By Jasmine Rockow • For The Bulletin

Central Oregonians may boast about having more sunny days than other Oregon towns, but this time of year those same people are searching for ways to escape the sun.

An increasingly popular and affordable way to create shade in the backyard or on the patio are portable fabric awnings, referred to as sun sails or shade sails.

Triangular or diamond shaped, shade sails can be anchored to support beams, trees or buildings. They are relatively easy to install and less expensive than more permanent shade structures like pergolas and gazebos. Plus, they look cool.

“We’ve gotten hundreds of compliments,” said Bill Anderson, 56, of Bend. “They are a really neat architectural feature. They are dramatic and people are not used to seeing them — they’re not common.”

The cost typically ranges between $19 and $40. Home Depot and Costco sold sun sails in Bend this summer, but both stores have had difficulty keeping them in stock. They can be purchased online from most big box retailers, or on websites like Amazon and eBay.

Anderson installed shade sails over his Bend home’s deck four years ago. Because he bought used sails from his daughter’s neighbor in Medford, Anderson had to install them without the manufacturer’s instructions. Using a paper model, he figured out the best configuration for the support poles.

“It took a little figuring out, but each year (the installation process) gets a little better,” Anderson said. “Now that I have it all figured out, it takes about 45 minutes or less to put them up or take them down.”

Shade sails should be installed at an angle to prevent them from collecting rainwater or catching gusts of wind.

Anderson puts the sun sails up around Father’s Day each year and takes them down around Labor Day in September. The sails have made his 1,200-square-foot, southwest-facing deck much more comfortable in the summer.

“It would just cook out there. It is really amazing how much it makes our deck livable,” Anderson said. “And they are kinda cool looking.”

Jerry Ellis, 56, decided to use shade sails at his east Bend home after seeing some at the 4 Peaks Music Festival a few years ago.

“I thought they were cool and I liked the look of them,” Ellis said. “They’re unique and different.”

He found some on eBay and has bought several. Rather than using poles, Ellis anchors the sails to trees and buildings on his property. He uses sails to create shade under a pergola he built over the deck of his house, and outside a separate studio he uses as a home office and theater room.

Like Anderson, Ellis installs his sails in the spring and takes them down each fall. After one sun sail snapped during a windy thunderstorm, Ellis started installing brass eyelets in place of the metal rings that come sewn onto the corners of the sails he buys on eBay. They now hold up much better in the wind, he said.

“We love them,” Ellis said. “It’s something different and everybody loves them. People who come over try to figure out how to use them at their home.”

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