The term ‘carport’ was first coined by the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1936. He’d rightly come to the conclusion that a car could be given adequate protection from the weather by simply being covered by a structure with a roof on it. Many of his creations incorporate a carport into their design, giving these practical structures their place in the architectural limelight.
These days, many UK homes have been built without garages, and many of the garages that do exist are full to bursting with Christmas decorations, old furniture, record collections and other treasures that nonetheless aren’t allowed back inside the house. The carport has therefore become an increasingly popular way to protect bikes, motorcycles and cars from the elements.
As discussed, a carport is essentially a roof held in place by wooden, metal or uPVC posts. It might project from the side of a home or be completely freestanding. Some are simple shelters, whilst others are wired for power and fitted with external lighting. Some feature side-walls to block the wind and rain, while others remain open and breezy with clear glass or plastic roof panels.
Does it matter what a Carport is made of?
It certainly can. You want the style, colour and materials of your carport to either match that of your home, or to contrast it in a pleasant and harmonious way.
These are usually made of wrought iron, steel or aluminium structural members, with either clear plastic or glass roofing panels. Others can have a more durable (although not translucent) all-metal roof as well. They are very strong and resist the wind well, and concerns about corrosion can be eradicated by ensuring the metal is covered with a polyester or epoxy powder coat.
This type of carport is made almost entirely of either natural wood or a weather-resistant timber product. It can have any type of roof traditionally associated with a shed, but will rarely be transparent. These can be quite attractive, but wooden structures are vulnerable to the elements and do require maintenance.
This is a fairly new variety of carport with the material being light, relatively inexpensive and easy to assemble. However, the design is typically not as robust as their metal and wooden counterparts.
How Do Carports Prevent Frost?
It might seem counter-intuitive, but keeping your car under an open carport can still prevent it from being covered in frost on a cold winter morning.
This is because the carport roof retains some of the heat it has absorbed during the day. Even at the coldest point of the night, the carport roof will be a few degrees warmer than the sky. In-turn, this keeps your car slightly warmer, slightly longer than it would be under the open sky.
When the ground and other surfaces (like car windows) cool to near or below freezing temperatures, they attract moisture from the air. As these surfaces get colder more quickly than your car, almost all of the free moisture in the air nearby forms frost there before your car is cold enough for frost. When it finally reaches the right temperature, the air is almost completely dry.
A related problem is sleet. This is rain that freezes either as it is falling or as soon as it touches a very cold surface. Of course, the roof of the carport prevents this rain from hitting your car at all, saving you the hassle of scraping it in the morning.
How Do Solar Carports Work?
A solar carport is just like any other type in that it provides a shady, sheltered place to store your car, bike or motorcycle or for the kids to play out of the sun. However, they have the advantage of a roof coated in photovoltaic solar panels. These provide power when sunlight falls on them, and can be used to offset or even eliminate your electricity rates – no small advantage these days!
Two factors affect how much power a set of solar panels – on the roof of a carport or elsewhere – can generate. These are the size of the roof (how many solar panels it can support) and whether it faces the sun relatively squarely and without shadow.
Properties that have room for a carport in a sunny spot, where the roof will face directly into the sun around mid-day, have the potential to generate the most power per panel installed. The larger the roof, the more power that can be potentially generated.
If you have room on your property for a carport, it can provide shade and shelter for yourself or your vehicles. It can also serve as a mounting surface for electric solar panels, which can reduce your electricity costs. A carport can even eliminate the need to scrape ice or frost from your car on the coldest days of winter.