One of the things I notice about old photographs featuring houses or buildings, is awnings. I’m not old enough to remember awnings on all the windows of multi-story buildings (I’ve seen the pictures) but I very much do remember the houses in our neighborhood all having them while I was growing up. Window awnings were a great way to cut down on the heating up of the house (or building) by the sun during the summer.
Growing up during the 1960s, my father would put up the canvas awnings in the spring and take them back down in the fall. It was desirable to take them down to allow the sun to help heat the house during the cold months, while keeping the awnings in storage and out of the weather at the to extend their life. Some houses in our neighborhood had permanent aluminum awnings that stayed up year-round.
Back when I was a child, central air was kind of new for residential homes and a lot of people would have maybe just one large window air conditioner for the whole house. This one unit could not effectively cool the whole house without a little help, the kind of help the awnings could provide. And of course, the tradition of awnings went back to a time even before air-conditioning when they were use to block the sun while allowing you to leave the window open for air circulation.
About the time we got central air-conditioning (1969), dad stopped putting up the awning except on the west side of the house that got the brunt of the afternoon heat. By the mid ‘70s, even those were gone.
Today you don’t see awnings anymore, the SunSetter commercials on TV notwithstanding. But I imagine we (as a society) would save a lot of energy if we still used them. I suppose, though, it still comes down to money. Right now, it would probably take a lot of years before you even broke even on the cost of the awnings and, if you maintained them the old fashioned way, there’s the hassle of putting them up and taking them down every year, and then you have to replace them at some point, etc. So unless electric prices soar, I don’t see the widow awning making a return anytime soon.