Building a Home That’s Smart, Inside and Outside

Building a Home That’s Smart, Inside and Outside

WHAT Do You Want to Listen To?

When asked this question, the most common answer is, “I want to play music from my phone through the outdoor speakers.” There are two ways to accomplish this — wirelessly stream the music from your phone to the audio system OR use your phone to tell a media player located connected inside what to play.

Wirelessly streaming music from your phone can be done. But it may be problematic if you don’t have good WiFi coverage everywhere in your yard. There can also be issues with wireless interference or dropouts and interruptions due to incoming phone calls, texts, and push notifications. Oftentimes, the better option is to have your technology integrator specify and install a media player that can stream your favorite music services (Spotify, Pandora, SiriusXM, etc.) or access your music library. You can use your phone, tablet, or remote to tell the system what to play and not have to worry about disruptions.

But music isn’t your only option here. If you have a TV on the patio, we can route the TV audio through your outdoor audio system instead of relying on just the TV speakers. Some systems will also allow paging to the outdoor space or the ability to hear the front doorbell when you’re out by the pool.

WHERE Do You Want to Hear It?

When we plan for audio on the inside of the house, we generally specify which rooms we want speakers in and the quality of sound we desire for each space. Outdoors is no different. Even though one might think of the backyard as one big space, it makes sense to break it up into sections or zones.

Some of those areas might be semi-enclosed, like a screened-in patio. Others like the pool area have no ceiling or walls that direct or contain the sound. The characteristics of each zone will significantly influence the type of speakers that make sense for that area.

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Choosing the Best Projector and Screen for Your Outdoor Space

Choosing the Best Projector and Screen for Your Outdoor Space

Aspect Ratio

A projector’s aspect ratio is the ratio between the width and the height. A 4:3 ratio is a squarer image, whereas 16:9 is standard for most films and other modern content and is generally the preferred option. It’s also the ratio that almost, if not all, TVs are made with. Knowing the aspect ratio of your projector lets you find a screen that will suit the projection.


The term “lumens” refers to the brightness of your projector. In a dark room with no windows, 1,000 lumens can be sufficient, but outdoor spaces are different. Typically, outdoor spaces require a projector with at least 3,000 lumens for good screen visibility; and if you plan to watch content outdoors during the day, you may need to go higher, up to 6,000 lumens or more is recommended.

Bulb Lifetime

Many projector light bulbs advertise a lifespan anywhere between 30,000 and 70,000 hours, but in reality, your viewing time will likely never reach that amount. So don’t stress about the lifetime of whichever bulb you choose; chances are it will be more than enough. Even if you do end up having to replace your bulb, they are relatively inexpensive, and you’ll likely be ready to upgrade to something newer by this point.

WiFi Capability

WiFi capability in projectors is the latest advancement in the projector world. WiFi ensures you don’t need a wired internet connection and opens up the world of streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu through your projector. You’ll want to be sure your outdoor space has a strong internet signal to avoid lagging and buffering issues. Also, WiFi projectors tend to be more expensive than traditional ones but are worth it if you want to stream your content without purchasing additional devices. This is more often found on multi-purpose projectors whereas higher-end projectors focused on picture quality might not have this.


Most multi-purpose projectors have built-in speakers but tend to be a little underpowered for the purposes of an outdoor space. Adding external speakers or a soundbar will definitely improve sound levels and quality. You have a choice of wired or wireless speakers, whichever is better for your application. Installing weatherproof speakers is a great way to enjoy music at any time, not just sound for when you watch movies.

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How to Choose the Right Lighting for Your Outdoor Space

How to Choose the Right Lighting for Your Outdoor Space

Types of Lighting

Before getting into anything else, you’ll want to determine which type of lighting you need for your home: wall lighting, landscape lighting, or security lights.

Wall Lighting 

These modern outdoor wall lights flank doorways and can be mounted anywhere there is a wall and wiring. Others integrate into your home’s exterior or have style features to accent your space. Some produce ambient light, while others provide more directed light. Most outdoor wall lights will be rated for their particular exposure to the elements, so make sure you pay attention to the UL rating. An outdoor wall sconce will not only help you find your keys, but some designs wash walls in uplight and downlight to help emphasize your property.

Landscape Lighting 

This type of lighting includes path lights, deck and step lights, and recessed ground lights.

  • Path lights are meant for pathways but can also be used for water features and gardens or home perimeter lighting.
  • Recessed lights are meant to blend in with your landscape, so you only see the light they emit, not the fixture itself.
  • Deck and steps lights are a more permanent style of lighting that is installed directly into the steps and/or decks outside your home to enhance safety and design.

Security Lights

Security or safety-based lighting includes flood lighting, recessed lighting, and path lights. These lights can have a dual purpose in that they are for security but also add curb appeal. Typically you can program these lights to turn on and off with the sun, activate with movement, controlled by a switch, or even a smart home hub. And you can find options that are solar-powered, battery-powered, or hard-wired.

UL Ratings

Each fixture will be given a UL grade depending on its weather resistance. These UL ratings indicate which outdoor areas are most suitable for your fixture. It’s important that you understand what you’re buying.

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Backyard Movie Night: What you Need for Your Outdoor Theater


Though you could take your TV outside for a movie night, it won't have the same "wooow" factor as a projector. So finding the perfect projector should be your first step in planning your backyard movie night. The important factor to remember is that there is no one-size-fits-all projector for every use.

Instead, consider where and how you'll be using your projector. Is this simply for your backyard, or do you want something to take camping with you? It'll be best to choose one that is small enough to take outside and set on a table, but not so little that it won't provide enough light to illuminate your screen. Some portable projectors also include a built-in battery, but a long garden extension cord could also do the job.

Media Player

Another thing to think about is the source material. What will you be watching? Or, more importantly, how will you watch it? The days of bringing a DVD or Blu-ray player out to the yard along with the projector are virtually gone. Sure, you could do it, but there are way more convenient solutions.

You can find projectors with built-in streaming apps or you can use streaming sticks or your laptop. Whatever you choose, make sure you have a good HDMI cable or reliable and strong WiFi, so you can view your movie with no lagging.


Some video projectors have a built-in amplifier and speaker, but the output level is designed for small rooms, such as conference rooms and classrooms. However, if you have a large yard or any kind of background noise, it may be difficult to hear. But with outdoor speakers connected to your home projector, you can have incredible sound to match your huge screen!

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