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Electronic Entertainment for Your Backyard

In this article, Alpine Home Media outlines the various AV options available to enhance your outdoor living.

Music and Audio

outdoor speakersWhether it’s rock and roll for the BBQ or jazz in the hot tub, outdoor music makes everything better.

Modern outdoor music systems usually consist of several unobtrusive speakers and a smart phone app to control them. Speakers are often shaped like rocks, landscape lights or decorative planters. Some can be buried among the bushes. Virtually all good speakers are waterproof and can be left out during the winter.

An important consideration regarding speakers is that you are better off with several smaller speakers rather than one or two big ones. Sound doesn’t travel well outside and you don’t want it too loud at one end of the yard and too quiet at the other. Spread the speakers around for an even sound. Another consideration is power. Because sound doesn’t travel far outside, you want to ensure that you have enough volume to overcome background noise such as traffic, play activity, fountains/waterfalls etc.

Most systems have a smart phone app that lets you select various radio stations, music services or songs from your iTunes library. It will also allow you to turn different speakers on or off and control the volume. Note that these apps generally rely on your home’s WiFi to operate so you will want a strong WiFi signal out in the back yard.

An added bonus with most modern systems is that you can play virtually any audio track and have it turn on and off automatically. It’s becoming increasingly popular to use the music system for general ambiance when it’s not being used to play music. For instance, each evening the system can automatically play the sounds of nature for a few hours around dusk. That way, if you are just going outside to water the plants or throw a weeknight burger on the grill, it will sound inviting. If you are sitting inside with the window open, the sounds of crickets and a babbling brook may be a welcomed summer addition.

Finally, most sports games are now available through streaming radio services and having the game on in the background while gardening or relaxing in the hammock can be a plus.

Television

outdoor tvMany people use their patio or gazebo as their outdoor living room during the warmer months. With such heavy use people often want TV out there as well.

Important considerations when selecting an outdoor television are waterproof characteristics and picture brightness. When determining the location for your TV, try to keep it in the shade and out of the rain. Bright sunlight will make a regular television virtually impossible to see as they are designed for indoor viewing. If it must be in an exposed area there are special waterproof televisions built for outdoor use with extra bright pictures.

If you are using it in a covered porch or a gazebo a regular television will usually work fine. Note however that even in a covered outdoor environment, the conditions are much harsher than in a living room. Because of that you will either want to cover the TV each winter or consider an inexpensive set which will be less costly to replace should the outdoor environment shorten its lifespan.

Another consideration is overall size. It the TV will be in a gazebo where everyone will be sitting relatively close to it, a normal size TV will be fine. If however, the TV is mounted out by the pool, you should consider a larger set so that the picture is big enough to see from the far side of the pool.

WiFi

Many people take their iPads outside to read email or surf the web. Indoor WiFi signals are often too week to make it very far outside. This can be especially true if your home is made of brick, stone or stucco. Outdoor WiFi antennas are available to boost the signal throughout the yard. Many outdoor antennas are small, easily hidden and require no local power source.

 

John Vitiello is president of Alpine Home Media Inc. Established in 2005, Alpine is a residential systems integration firm serving Northern New Jersey and the tri-state area. Alpine services and installs home theaters, home automation, lighting control and music systems. John can be reached at 845.398.4582 or johnv@alpinehomemedia.com. For more information, please visit www.AlpineHomeMedia.com.