What every best has:
SunSetter retractable deck and patio awnings have been heavily advertised and promoted for do-it-yourself installation in TV infomercials. SunSetter patio awnings extend about 9 or 10 feet from the house, and come in assorted widths from 3 to 20 feet. Some of the smaller sizes are available at big-box stores.
To keep costs down, SunSetter deck and patio awnings come in standard sizes, so they're not completely customizable. However, they do come in several styles and colors. Most owners say they're happy with them, but note that it takes two to five helpers to finish the installation, depending on the width of the awning.
Although the fabric is waterproof, SunSetter retractable awnings are supposed to be retracted during a rainstorm, since water can pool and create too much weight for the supports. Wind can also damage the awnings -- or rip them off the house. This means that the awnings should be retracted any time there's any chance of rain or a storm. Owners say the frequent retractions make the more expensive motorized option worth considering, especially if the awning is wide. On the other hand, we found quite a few complaints about the motors breaking down and not being promptly replaced.
We found quite a few reports of SunSetter retractable deck and patio awnings breaking down, even during the warranty period -- though some owners report good durability for up to eight years. The five-year warranty isn't as wonderful as it sounds. Owner-written reviews note that the warranty is pro-rated by the month, so that toward the end of the five years, it's not worth much in refund or credit. Replacement parts carry no guarantee at all, and we found quite a few reports of problems with customer service. If a breakage is due to rain or wind, it's not covered at all. One plus is that SunSetter has an excellent rating with the Better Business Bureau (many as-seen-on-TV companies don't).
Since SunSetter offers affiliate deals to bloggers and other websites, many of the online "reviews" of SunSetter patio awnings are really just ads. A purported review at YouTube by "Harry's Smart Deals," for example, just shows the viewer how to sign up to get information at the SunSetter site. We found quite a few owner-written reviews based on actual experience, however, at ConsumerAffairs.com, in discussions at TheStuccoCompany.com and at Viewpoints.com.
Good Housekeeping verifies that SunSetter retractable awnings are covered by their seal -- which provides a separate two-year guarantee. A Reader's Digest buyer's guide to patio shades, republished from Family Handyman magazine, recommends SunSetter awnings but notes some drawbacks and suggests alternatives. News articles in The New York Times and in The Boston Business Journal also help position SunSetter retractable awnings within the whole array of options.