Outdoor entertainment projects have been popular in the residential technology industry for several years. CEDIA’s annual Size and Scope of the Residential Electronics Systems Industry study found while the number of projects and the types of components installed in outdoor entertainment projects are roughly the same in 2014 and 2015, revenues are not. Home technology professionals expect average outdoor entertainment project revenue to rise 28 percent, indicating
homeowners are looking to invest in outdoor entertainment systems.
We asked three home technology professionals to share their insights on outdoor entertainment systems, what should be considered, how to get a project going and more. Check out what these pros had to say.
Todd Anthony Puma is the owner of The Source Home Theater, which serves both New Jersey and New York. Todd started his career in the A/V business in a big box store, first as the lead installer in a single location and quickly moving his way up to the regional position of the company. He comes with a strong construction background.
Lewis Franke is a Certified Electronic Systems Sales Engineer for Texadia Systems out of Addison, Texas. Lewis has over 18 years of experience in the custom electronics industry and has consulted with thousands of clients, dealers and vendors on design, engineering, project management, sales and operations.
Ryan Herd is the owner of One Sound Choice based in Pompton Plaines, N.J. Ryan has over 20 years of experience, offering smart home solutions, home theater design and installation, integrated home automation networks and more to enhance homeowner’s lifestyle.
What should homeowners know before taking on an outdoor technology project?
Todd: Outdoor technology is different from indoor. It needs to be able to weather the elements — there are no walls to contain the sound; you can’t control the ambient light and noise.
Lewis: The types of products needed and the design of the technology for this space may be different in style, look and build quality, and the price may reflect that. Homeowners should really take time to think about how this space will be used — for friends and family or more formal entertaining — because that will affect the design of the space and some of the products a home technology professional will choose.
Ryan: Really think about the scope of work and write down specifics of what you’re wanting to accomplish with this space. For example, think about where would you like music: by the pool, fire pit, the barbecue, how loud would you like it, rock concert or just some light background music.
What typically is the first step to getting an outdoor technology project going?
Todd: Working with the landscape architect to understand where conduit can/will be run; what the layout of the usable space will be; and how the space will be used. It is no different than working with a building architect to understand the interior of a home during a remodel or new build.
Lewis: I always recommend doing a thorough needs analysis on the space and the technology — needs vs. wants. By far the most important question I ask is, “If you had this technology in the space, what would you do with it?” This really defines the customer’s emotional attachment to the space, which will be more of a driving factor than budget alone — if a homeowner has the why defined, then budget rarely becomes an obstacle. There are so many possibilities when thinking about outdoor entertainment from speakers to karaoke, TVs to control capabilities.
Ryan: First and foremost, find a professional or three and give them the scope of work, a budget and ask for proposals. When the proposals are presented, ask for references and check them. A few calls and you might learn from another client what they like about the company as well as what they might do differently with their outdoor project.
Is there a most requested feature that homeowners ask for?
Todd: Hands down it is music. People want to entertain outside and listen music while barbecuing by the pool, playing with the kids in the backyard or doing yardwork.
Lewis: We are seeing clients asking for better quality audio, not only resolution of the audio signal but also in the playback quality. High-end audio has been a big request of clients lately with subwoofers and DSP processing so the audio experience is more in line with listening to a CD or a lossless music format. Outdoor spaces provide an awesome opportunity for high-end audio to knock it out of the park because there is so much space, which makes calibration critical to a proper installation.
Ryan: Our biggest requests always center around being able to listen to music or watch movies in the backyard.
Outdoor living spaces have become quite popular. What components do you believe to be essential to have a complete outdoor entertaining space?
Todd: A solid, well-balanced audio system; integrating lighting and control; and Wi-Fi coverage with outdoor WAPs and video, be it a projector and screen or an outdoor TV.
Lewis: It’s easy to focus on the audio in outdoor entertainment systems. It is a critical component you have to do right to get the results you want. I’m talking good audio sources, digital signal processing, amplifiers and speakers. While audio, video and control are what a lot of people focus on (for good reason), the mood of the space is the driving force. Good lighting and automation of entertainment, lighting scenes and water features truly create the ambiance of the space. If you have the music turn on and automatically turn on a particular channel, then dim the lights and turn on the water fountain to a preset scene it really adds so much more value than listening to music alone. Now you are creating an emotional connection to the space which always drives more use than just technology alone.
Ryan: Family and friends — that’s the most important “component” of an outdoor space. After that some speakers, amps and outdoor TV.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Todd: Don’t let the outdoors become an afterthought and a place where you cut the budget. Often it is easier to run new wire inside the home through an attic or a basement than it is to trench wire to the far reaches of the yard. Incorporate the outdoor system with everything you are doing indoors, and just as you do with the interior of the house make sure you have future expandability in mind — run cat6 to a couple of locations for potential WAPs and for a TV with an HDMI extender, and run wire for additional speakers and subwoofers if you are doing a basic system to start.
Lewis: No matter what the owner is going to do in this space, plan for the future. Make sure there are extra wires or pathways for upgrades. Make sure you have the ability to add more technology when the time allows. Most importantly, deal with an educated CEDIA member who understands the value in not only knowing the technology, but also knows how to listen and communicate to the client and various vendors on the site. The outdoor space has a lot of players at the table and knowing how to project manage and communicate needs to the various partners is paramount. It takes patience and understanding that only comes from experience and humility.
Ryan: You can have all the speakers and TVs you want in the outdoor environment, but if they are not easy to use it’s just a bunch of junk. You need a great control system to make sure the system is easy to use with built-in redundancy like a basic remote control. An app is great but what happens when your wireless is down?
CEDIA is the leading global authority in the $14 billion home technology industry. CEDIA members deliver technology solutions that allow people to have their best moments in life from the comfort of their own home — life lived best at home. CEDIA is the international trade association and central touch point for 3,500 member companies that represents every facet of the ever-evolving home technology market.