There are many ways to stay in the shade on your patio and to also protect your furniture. Aside from patio awnings, retractable patio awning, patio canopies in aluminum or metal or wood there are also vinyl patio coverings, patio umbrellas, gazebos, patio enclosures that are also like atriums, or a complete patio room enclosed with glass or even just a simple netting, or extending the roof of the house to be a longer patio roof.
Patio covers that are known as a porch awning are usually attached the roof where the patio area begins. They will usually be made from an aluminum or metal frame and have some form of fabric that is either stable and fixed in place or is retractable so the porch can be totally open or covered as you desire.
The benefits of these types of patio covers is that they do not alter your house structure and can be relatively cheap when considering the alternative which may a total enclosure made of wood, metal or glass. The downside is that they are open to the elements from the front and sides and really only protect your patio from sun, light rain or very light snow flurries, but are no use for protection from wind or storms or heavy snow. In fact many a patio awning must be taken down or retraced against the wall or into a tube during bad weather, or if your area receives snowfall in winter.
These patio covers are low cost overall, but again are an aluminum frame with fabric so are not permanent nor totally weather proof. The canopies that have partial walls or screens on the sides may serve to protect from the cold, if you have a patio heater inside, but will not work in heavy rain or snow. The benefits are price if compared to the cost of fixed enclosures, and the fact that they are portable and may be used in summer throughout the yard or garden as well as serving as a patio cover on a deck or raised area in the front or back of your house.
They are also ideal play areas for children and can be great to protect against insects if they have fabric or mesh screens along the sides. Canopies can be bought in styles that resemble tents and therefore can be very decorative and suitable for parties and large gatherings. Canopy patio covers can also be purchased in fashion colors to match all your patio furniture, even matching fabric on patio chair cushions.
I recommend having patio table and chair covers if you are going to use a canopy because wind and rain may get inside and under the canopy and ruin your furniture. Also it is best to either take down the canopy or heat it during winter. If you have heavy snowfall in your area, place your canopy under roof or some other patio cover because a canopy is bound to collapse under the weight of snow.
The least expensive options are patio shades which are very different is shape and size these days. Not just a round umbrella, but a patio shade can be a v-shaped patio sail, also called shade sails. Shade sails may be stretched over the patio or garden or a mix of deck and garden to have outdoor shade wherever you most need it. These sun shades are light and really easy to put up and take down and can even be fasted to trees or lampposts or anything from which the three points can be attached with a long cord.
Sails look very contemporary in fun colors or can be classic in white. There are also a variety of patio screens, some built in as part of the house and others portable with screens and fabric attached around a large metal frame, or added to the outer walls of the patio enclosure. Portable patio covers are really versatile, because you can use them one day over the porch or patio or deck, another day in the garden like a mini marquise tent, and another day you can take it to the seaside and use as a shady area for lunch, changing, or just relaxing between swims. They are lightweight and usually come in portable cases making them good if you only use them on special occasions. Match your sail up with some comfortable patio furniture and quality garden lights and you can quickly and easily set up an outdoor living area for impromptu parties on long summer evenings.