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11 Guidelines for Outdoor A/V Projects

Proper cable management, configuring the audio, adding security and having the right tools are some tips for succeeding in outdoor A/V.

Jason Knott · May 23, 2014

As the polar vortex begins to loosen its grip over the nation, it’s time for integrators to look at ramping up their outdoor audio/video installation business. After all, it’s nearly impossible to bury cable when the ground is frozen and it’s not too easy to terminate wire when your fingertips are frostbitten.

Whether the job is poolside, an outdoor kitchen, or just a zone extension of an indoor system, here are 11 guidelines to success in outdoor installations.


Advanced planning and design are the most important ways to make cable management run smoothly. Kevin Burnley, owner/president of Creative Audio Video and Automation in St. Louis, recognizes this. Creative does about a dozen outdoor video jobs per year and many more audio jobs. The company recently won the SunBriteTV 2013 outdoor installation contest.

In many cases, cable must be run in conduit. But if the poolside concrete decking is poured before the conduit is laid, you’re screwed. Burnley tries to standardize on always using conduit for the cable for video cabling but at times has to use direct-burial Category and HDMI cable. For audio, most times he is burying the cable.

“Getting cables into place is a big challenge, especially when you are dealing with long distances where you are using extenders,” says Burnley. “Trenching for wires and cables in general is always a challenge.”


There is no question, dealing with the weather is the biggest challenge for outdoor projects in general. But that doesn’t stop Burnley from doing outdoor jobs year-round when possible. When the other companies are hunkered down inside for the winter, he is still selling and installing outdoor systems when possible.

“Here in St. Louis we can get some nasty weather. We just put in a 46-inch SunBriteTV in January. The guys were working outside and it was only seven degrees,” Burnley says. “We are still able to do outdoor TV installations in the winter, which is pretty cool. Even estimating it’s tough. I met with a client yesterday and we had freezing rain … so I’m out on his patio trying to measure in a tough environment.”


Where to place speakers and how many to use is not as clear cut outside as it is inside. Having the right amount of speakers with the proper distance spread is a concern. Another point of contention is whether an integrator should mount speakers on the side of home firing out toward the yard/patio, or should he use planter speakers or buried garden speakers and subwoofers in the yard that fire back toward the house?

Many dealers say they opt for the second choice, rhetorically contending that no one sits on the patio or in their yard with their chair directed toward the house. Indeed, they are most likely to have their focus directed out toward the yard, which means locating the speakers in the yard aiming back at the home makes the most sense from an audio quality standpoint.


There is still an education process that must take place with clients regarding the use of indoor components outside.

Says Burnley: “People still believe they can throw an indoor TV outside. The education is not just about explaining how the TV can be rained on, but we have a lot of humidity in St. Louis. Humidity causes dampness. We get lots of fog that causes dew here that can get inside a TV and short out the wires. Dust can be a concern, too. We have real cold winters and real hot summers. There is definitely an education that needs to be done with customers.”

Creative Audio Video has an in-stone policy: “We will not put an indoor TV on an outside job. When people ask us to do that, we decline the job,” says Burnley. “Some of it is the liability we don’t want to incur when that TV breaks or shorts out, and maybe the house even burns down.”

Related: 10 Subwoofers to Put Oomph in the Outdoors


Outdoor entertainment was probably not on the radar of most homeowners years ago. That’s why it’s a good idea to target your existing clientele with your ability to do outdoor jobs. In some cases, it can be as simple as adding an outdoor audio zone to an indoor system.


After consistently seeing outdoor equipment stolen from some of his clients’ homes, Nick Tamburri of Aggressive Home Automation in Newark, N.J., now installs some level of security to his outdoor projects. In some cases, he adds an extra Category wire to the bundle with an alarm contact on it. That way, if the wire is cut, it triggers an alarm signal. Using the GE Concord system, he also employs wireless contacts in some cases.

Tamburri has also started installing IP cameras to help protect all his outdoor jobs, with the camera isolated directly on the A/V equipment. If the camera has motion activation, Tamburri can set the system to trigger an alarm before the potential theft occurs.

“What’s sad is that often times it is another contractor who tries to steal the TV,” he claims.

Most of his outdoor A/V jobs are on large estates with secured gates that require access control cards or codes. In jobs without cameras, several times the theft could be cross-checked against the card access entry times for other contractors, such as landscapers, on the job to isolate the theft.

Burnley is seeing a similar trend. He just started his security business so he hasn’t built a track record, but he is deploying many of the same solutions as Tamburri.

  About the Author

Jason Knott is Chief Content Officer for Emerald Expositions Connected Brands. Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990, serving as editor and publisher of Security Sales & Integration. He joined CE Pro in 2000 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of that brand. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He has been a member of the CEDIA Business Working Group since 2010. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Jason at jason.knott@emeraldexpo.com

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  Article Topics

Home Theater · Security · News · · ELK Products · Lutron · Niles · Panasonic · SunBriteTV · All Topics
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