WATCH OUT FOR LIGHTNING
“There’s greater risk of lightning damage when you put any equipment outside—TVs, speakers, even Cat-5 wire. I lived in South Florida for a while, and can tell you that any metal object outside can be a lightning rod. We’ve not had any problems so far with this, but I’ve heard horror stories from installers at other companies. We’re working on figuring out ways to limit our exposure to outdoor lightning strikes. It’s something people may not think about till it’s too late, so we have to look ahead, because there’s certainly growing demand for more stuff to be put outside; I’d rather find solutions before we need them.
“If a speaker gets hit, it’s bad for the speaker. But if that hit travels through to the amp, it will fry the amp, and if that amp shares circuits with inside speakers, if the fuses aren’t up to the task for some reason, it can blow up the speakers in the house, taking the disaster a step further. If the equipment is connected to a control system, there’s no reason that energy can’t travel to the rest of a system. With a very-high-ticket project, you have to take that possibility seriously. It can also happen that a strike to the landscaping lighting will travel back into the home. It’s bad enough if the stereo is down, but if a home’s lighting goes down, it becomes a safety issue.
“I think back to when I used to be a small-business owner, and something of that magnitude happening on a single project would have put me out of business. You have to make sure you have your insurance in order if you’re doing outside work.”— HiFi House Chief Custom Designer E.J. Feulner.
“If your outdoor installation is in a gated community or the equivalent, remember there are covenants about sound that are usually a “yes” or “no”—you can, or you can’t. And if you can, there are covenants about when you can.” —Aurant CEO Jeff Anderson.
DON’T GET PRECIOUS
“One rule I live by in exterior installation is K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid). It’s twice as important as indoors. You cannot underestimate the effects of weather. Everything ages faster, and the inherent unreliability of anything mechanical is amplified. If stuff indoors wears down and breaks in two years, it will break in a fraction of that time outdoors. Two years becomes two months.”—Anderson
“Use common sense. Don’t try to promise something you’ve never done before. Stick to the basics and don’t try to get too extravagant.” -Intergated Media Systems President Tom Wells.
“We always use heavier-gauge, stronger stuff than we might normally indoors. Weatherproof speakers, remotes, video screens coming out of awnings, using long-throw projectors from an adjacent building or in a rollout or self-contained case—these are all special considerations.”—Anderson
“Don’t use any indoor products outside. With an indoor touchpanel, even if it appears to be water-resistant, the moisture can corrode the copper on the circuit board because it’s not coated to resist moisture, and it will oxidize and eventually destroy itself.”—Wells
BE THE EARLY BIRD IF YOU CAN
“It’s always important in outdoor situations to put the necessary wiring in place early. That usually takes coordination with people doing the flatwork or the builder or electrician. Or the sprinkler guy when they’re putting in their runways for each of these things; they should include one for low-voltage, too, so if the customer doesn’t want to do the outdoor things right off the bat, there are ways to still do it later and not cut up the sidewalk or driveway. The bigger challenge these days, with all of the landscaping, stonework and concrete used outdoors, is getting to certain areas—having ways to get under sidewalks, or making sure you can get to the other side of a concrete pool deck that’s being installed.”—Rinke
“The biggest challenge with outdoor projects is that the house is designed first, gets built, and the exterior area gets tackled after the inside gets started. You always end up where the exterior hasn’t been designed at the beginning of the project, which is the most important time to do your planning for wiring. Every job we do, it seems exterior areas are in flux at the beginning. It used to be the big thorn for us—what to do with exterior speakers, where does wiring need to go, et cetera. It always became our problem.
“And then we realized we could put it on the builder and the owner by just saying [in the contract], ‘the conduit will be provided by others.’ That takes a huge responsibility off of the integrator, and ensures it gets done before the deck is poured. At least that way, you get it out on the table in advance. I don’t want my project managers having that on their shoulders for eight months while these guys fiddle around trying to figure out what they’re doing out there. That conduit needs to go in right away. Either it goes to the pool house to be figured out later, or stuffed up somewhere in the backyard where we can get to it later.”—Wells