30 Pro Tips for Outdoor Electronics
Custom electronics pros share their advice on locating TVs, speakers and other technologies in the great outdoors.
Installation by Electronics Design Group. Credit: William Psolka
May 29, 2013 by EH Staff

So you want audio and video in your backyard?

Fair enough, although it’s not as simple as hooking up a TV and some speakers. Maybe you’d also like to control that outdoor system from a handheld remote … and control the swimming pool system, and automate the sprinkler system, and trench wire out to the cabana for a home theater.

All of a sudden, this has turned into quite a project.

First order of business: Find waterproof and weatherproof electronics—there’s a difference. Do this unless your electronics are going to be very well protected from the elements, such as located inside a roofed cabana or closed-in patio. Second order of business: Plan ahead. Know how your outdoor gear is going to be wired. You can always let your custom electronics (CE) pro handle it, or you can read these 29 tips and wield your own shovel and wire stripper.

1. Place your TV somewhere where it’s protected from the weather, as well as from dirt, moisture and insets. This is especially important if your outside area is exposed to salty ocean breezes.

2. Use a TV meant for the outdoors. “Products from SunBriteTV, Seura and Pantel keep condensation (and insects) out of the TV and are very specialized to last,” says Josh Christian of Southern California-based DSI Entertainment Systems. (More about what goes inside an outdoor TV)

3. Minimize glare by placing your display in a shaded area. Use an LCD TV instead of a plasma-based model, which is more susceptible to glare (all outdoor-rated TVs are LCD).

4. Even with a weatherproof TV, try to install it under an overhang, in custom cabinetry or behind a glass enclosure. A custom cabinetmaker can work with your CE pro to add watertight rubber seals around doors and pressure-treat the wood accordingly. (Check out this rooftop TV that rises automatically out of a custom cabinet.)

5. Want an outdoor projection setup? Motorized drop-down screens or inflatable ones can be used with a carefully housed or portable projector for after-dusk viewing. You may still want a bright LCD TV for daytime viewing, though.

6. Locate a projection screen where it can roll up and away when it’s not being used, suggests Erich Allen of EAG Design in Kingsport, Tenn. Tucked into a soffit, for example, it will be protected from the elements and raise no visual distractions with the landscape. (Check out this backyard private theater with views from the swimming pool)

7. Consider installing a weather meter indicator, so if conditions get too breezy the screen will retract automatically into its housing, when tied into some sort of automation system.

8. For audio, think in terms of coverage, not loudness. What you want is even coverage throughout the outdoor area, without any hot spots or dead spots. “The best way [to accomplish this] is to use a lot of smaller speakers,” explains Neal Edmiston, co-owner of Southern California-based Vision Systems Automation.

9. Position the speakers so that they’re firing toward the house. You’ll get better sound coverage, and you’ll be a better neighbor. Plus, when the speakers are placed away from the house, they won’t conflict visually with your home’s design and architecture. Blend the speakers into the landscape by choosing models that resemble rocks, planters and other backyard objects from SteroStone, Rockustics, Niles, NuTone and other manufacturers.

10. Need more bass? Complement your outdoor speakers with in-ground subwoofers. “What’s great about the in-ground sub is that only part of it sticks out. This allows us to put smaller, more inconspicuous, speakers in other spots,” that a subwoofer might otherwise occupy, Edmiston says. Terra Speakers’ AC Sub is a good choice for this. And know the difference between waterproof and weatherproof, especially when it comes to speakers. Waterproof speakers are design to stand up against a summer storm and poolside horseplay. Weatherproof products, on the other hand, will be able to withstand many other conditions, such as drastic changes in temperature. Keep in mind, not all weatherproof speakers are also waterproof.

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