Decks provide comfortable and safe outdoor living spaces for the modern family. Adding tech and electrical features to your deck design allows for greater enjoyment, easier entertainment and more flexibility in this area, but special consideration must be taken to ensure those features are designed to last.
Whether you're adding speakers and a sound system, patio heaters or landscape lighting, electrical elements create a fantastic family space in the backyard.
Sound System Considerations
If you enjoy throwing backyard parties or relaxing on the deck throughout the summer, installing a sound system makes sense. This feature pumps out your favorite music, filling your living space with the sounds of fun.
But outdoor sound systems and speakers need to be constructed of durable materials, built to withstand exposure to the weather and pests. Heavy-duty plastic casing protects electrical components, and corrosion-resistant fasteners keep the wall mounts and casing intact for years to come.
Always purchase speakers, conduit and wire specially designed for outdoor use. Adding an indoor sound system to your deck design will result in damaged devices and potential shock danger. Electronics fitted for outdoor use have rubber grommets and sealed compartments at entrance and connect points, as well as gold-plated components designed to resist corrosion.
Experts recommend DB (direct burial) wire for wired systems. Standard speaker wire will quickly break down when exposed to the sun, but DB wire allows for installation in any location outdoors. Conduit may be required to provide optimum performance and safety on systems using 120-volt wiring.
What About Wireless Systems?
Wireless sound systems provide an ideal solution for deck design. Simply mount the speakers and switch on the wireless signals to provide good quality sound across your deck or patio, without the hassle or added cost of wiring and outlets. But wireless systems do present limitations.
Wireless sound systems require a stationary receiver. Speakers must be located within a certain distance of this receiver, and interference can become an issue in some cases. Other electronic devices, such as baby monitors, may operate on wireless frequencies that interfere with the signal. Test out your system in the area before permanently mounting components.
Wireless docking stations can be used to play music from your mobile phone or mp3 player. Be sure the docking station has been made for outdoor use and keep plenty of batteries on hand for portable systems.
Speaker location affects sound quality, and the layout of your yard and deck design dictate the ideal location. Consider whether you're looking for sound in a specific area, or spread out over the entire yard. Do you have a multi-level deck or several lounging areas in the yard? Also, it's wise to spare a thought for your neighbors and consider how their outdoor space will be affected by your sound system installation.
Wall-mounted speakers tend to direct sound down and across the deck. This can result in excessive noise throughout your yard, unless you've planted a screen of trees to help deaden the sound. Speakers that sit on the ground and point back toward the house help to contain sound within a certain area. Some resin ground-mounted speakers are disguised as stones, logs and other landscape elements, making it easier to arrange them in a suitable pattern around your deck or patio.
Pole-mounted speakers provide sound to a limited area. Mount speakers to your deck railing posts or any other posts available in your backyard design. Wiring can be run up to and through the poles, creating a safe and tidy solution to your outdoor sound system requirements.
Speaker location also dictates price. Installing speakers across a wide location often requires more wire (unless you've opted for a wireless system). And post-mount installation affects your deck design — conduit and wire need to be mounted and run before the deck board is laid, often creating a slight delay in the installation process.
Patio Heater Considerations
Patio heaters are built for use on your deck or patio, and have the materials and structure to handle the elements. Placement is essential, as patio heaters produce enough warmth to heat a certain area. Think about where people will be gathered and how the seating is arranged, and then place your patio heaters nearby.
Some heaters use propane or natural gas as fuel, while others operate on electricity. Be sure to provide safe access to fuel, and secure any fuel lines or cords with the appropriate safety measures. Conduit and markings are often used to indicate gas lines, while strategically placed electrical outlets help to reduce cord clutter.
Landscape Lighting Considerations
Homeowners have several options for landscape lighting, including low voltage systems operating on separate transformers, systems wired into the main home power, or solar-powered systems that run on renewable energy. Think about which system best suits your lifestyle or consider how a combination of these systems can provide your family with the ideal outdoor lighting solution.
Placement is vital with landscape lighting. Lights provide increased safety (as is the case at entranceways, down stairs and along walkways) and extend your time outside. Depending on where the lights are installed, quality landscape lighting can provide several practical solutions at once.
Install LED lighting flush with deck boards and stair faces to illuminate traffic areas and create low levels of lighting for those long summer evenings. Or set up post-mounted solar lanterns around your garden to light up the pathway and allow you to enjoy a distinct view of the flowers. Use the best size, strength and shape to create a well lit, inviting space.
Add tech and electrical features to your deck design for an improved living space. Outdoor sound systems and speakers are specially designed to withstand exposure and easily provide music for backyard parties. Patio heaters keep your space warm in the spring and fall, while landscape lighting provides illumination all year round. Include these features in your deck design to create a more functional, fun space on your property.