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Made in the Shade

Originally Published in MotorHome Magazine

Awnings are an essential part of the mobile lifestyle. They help keep unwanted light and
heat from entering the coach and provide a comfortable, shaded area from which to enjoy the outdoors. While the benefits are obvious, the process to open and close the typical awning by one person – or anyone who has physical limitations – may keep it rolled up more often than not. And, as many owners have found out the hard way, in unpredictable weather conditions it can be a gamble to leave the awning out when you leave your coach for fear that it will collapse and cause damage in high winds. For those individuals hoping to simplify the process, or looking to enhance the exterior aesthetics of their coaches, a
Girard power lateral-arm awning may be just the solution. With the simple touch of a
button, the awning extends either a few feet, to provide shade over the windows, or
completely, to form a patio cover. This is particularly handy for occasions when you may be
at a rally or a wooded campground where there may not be enough room to completely extend your awning. What’s more, you can leave the awning extended in questionable weather because it will automatically retract when the wind reaches potentially harmful speeds.

Finally, its lateral-arm design means you’ll never bang your head on an awning arm again. As you might have guessed, all these benefits don’t come cheap. A Girard G2000 patio awning can cost more than $6,000, plus installation. For this, you get the awning assembly (awning, arms, fabric, housing and motor), the Wind Sensor V electronics package, mounting brackets and hardware, switches, a hand-held remote control and all other necessary electrical components. Girard also offers a variety of slideout and window awnings, and can custom-build them to suit virtually every application, from a small Class C to a Prevost-based bus conversion. Though Girard has been around only since 1995, founder Larry Girard has vast experience in the awning business. The former owner of A&E awnings, Larry sold that business and started Girard Systems, adapting the lateral arm design used on homes for some 60 years to motorhome applications. “The typical awning was originally designed for travel trailers,” explains the company’s co-chairman and CFO, Marcia Girard.

“As motorhome manufacturers came up with raised-rail designs, the coaches got taller and
taller, which made it more and more difficult to operate the awning. Essentially, motorhome
design was progressing, but awning design wasn’t.” Girard awnings use an extrude-daluminum powder-coated housing that incorporates the 120-volt AC motor, lateral arms, lead rail and water resistant fabric. The fabric is attached to the powered roller at one end and to the lead rail at the other. arms, each containing a stainless-steel spring and cables. When the awning is activated, the motor begins unrolling the fabric, while spring pressure inside the lateral arms pushes outward on the lead rail, keeping the fabric taut. Similarly, when the motor draws the fabric back in, the pressure exerted by the springs to keep the lateral arms extended ensures that the fabric will roll up smoothly and evenly. Two limiting
switches tell the motor when to stop, a current-limiting device prevents the motor from
overexerting itself, and a thermal protector automatically shuts the motor off if it gets
too hot. And for those situations in which the coach may experience a power failure, Girard
supplies a tool that allows the owner to manually retract the awning(s). The
top-of-the-line G2000 awning comes with the Wind Sensor V electronics package, which
incorporates a hand-held remote, an anemometer and a Wind Sensor V controller. The
anemometer mounts to the roof of the coach, and as it spins, its signal is read by the Wind
Sensor V controller. When wind speed reaches 22 mph and is sustained for 10 seconds or
longer, the unit automatically retracts the awning to prevent damage to the awning or the
coach itself. The smaller G1500 patio awning package comes with all the same equipment as the G2000, except the Wind Sensor electronics package, which may be ordered as an option.

Because the Girard awning does not use the traditional awning arms that mount to the side
of the coach, the brackets used to support the assembly are robust indeed. Girard uses
large extruded-aluminum plates on either side of the coach wall, secured by 7/16-inch
carriage bolts, 3½ to 4 inches long. The outside plates have grooves from which the awning
assembly hangs, and locks that slide into place and are secured by set screws, once the
assembly is in place. This design ensures that the awning assembly remains securely
fastened. Girard and its dealers try to locate the plates within the RV storage
compartments, and then cover them with plastic caps. If the plates are In between the two
are the lateral used on motorhomes today visible inside the coach, they too are covered
with plastic caps that owners may choose to conceal. Because of the weight of the awning
assembly, the many holes that must be drilled through the wall and the electronics
involved, Girard does not recommend do-it-yourself installation unless you have previous
experience in such procedures. We visited Girard Systems headquarters in Irvine,
California, to observe the installation of a Girard G2000 patio awning and a G1500 door
awning on a 1999 Holiday Rambler Endeavor. Though some coaches can get by with just the patio awning to cover the entry area, this coach required a separate door awning due to the door’s height relative to the top of the coach; if a single awning were used, adequate
downward pitch could not be applied to the patio awning without interfering with the entry
door. This separate motorized door-awning system retails for around $2,000, bringing the
total cost of installation to more than $8,000 in parts and roughly six hours in labor.
That may sound steep, but consider this: Girard backs all of its awnings with a limited
lifetime warranty against defects in workmanship. The only exceptions are the awning fabric and the motor, both of which are backed by five-year warranties. Girard’s customer service is equally impressive: If you ever have any problem with a Girard awning, the company and its dealer network will do whatever it takes to make it right, including flying a Girard representative to your location to attend to the problem personally. Girard awnings
increase the resale value of the coach, as well, and if you do end up selling, the new
owner will be protected by the Girard system’s five-year warranty from the date of original
sale. Push-button operation, an exceptional warranty and increased resale value add up to
an awning that’s a good investment both financially and functionally. Girard Systems,
(800) 382-8442, girardrv.com.

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