When you think of a smarthome, you might envision the interior with color-changing lights, smart plugs, and voice assistants, but don’t forget about your yard and patio. You can bring your smarthome outdoors in some fun and useful ways.
The Great Outdoors Can Be Smarter Too
Once you have your home’s smart devices set up, voice assistants trained, and automation created there’s still more you can do. Your smarthome doesn’t have to stay outside—it can expand into your yard, whether you’re playing in the backyard, hosting a cookout, or putting up Christmas decorations. With plugs, lights, and battery add-ons, your outdoors can be just as smart as the inside of your home.
Outdoor Smart Plugs Are A Simple Way to Automate Many Things
Whether you need to plug in Christmas and Halloween decorations or lights, a smart outdoor plug is a great way to add intelligence to anything you might plug in outside. Outdoor smart plugs come in several varieties, whether that means Z-wave, Homekit, or Wi-Fi.
The thing to pay attention to is whether the plug has one outlet or two. If it has two, you will always want to double check whether both are smart. With some outdoor outlets, the second port is passthrough only. It’s effectively the same as any other outlet in your home, and you can’t control or automate it.
If you have a fountain, pool filtration system, or landscape lighting to which you’d like to add automation, outdoor smart plugs are ideal as well, in part because they are water resistant. Just keep in mind that whatever you connect to a smart outlet has to be “on” at all times to work well. You’ll turn off the device by turning off the outlet.
Outdoor Lights Provide Color For All Your Nights
You shouldn’t grab just any hue bulb and stick it in your porch light. But companies like Philips do make smart lights intended for outdoor use. The benefit is that you get automation (such as turning on at sunset and off at sunrise), and depending on the bulb you choose, colors that change. It’s handy to have lights that turn off or on depending on the time of day or change color with the weather.
Smart bulbs will liven up an outdoor party that winds into the night, providing your neighbors don’t mind the music and light show. An outdoor strip light, like the one offered by Philips, can light your walkway and be keyed to time and motion.
Take Your Assistant With You With a Battery Add-On
Other than the Amazon Tap (which Amazon now only sells in refurbished form), Google and Alexa devices are designed for indoor use first, including tethering them to a plug. But if you don’t want to buy a Tap to supplement your existing devices, you could consider battery packs the speakers you do have. Battery packs exist for both Google and Alexa devices, and once you plug these them in and charge them, then you can take your Google Home or Echo outside with you.
If you bring two or three, you can take advantage of multi-room speaker capabilities to add overall volume. In addition to music, you’ll have all your usual voice commands to control your smart devices, including the smart plugs and lights you have outside.
Use Mesh to Strengthen Your Smarthome Network Outside
Wi-Fi networks can have a short range, especially those operating on the 5 GHz range. If you’re having trouble connecting your voice assistant and Wi-Fi smart devices outside, you might want to consider switching to a Mesh Wi-Fi system.
Mesh Wi-Fi systems work much like Wi-Fi repeaters to extend your wireless network further, but they’re designed to work seamlessly. As you move around your house and outside your house, the network will automatically determine what Mesh device is closest to you and perform a handoff. It does all this while showing one single SSID, to enhance ease of use.
If you’re using Z-Wave and Zigbee devices, they’ll form a mesh network to extend their range as well. If you’re having trouble with a particular device at the extremes of your house, or outside, it may help if you add a Z-Wave or Zigbee device somewhere between the troublesome device and your hub.
If you happen to be a Smartthings user, you may consider switching to the Samsung SmarThings Wifi Mesh routers. These routers double as SmartThings hubs, which gives you both mesh Wi-Fi range, but also extends your Z-Wave and Zigbee range as well. If you place one of these hubs as close to your backyard as possible, for instance, then you will extend both your internet and Z-Wave/Zigbee network outside.
Anytime you take electronics outside, be mindful of the weather. If a device was designed first for outdoor use, you should be fine. But if it’s meant for indoors, then you’ll need to bring it in when it rains or snows. Or find some method to protect it from the weather.