As I’m writing this, the weather in Tucson is starting to get really nice. This is why thousands of people make their way to Tucson for the Fall through Spring seasons. Last night I grilled some chicken and my wife and I ate outside on the patio. So, it reminded me that everyone should be thinking of doing more activities outside this time of year. Accordingly, they should be bringing more technology outside. There are many possibilities, as I’ll discuss below.
The most obvious and perhaps easiest thing you can bring outdoors is sound. Most modern houses have been wired for at least a pair of flush-mount speakers in the ceiling of their patio or external box speakers high on the wall, underneath the porch. This is a great way to get started. With a proper A/V system, you should be able to use your favorite streaming app on your phone to send music to your back yard. If it’s not that easy, or you’ve never used those speakers, now is the time to contact your local system integrator to help get you started!
But why stop there? Sound on the patio is great, but what about by the pool? Or over at the gazebo or next to the outdoor kitchen? These are all great opportunities for a modern outdoor “satellite/subwoofer” system. The concept is pretty much the same as the modern home theater system: small, unobtrusive speakers are used for most of the sound, but the low, bass sounds are sent to a separate subwoofer. In the case of the outdoor system, though, the satellite speakers look like small landscape lights that you “plant” unobtrusively around your bushes. The subwoofer is buried underground, such that the only thing you see looks like a large plastic mushroom. You can barely see the speakers, but what you hear is amazing! You can place several of satellite speakers throughout the yard, which will spread the sound more evenly. Although it may be counterintuitive, having more speakers is actually the quieter and more neighborly approach. Multiple speakers playing at a low volume sound much better than a couple speakers under the eve, blaring loudly in an attempt to fill up the entire back yard!
Like audio, there are several approaches and options for outdoor video. The simplest upgrade is to simply install a TV outside, mounted under the patio. Watching a game or other event outside while enjoying the weather with family or friends is fantastic. If you’re worried about the TV getting wet, or not being able to see it, due to the glare of the sun, no problem – there are TVs that have been designed specifically for outdoor use! They are all designed to keep water and bugs out, and some of them are even designed to be used in direct sunlight!
For an even bigger experience, consider an outdoor projection system. First, you’ll need a large screen. These vary from a sheet hung on the wall, to an inflatable screen next to the pool, to a pop-up, giant LED video wall that rises from the deck of your yard! In most cases, outdoor theaters are temporary systems using a portable screen, projector, and sound system, but it’s not too difficult to set up something more permanent. If you haven’t tried watching a movie outdoors, under the stars, you really don’t know what you’re missing!
No matter what technology you bring outdoors, one key to maximizing your enjoyment is being able to properly control the music or video you’re showing. You definitely don’t want to have to rush inside every time you need to adjust the system. You need an outdoor remote control. Although some manufacturers actually do make weather-resistant remote controls, you’re probably best served by using your phone and a control app. Hopefully you have already installed a whole-home automation system in your house, so you’ll just add the outdoor equipment as another “zone” to that existing system. That way you can adjust volume, change tracks, rewind, pause for intermission, etc. from the convenience of your cell phone.
In Tucson we tend to use our back yards more than most other cities in the country. Or, at least we should be using them more. Even in the heat of the summer, we can be by the pool, cooling off, while enjoying music or movies or sports programs. The outdoors is an often-neglected spot for using technology, but it’s actually a great place to listen, watch and enjoy your favorite music and programs!