With a limited number of warm-weather months on the calendar, Garden State residents take their backyard time seriously. This weatherproof family decided to extend their outdoor time. Thanks to an outdoor TV, a patio heater, a hot tub and a kitchen that's the envy of every armchair top chef, this Jersey family enjoys an all-season al fresco life. Enjoying electronics outside is the easy part; making sure that the electronics and cables can withstand the elements is the challenge. Add the stipulation that audio/video gear must be concealed and it's a job best tackled by seasoned pros. Expanding the whole-house entertainment system to the backyard was a natural extension for system designers at Electronics Design Group. The backyard became another zone in the house-wide system. But backyard electronics carry different requirements. EDG installers picked locations for wires that they knew were dry spots, for instance. Speaker considerations are different when there are no walls to reflect the sound. In order to cover the square space, they used two sets of speakers: one set of flush-mount speakers mounted in the divider behind the hot tub and the other set across the patio in a soffit under the roof of the house. The Sonance speakers are rated for outdoor use, and installers sealed the speakers with rubber gaskets to keep moisture out.
Since the TV had to be invisible when not in use, EDG devised a motorized lift that stores the TV in a protected base. Making the TV operate seamlessly was a combination of sound mechanics and computer smarts. EDG built drivers for the lift and programmed macros so that a single button press would set in motion everything that needs to happen to watch the Sunday game: the TV rises from the cabinet and switches to the proper input, audio from the speakers ramps up and the cable box goes to a preset sports channel.
It takes a special kind of TV to weather the elements. EDG designers selected the Sunbrite SB4610HD, a 46-inch 1080p HDTV that's encased in an all-weather housing that protects the components from rain, dirt and insects.. A built-in fan system keeps the unit cool up to 122 degrees and dry so that fog and frost don't build up on the screen. A built-in heater protects the TV to temperatures down to 24 degrees below zero. That came in handy for the family's Super Bowl party last winter, which took place against a snowy backdrop. The weatherized TV is covered by a window that reduces glare, boosts contrast and shields the TV screen. For extra protection, the mason added a rubber lip around the TV opening to protect the TV after it lowers into the stone housing, and a watertight cover goes on top for added defense.
To ensure an aesthetic fit, EDG designers matched the base of the TV housing to those of the cooking area, complete with aluminum doors that provide access to wire and electrical conduit for cables from the indoor A/V system. The TV rests on a swivel base so that it can point to the table, the hot tub, the grill--and the horseshoe pit in the yard. The video menu is stocked with viewing options including the Vudu movie collection, a Blu-ray player and cable TV. Music comes by way of CDs played on the Blu-ray player, an iPod dock, FM and Sirius XM Radio and the Rhapsody music service. The entertainment system is controlled by a Control4 remote with an LCD screen that provides two-way communication. Users can see playlists, radio stations and track information for easy selection of whatever music strikes their fancy.