Outdoor Umbrella Wind Rating – A Guide

"You’re sitting poolside, a good book in hand and a cold beverage by your side. It’s a comfortable afternoon and nothing can change that. Except, of course, a turn in the weather and a slight change in atmospheric pressure. The wind picks up, a few ripples form on the surface of the pool but it’s not enough to bring on a chill, so you turn your attention back to the story.

Comfort is key to the enjoyment of any space, be it indoors or out. Being a purveyor of outdoor umbrellas, people often enquire about the strength of our umbrellas and how our outdoor umbrella's wind rating stacks up. Our response is quite simple:

If you’re comfortable sitting outside under our umbrellas, then they’ll be exceptional.

You see, the thing about wind resistance and ratings is they can be deceptive and are susceptible to interpretation. Depending on where you test, how you test and why you test, you’ll get a different answer...

The sky has started to grey over, there’s a bit more bite in the air as you sip your beverage. You note the surface tension of the pool is starting to shift around a bit more. There's no way you’re going for a dip. It’s starting to get uncomfortable.

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The testing methods

Wind Tunnel

Wind tunnel tests are well known - built to test the aerodynamics of a huge variety of products from cars and planes to footballs and yes, even outdoor patio umbrellas.

The problem with using wind tunnels for outdoor furniture is, that it’s a controlled environment where the wind is dialled up and grows at a steady rate. This is perfect for tracking how the body of a car will react with the wind and how it disperses it to create down-force and let engineers plan how to reduce drag.

However, this is of little use when testing an outdoor furniture product that has to stand up against sudden weather changes.

Software modelling

Engineers use advanced software with machine learning and dynamic wind models to predict how their designs will react in the wind. This is similar to a wind tunnel but cheaper to run and iterate designs to create an optimal product before production begins. This method is often followed up with a wind tunnel test to confirm designs.

The issue is similar to a wind tunnel test wherein wind models are ramped up in a consistent manner. The simulations also don’t take into consideration real-world implications of the environment and buildings. In a real-life situation, we also have to take into account the landscape, buildings and the sea to get an accurate indication of wind rating.

Real-World Testing

Real-world testing is the method of taking your product to various locations where it will be used in everyday life, such as waterside restaurants, home patios, outside cafes, and resorts & hotels.

Using a portable weather station, they measure wind speeds over the day in each location and report on how the products fare through the rigours of daily use. Testing is also conducted in a myriad of areas such as between buildings, around hills and near the ocean to get an accurate representation.

This is the most time-consuming way to test products whilst also being the most accurate and therefore, the most useful to customers. By testing the products, in the same way, they’ll be used, you can get a very good idea about how well the products will hold up for their intended use.

The pages of your book start to flutter with the increase in wind, it’s starting to get uncomfortable. Before you can make a decision about your next move, a gust of wind blows through and you lose your place in the book. You look over at your beverage, and you’re sure it just shifted a little in the wind. The pool is starting to get choppy and you think it’s best to continue your book, and beverage, inside.  



The solution, the Shadowspec way

Shadowspec’s range of outdoor umbrellas are built to last in moderate to strong winds. They won’t break in a light breeze as a cheap, hardware store umbrella would, but it’s not going to survive a hurricane - no outdoor umbrella will.

This information is a little scary. What’s the point in buying an outdoor umbrella if there’s a potential for breakage?

The answer is easy. If you’re not comfortable outside, in the wind, then it's safer to assume your Shadowspec Outdoor Umbrella won’t be comfortable either. So it’s time to take it down (in under 5 seconds), wrap it up with the provided protection cover and head inside. For context, a 35 kph or 21 mph wind will blow over a full wine glass and tear a newspaper from your hand.

We rate our umbrellas on the Beaufort scale which takes into consideration wind speed, observed land and sea conditions and a general “feeling” of the weather conditions. We test our umbrellas in real-world conditions around our factory and home cities to provide a conservative average wind rating to our customers.

We know wind resistance is a consideration many of our customers need to consider when purchasing an outdoor umbrella so we’ve made the effort to be transparent about how our umbrellas stand up to the elements. It’s important to us that you’re happy with your outdoor umbrella and that you and your guests can enjoy it in comfort.

How do you know if your umbrella is wind rated?

Our competitors will blow their own trumpet about their wind tunnel results or computer-simulated ratings. Shadowspec tells the truth, we built strong, robust products that will handle above and beyond our rating but we don't suggest or encourage our customers to leave them out to get damaged. Remember if you're not comfortable out there, neither is your umbrella. Read about our wall-mounted umbrella and its wind rating.

After slipping your bookmark into your novel, you sigh before remembering you purchased a Shadowspec umbrella with easy-lift technology, so it's only going to take 5 seconds to take it down. A congratulatory sip to celebrate your decision and a quick slide downward are all it takes to have your purchase away safe before you head inside to await the passing weather. 

Check the Wind Rating on your Outdoor Umbrella

Before you make a purchasing decision for an outdoor umbrella or any other outdoor product, ensure you check the wind rating, the way it was tested and assign that rating. Outdoor umbrellas are engineered to be deployed when people are using the outdoor space and retracted when they're not - extending the life and providing an experience that a more permanent shade structure lacks. If you've got a hospitality property with 10 + umbrellas you can save a month's worth of staff time just by switching to a Shadowspec system.

Make a smart purchasing decision and don’t just go for the cheaper options. You’ll be replacing the whole unit more often and it will cost you more over time.

We have a full range of umbrella styles for any outdoor project so feel free to get in touch with one of our outdoor specialists if you’ve got any questions. We’re here to help.

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