Retractable Awnings are extremely popular these days for a variety of really good reasons. Navigating the increasing number of items of this type can be tough, though, and requires a little research and a discriminating eye. Making a couple of important decisions early in the process, however, can really narrow down the field. Once you make those basic decisions, the rest of your shopping experience can often be boiled down to getting the perfect style, color, or design to suit your taste and the style of your home's exterior.
Motorized vs. Manual
This is the biggest of those important considerations. To put an obvious concept as simply as possibly, motorized awnings extend and retract automatically when you flip a switch or push the appropriate button (assuming everything's wired properly, of course), while a manual unit requires a little more effort, utilizing something along the lines of a hand crank or pulley system to operate. The differences are pretty obvious, but the choice you end up making is an important one. Manual models obviously require a little more from you in a physical sense, but the convenience you get when you opt for a motorized model also comes with the risk that the motor will malfunction somewhere down the road. Each has benefits and drawbacks.
More Things to Consider
Your next few decisions, though a little less broad, are no less important. There are plenty of established manufacturers like SunSetter or Awntech that make very high-quality outdoor products, but there are also newer producers with convenient and innovative new designs emerging all the time. You'll also have to think about the level of UV protection you need, the color and valance style you want to match your home, and whether you're planning on covering a porch, patio, deck, or other outdoor area. You'll even need to do a little research as to how easy or difficult maintenance, upkeep, or even repair may be as your awning ages.
If you take your time and make all of these decisions carefully, though, you'll likely end up with a Retractable Awning that suits you and your home perfectly. Don't be afraid of the wide variety that's currently available in this market - take it as the opportunity that it is to find exactly what you want at a price you're comfortable with. There are products available in almost every style and at every price point to provide homeowners with the exact look and function they're after.