you are using the tent on, it is better to err on the side of attaching better than not enough.

Usage with Motorhomes and RVs

Standalone awnings are ideal for RVs because they can easily be pulled from the vehicle and placed adjacent to it. This will create extra usable living space, and it will also create a welcoming social spot. For people who frequent RV parks, a portable awning is a must have.

Shading for Pets and Livestock

While this applies to a small number of visitors, the question I have received most is about portable shading options for pets or livestock so I have created an entire section on this. Once we complete additional research, I will break this out into its own page so we would love to hear if you have any specific experience with a product either good bad. Finally, we appreciate any time you can send us an image as it really helps our information come to life.

Author:
Marcion Albert

Date Published:
4/11/2017

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Best Awning Support Pole

What is an Awning Support Pole?

This is usually a general aftermarket accessory that homeowners add to provide support for the frame. Adding these can greatly improve the structural integrity as the weight is divided between four supports rather than two. Because most awnings are attached to load bearing exterior walls, the weight pulls both down and away from the wall. When the homeowner adds the “Awning Legs”, the force pulling the unit away from the house is virtually eliminated.

Are They Required?

For most installations, they are neither required nor necessary. The brackets that are packaged with most off the shelf units should be sufficient to support the weight.

That being said, you should consider adding the poles if you plan to leave your awning up through the winter. The additional weight of a heavy snowfall can more than triple the amount of pressure on the brackets and possibly lead to a collapse of the awning and possible damage to the exterior wall. Even if there isn’t a complete structural failure, the additional weight can warp the frame or cause the fabric to tear.

Another reason to consider adding supports is that they really help against a strong wind. When there is strong airflow, the underside can create areas of imbalanced pressure. When the pressure is lower underneath, the awning works similar to an airplane wing that applies a lot of upward pressure to the bracket. This can be incredibly challenging because many brackets don’t deal well with an upward force. The poles help because they provide additional mass at the corners to offset the upward pressure.

Key Considerations

There are three primary considerations when evaluating this product, and they are:

  • Material – What metal are they made from?
  • Height Range – What are the minimum and maximum height supported?
  • Payload Capacity – How much weight can they support?

When it comes to material, we recommend either aluminum or steel. Steel is significantly more structurally sound and should be chosen for homeowners who are primarily concerned with the ability to offset snow weight. The steel supports won’t buckle or bend, and they create an extremely sound base. The also work extremely well at adding additional weight to prevent strong winds from causing the updrafts. The only two drawbacks to steel supports are that they are heavy making them more difficult to handle if they are often set up and taken down as would be the case for an RV. The final drawback is they can be more costly than their aluminum counterparts.

Aluminum supports are preferred for RVs or when the homeowner lives in a part of the country that doesn’t get a massive amount of snow. Their lighter weight makes them ideal for quick and easy setup, and they cost a fraction of the amount of the steel options.

We *STRONGLY* recommend that you do not purchase any sort of PVC or plastic support beams. These products are incredibly inexpensive; however, they don’t truly provide any of the benefits that come with adding supports. Additionally, many of these will break rather than bending like aluminum or standing true like steel.

Height range is only going to be a consideration if your home is on a hill or significant change in elevation. All of the poles we recommend will support heights from 5′ to 10′.

When it comes to payload weight, either of the two metal options is going to meet most needs. If you live in an area that gets extremely heavy snows then you may only want to consider the steel, but for most homeowners, that material is more peace of mind rather than a necessity.

Our Recommendations for Home


For homeowners who plan to leave their poles up permanently, we highly recommend the Awntech Breeze Adjustable Support Legs . Awntech is a leader in the space known for making quality products. These will fit most awnings from a height perspective and come with feet at the bottom which can be affixed to the ground to help guard against wind gusts.

Our Recommendations for Camping or RV

While we wholeheartedly recommend the Awntech model above, we have some reservations about the Naturehike Professional Support Pole. We are recommending this product only as a temporary support for awnings or sun shades that will be up for a few days. A lot of our readers are specifically looking for exactly this style of support so this is why we have included this option.

Other Names?

This product is also commonly referred to as “Painters Poles” or “Support Legs”. If you see either of these terms, they can be considered interchangeable for the term used on the NewAwning.com website.

Author:
Marcion Albert

Date Published:
3/31/2017

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Best Awnings for Phoenix Arizona

The dry arid environment of Arizona poses unique challenges for awnings and canopies. In the summer of 2017, we hit a new record high of 122 degrees on June 22. This heat can be a challenge for many air conditioning units to keep up. This heat is also a challenge to the fabric and metal frame of the external awnings. Additionally, the material needs to be able to withstand a complete lack of moisture that would cause dry rot for fabrics used in most parts of the country.

Why have an awning in Phoenix?

Awnings can produce two amazing benefits for houses in the hot Arizona sun. The first is that an awning or canopy that covers a large portion of the western facing wall can significantly lower summer air conditioning bills. There have been EPA studies that show an awning cut cooling costs by more than 8% during the hottest summer months. This occurs by shading the wall and windows from the sun’s rays. The second benefit is to create an outdoor living area. Shaded areas can be up to 20 degrees cooler so having a backyard area that is partially covered will allow it to be used for gatherings. This works especially well for evening entertaining as having a canopy over a patio will make the space far more usable.

Another major benefit is that by shading your western facing windows, you can dramatically ease the drain on the air condition in the hottest parts of the day. In the middle of the day in Arizona, we are often faced with temperatures that are so hot that the cooling systems will run constantly and overheat causing damage to the unit. While it may seem counter-intuitive, but adding window shading either external with a canopy or inside with reflective sun shades can dramatically increase the lifespan of the AC unit.

Commercial Awnings

Phoenix is a driving city which means people are often trying to find businesses from their car. Awnings are used by many companies as a memorable sign. A distinctive design or color can appear on a company website and will be instantly recognizable when the potential customers get to the area. If you are considering a commercial awning, we highly recommend contacting several companies for project mockups and estimates. In most cases, the awning will need to be made custom for lettering to appear. Additionally, whenever you are making a change to a public facing building you will want to hire a licensed contractor. Even a small awning over the front of a storefront can run several hundred dollars.

Our engineering and marketing team are currently building out a list of our top recommended awning install companies in our hometown of Phoenix. We are especially looking at the east valley including Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert and Scottsdale. If you a representative for a company who supports commercial awnings in these communities, we’d love to hear from you.

Off the Shelf Awnings


If you are looking for an off the shelf awning for your residential patio, we highly recommend the Petra’s Square Sun Shade. This comes in a variety of sizes ranging from 11.5 feet to 23, and it can easily be mounted to most homes with simple eye hooks and two additional support poles. We have compiled a detailed guide to awning support poles if you need those. This is a DIY project that can be assembled by one person with a ladder in an afternoon. We have reviewed many options, and we truly feel this is the best value for the homeowner that is looking to add some shade to their backyard.

If you are looking for an off the shelf retractable awning, then we suggest the GoPlus Retractable Deck. This unit measures 8.2′ by 6.5′ and does not require additional support poles. It features a manual crank for opening and comes with all necessary brackets. This is ideal for the hot Arizona summers.

Professional Installations

Our team is currently researching Phoenix Awning Companies to find a company that we feel comfortable recommending. At a minimum, we are seeking a company that has been in business for more than 5 years with more than 200 professional installations. If you own an awning company in the Phoenix or central Arizona area and would like to speak to us about your company, please contact us.

Author:
Jennifer Valance
Date Published:
3/30/2017
Date Updated:
6/22/2017

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