August '20

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50 • RV PRO • August 2020 rv-pro.com awning products: the Paramount and the Apex two-stage awnings. Defreese explains that both models are OEM-only for Class A diesel units, and the improvements have come at the behest of the OEMs and the end-users. "One of the things was a longer exten- sion," he says. "We've had a 10-foot extension and now we're also offering a 12-foot extension. That extra 2 feet is something that's been really, really desired by the end users." Not only are the awnings longer, but they can be deployed quicker, thanks to a motor that's 30 percent faster. And, to operate that motor, the company also has come up with an improved controller that's a dedicated Carefree product made specif- ically for those awnings. Wood explains that the motors for the bigger awnings require 110 volts of power, and while an off-the-shelf residential con- troller might work, they are not designed specifically for RVs. "The other nice thing is we've devel- oped an app that allows the end-user to utilize their phone to control all the awnings on the coach by Bluetooth," Defreese says. "It allows a user to extend or retract however many awnings there are on a unit, with one touch, as well as any of the LED functions on those awnings and the sensitivity of the wind sensor." Adds DeYoung, "A lot of these inno- vations are done primarily to protect the user's investment in those awnings. If someone is out hiking or fishing when it becomes windy, the wind sensor allows the awning to protect itself by retracting autonomously ." Something for Everyone While the Paramount and Apex are designed for the highest of higher-end motorhomes, that doesn't mean Care- free isn't paying attention to the needs of its other RV OEM customers. For instance, at the request of a travel trailer customer, Carefree extended its line of Latitude awnings. Wood describes the Latitude as a hor- izontal-armed awning that allows people to easily walk underneath it. "This particular customer really loved that awning and had it pretty much on 100 percent of their travel trailers, but they had a unique floorplan and they wanted a similar awning to go over the entry door," Wood says. "We redesigned our Latitude awning so they'd have a matching set." He adds that it's not uncommon for Carefree's OEM customers to bring the supplier in early in the development pro- cess to create what he calls, "a unique solu- tion that's custom to them." Even with its more economical, main- stream products, Defreese says a goal is to improve the end-user's experience. A good example, he says, is Carefree's Compass, its entry-level vertical-arm awning, which comes with patented Memory Pitch. "The user can set the pitch in any posi- tion and it will open and close in that same spot," Defreese says. "With our compet- itors, the arms have to be reset each time you run them out and in." Defreese works out of Carefree's Elkhart, Ind., facility, along with the company's service teams supporting the integration of its products and training installers for its OEM customers, as well as conducting routine audits of OEM cus- tomers to make sure those installations continue correctly. Aiming for the Aftermarket Although Carefree doesn't make public how much of its production is aimed for OEMs and how much for the aftermarket, it's no secret that awnings today are much Carefree's Jorge Valencia does a final inspection on an awning prior to shipment. All functions on the awning are tested and calibrated and fabric and extrusions are carefully examined.

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