Everyone knows that during the spring and summer it’s a good idea to protect ourselves from harmful UV rays. However, the sun can pack a punch even in winter – and not just when you’re skiing or walking in the snow. If you sit near a window in your living room or office, UV radiation can still penetrate into your skin. Whether outdoors or indoors, awnings provide effective protection from the sun even during winter and are also a useful solution when it comes to saving energy.

The sun plays a central role in human life. Even when it’s raining or cloudy, it’s always there. Approximately ten percent of the sun’s energy is in the form of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Of course, taken in small doses, exposure to sunlight promotes our physical and psychological wellbeing because it has a warming effect, improves mood and, with its UV rays, stimulates the body’s synthesis of vitamin D. These UV rays (in this case UV-A) also cause the formation of melanin, which protects your skin with its pigmentation properties. But despite these positive effects, there are a number of hidden dangers to exposing your skin and eyes to sunlight.

UV radiation – what is it and what are its effects?

UV rays from the sun – UV-A, UV-B, or UV-C depending on the wavelength – are invisible to humans. Although we are shielded from extremely harmful UV-C rays by the earth’s atmosphere, the UV-A and UV-B rays can pass through and reach your skin and eyes. On your skin, these rays induce biochemical reactions long before we can feel or see it happening. Absorbing too much UV-B radiation damages many cells in the epidermis. This releases substances that cause inflammation, resulting in what we know as sunburn. UV-A rays damage the skin’s subcutaneous connective tissues, causing your skin to sag and become wrinkly. Additionally, UV-A is very often responsible for sun allergies with symptoms including itching. The most dangerous effect of UV radiation, however, is its ability to break apart and modify strands of DNA in your skin cells. This is damage that the body can no longer repair, so over the course of your life the amount of UV radiation absorbed adds up. At the same time, an excess of UV light suppresses the immune system that combats diseases and tumors. Mutated cells may start to multiply uncontrollably, causing skin cancer.

Protection from winter sun – are UV rays always harmful?

Of course, in our part of the world, the sun is less intense during winter than it is during summer because it’s in a different position in the sky. The level of protection you’ll need in the form of awnings, UV-resistant clothing, or high-factor sun lotion depends on your personal risk profile and how intense the sun is where you are. Generally speaking, though, areas at higher altitude have thinner air and higher UV radiation levels. This equates to around a 15 percent increase for every 1,000 meters in altitude. At these heights, there is also additional exposure to radiation reflected from snow, ice, or light areas of sand. Indeed, these reflections can increase the intensity of the sun by up to 90 percent. The reason why we only notice this when it’s too late is because (a) we don’t feel the heat when outside temperatures are so low and (b) we don’t realize how intense the radiation is. Moreover, during the winter our skin is no longer accustomed to being exposed to the sun, meaning there is little pigmentation or protection. There is therefore an urgent need for careful protection against the sun during winter.

Protection from the sun in winter – even indoors?

What exactly does sunlight do to your skin when you’re in an enclosed room? Do UV rays also pass through the window? The short answer is yes, but that doesn’t apply to all types of UV radiation, and it also depends on the type of glass itself. We have all seen the effects of UV rays passing through glass when we see how clothing or textiles become bleached white behind shop windows. That’s why in the winter many shops will often extend an awning in front of their windows. We also know how sunlight behaves when it enters a greenhouse.

The amount of sunlight passing through the glass depends on the glass’s thickness and on the composition of the glass itself. It is possible to measure this and classify materials using special equipment. Plate glass (used for simple windows) is bad at filtering out long-wavelength light radiation, and it also lets through a lot of UV-A radiation. Insulating glass, however, is thicker than plate glass, and consists of at least two panes held at a certain distance from one another by a frame. You normally can’t get a tan while behind glass, unless the glass has special properties. A tan is of course primarily your body’s defense mechanism to prevent UV rays penetrating deeply into your skin. It’s caused by the pigment melanin, which is produced when UV-B rays penetrate your skin. So because plate glass blocks out much of the UV-B rays, you’re not likely to get a tan. However, the UV-A rays that pass through can damage the deeper layers of skin, destroying the collagen and thus accelerating the formation of wrinkles. Very often, it’s worth checking whether installing an awning as a structural form of UV protection would have benefits. There is a range of useful models and designs for ideal protection against the sun in winter and summer.

Winter shading with awnings

In particular for modern buildings with large glass facades, awnings are great shading solutions and also provide effective protection against UV rays. The fabric vertical awnings offered by manufacturers like STOBAG in a wide range of designs and fabric qualities are often a very good solution – especially since they can do a great deal to reduce the building’s energy consumption. For a long time, architects have been combining the UV-shielding and energy-saving advantages of awnings with their own creative objectives. STOBAG offers vertical awnings for practically every application, including models featuring discreet cable guides or wind-resistant internal fabric guides with zip fastenings. Because if you choose to get an awning for sun shading, it also has to be able to cope with wintry conditions. Moreover, when using a blackout fabric, these awnings ensure reliable room darkening for educational and conference facilities, which is an incredibly valuable added feature.

Awnings ensure UV protection even during winter

In addition to the vertical awnings, there are other types of awnings with perfect UV protection during winter. One popular model is the extendable awning – a special variant on the facade awning. Fitted with the right fabric, it provides outdoor protection and allows you to stay outside without having to worry about getting too much sun. An extendable awning also prevents direct sunlight passing through the glass into the building. With STOBAG you can adjust the angle of these awnings to any position, control the level of indirect light, and thus regulate how much UV light enters the building. There are also other solutions such as the integrated side parts for additional wind protection and privacy.

An expert will be best placed to tell you which UV protection measures are recommended for each time of year in your building. For example, STOBAG has trained its specialist dealers to offer suitable solutions for protection against the sun in winter as well – whether they’re for light entering rooms perfectly or for shielding you from the winter sun. So start living your best life. Drive out the winter blues and start enjoying the sun!

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