The Unique Benefits
& Challenges
of Outdoor Shades


Outdoor shades are among the simplest, yet most versatile of all outdoor cooling methods. They are one of the best protections against UV radiation. Outdoor shades can also block glare and dust and provide privacy while allowing for cooling breezes.

What’s more, surfaces that are shaded from the hot sun in the daytime collect less heat, so can be cooler when the shade no longer falls on them. Outdoor shades can work together with other outdoor cooling methods, such as outdoor fans, misting systems, and outdoor air conditioners, to provide the very best in safety and comfort.

The sun is a source of life. Long summer days give us a sense of relaxation, energy, and even joy. But sunburn, skin cancer, heat illnesses, accidents, irritability, and crime can all be linked to heat and / or sun exposure.

The sun creates it’s own antidote to these effects with its own shadows, which we call shade.

But shade can be a bit tricky. It moves!

Shade from the same object will bathe one area in the morning and a different area in the afternoon. It will also shift throughout the year. The amount of protection varies with the angle of the sun in relation to where you are. The shade cast may not always be directly beneath the shade structure. In fact, at certain times of the day or year, the shade may be completely outside the structure, providing no protection at all directly under that very structure when you need it most.

Notice in the images below how the shade falls outside the activity areas. They key is to plan in advance where your outdoor shade structure should go so its shade will fall where you need it when you need it.

This is especially true in open spaces where the location, angle, structure and materials of outdoor shades take on special importance. Small, lightweight structures can be adjusted with the changing light. If you’re looking into buying something like these, you could go straight to our pages on outdoor shade structures and shade materials.

But heavy and permanent shades or precise shades may require some planning.

The 3 Steps to Planning Perfect Shade

For heavy, permanent, and precise shade structures, first take a look at The 3 Steps to Planning Perfect Shade:
1. Understand the Shifting Shade
2. Understand Your Area and Your Shade Needs

These steps work together to help you develop;
3. Your personalized shade solution. Now that you know what you need, it’s time to pick it out and put it up with total confidence that cooling shade will be where you need it when you need it.

Get ideas for your outdoor shades at Shade Structures and Shade Materials. shows where shade falls any time, any day, anywhere. Zoom in to your exact location and the days of the year and times of day you’ll need shade.

Other Outdoor Cooling Methods

Take a look at our comparison page to learn which cooling methods may be best for you.

Outdoor fans work well on their own and combine well with misting systems for added cooling effect. Misting fans are a clear example of how misting systems work with another cooling method to maximize cooling.

Swamp coolers (desert coolers) use a similar technology as misting systems, but in a contained unit.

Outdoor shades are a nearly universal solution that can add to the cooling effect of all cooling solutions.

Portable air conditioners can be the best outdoor cooling solution for special circumstances.