The sun is higher. It’s getting hotter. So you run out to buy a new air conditioner.

But wait. You don’t really want to lock yourself indoors all summer, do you? asks Andy Cotnam of the Fireplace Center and Patio Shop. Summer is a beautiful time, so why not enjoy it – outdoors where it belongs?

He admits the sun can be a problem. It causes harm to our skin. It ages us. It fades our furniture and carpets.

But the sun doesn’t beat down on Andy’s customers. He says it’s “amazing” how many sun umbrellas they sell.

“And they’re bigger than they ever used to be,” he says. “They can be as large as nine to 11 feet in diameter.”

Some come with a cantilever design on a heavy base that you can swivel a full 360 degrees. As the sun moves, so can the umbrella.

The umbrellas feature a wide array of bright, sunny colours in Sunbrella™ fabrics. They’re sturdy, dyed-acrylic, can withstand cleaning with bleach, and they have a five-year guarantee against fading.

If you want to have something even more substantial, Andy suggests a pavilion. This is a roofed unit that comes in all shapes and sizes. The roof can be made out of waterproof vinyl, Sunbrella fabric, acrylic, or glass. It can have mesh panels to keep out bugs, or privacy panels if your neighbours feel a bit too close for comfort. A pavilion can have accent lighting, and, with favourite outdoor furniture, they’re a gentle “house” unto themselves.

There’s a particular pavilion made by Jardin de Ville featuring a peaked roof with a lever that flips half of it open.

“Every family has its sunworshipper,” says Andy. The half-open roof can accommodate the sun bathers or simply provide a bit of extra sunshine when you want it.

If you want to be cool both inside and out, you can have awnings. These are not just flimsy little things that dress up the outside of your house.

Today’s awnings are tough, versatile, and intuitive. They retract, tilt from side to side to give you the pitch you want, and jump into action when the wind is too brisk. They can project as far as 13 ft. from your house and be 40 ft. long. There are no posts and no ugly framework in winter.

They come with a manual or motor crank so you can retract them out of sight when you don’t want to use them. Made in Europe, they, too, come in the bright Sunbrella fabric.

“Awnings can really add a splash of colour to your house,” says Andy.

If you’re away and a big storm blows up, there’s a sensor that feels the vibration of the wind and automatically retracts them.

“Most people have big glass doors out to a patio,” says Andy. “This can mean a lot of solar gain and a good deal of fading in the house. Awnings can protect and can also lower the house temperature by five degrees.”

There’s nothing as lovely as a tree, says poet Joyce Kilmer.

But they’re not necessarily great for entertaining. In areas where there is little natural shade, awnings, pavilions and umbrellas can mean the difference between staying indoors or staying cool and refreshed…

And enjoying summer as it was meant to be.