Nothing is more important to integrators in terms of selecting their outdoor products than long-lasting durability. Weatherproofing, improved seals at junction points, higher quality stakes for in-ground loudspeakers as well as longer stakes, and protection against saltwater corrosion are just some of the concerns from integrators related to the endurance of outdoor speakers, surveillance cameras, displays, landscape lights and even networking equipment.
Durability of products was the most common desire expressed by integrators who responded to the fourth annual CE Pro Outdoor Technology Study. The study, which was conducted in February 2020, had 188 respondents and covered a broad range of outdoor technology topics. The survey once again showed that the outdoor market is strong for integrators.
The median number of outdoor projects in 2019 was 10, down slightly from 12 in 2018. But the median price point for an outdoor installation rose a healthy 21% to $6,734, up from $5,575 the previous year.
Breaking Down the Market
As noted, the median price for an outdoor installation rose substantially in 2019. And integrators are positive that the prices they command for outdoor systems, including audio, video, landscape lighting, video surveillance and networking, will remain steady or slightly climb.
For this year, 44% of CE pros expect to earn higher prices for their outdoor installations, while 55% anticipate their prices will remain the same in 2020. Only 1% of custom integration companies expect their average outdoor installation price will fall this year.
Just under two out of every three outdoor projects (63%) are part of an interior installation. That means 37% of outdoor projects are standalone projects where the homeowner has specifically reached out to the integrator to have an outdoor system designed. That is an increase of 7% versus last year, when only 30% of outdoor projects were standalone. Integrators might look to take advantage of this trend and specifically tout on their websites and other marketing outreach their ability to design and install outdoor technology.
In terms of subsystems, audio is still the king of outdoor installations. Dealers report that 73% of their outdoor projects last year included speakers. Networking was the next-most-common subsystem, with 51.4% of projects including an outdoor access point. Video surveillance was next (50.8%), following by video (45%) and landscape lighting (28%).
Breaking down the audio components, obviously running cable is going to be the most common task, with 55% of outdoor projects requiring dealers to bury cable underground. On the speaker side, buried in-ground models are the most common product used with 33% of projects including them. Staked satellite speakers are a close second, with 30% of projects including them.
Meanwhile, 70V products continue to gain favor. They are used in 28% of projects, which represents solid growth from last year, when dealers said they used 70V products in 23% of their outdoor jobs. The use of outdoor amps is also on the rise, with 16% of projects now including one, up from 9% last year. The use of outdoor soundbars and rock speakers also rose in 2019.
On the video side, it’s no surprise that flat-panel TVs are prevalent, used in 46% of outdoor video projects. Dealers still report that they are installing indoor TVs from manufacturers like Sony, Samsung and LG Electronics outdoors, but more are using environmental enclosures. The percentage of projects with an outdoor weatherproof enclosure rose to 11%, up from 9% last year. Meanwhile, outdoor projectors and screens were used 6% of the time. That is still a small number but it represents a significant jump from the year prior when just 3% of outdoor video projects used a projector/screen combination.
On the lighting side, security lighting is the No. 1 most-used type of lighting installed (22%) of projects, while pathway lighting is also common (21% of projects). More decorative lighting, such as wall washes and accent lights for plants and trees are also high on the list of installed exterior lighting systems
The biggest growth category for lighting is exterior motorized shades. In 2018, integrators reported installing exterior shades on 6% of outdoor projects. In 2019, that number grew by 50% to 9%.
From a networking standpoint, outdoor access points are installed frequently. Cellphone signal boosters, weather stations, pool and spa controls and waterproof remotes are all niche solutions. In terms of security, outdoor video surveillance cameras are by far the most common products installed.
Challenges and Service Agreements
One new question for this year’s survey related to service agreements. Integrators are seeing opportunity to cover outdoor systems with service agreements, primarily due to the need to replace equipment that can be damaged by the weather, or more commonly by landscapers. Accent lighting on plants is another common installation that is well suited for a service agreement because as the plant or tree grows, the accent lights will need to be adjusted. However, service agreements specifically for outdoor technology are still rare. Dealers report that just 5% of their outdoor installations are covered by a service agreement.
The biggest challenge faced by CE pros in the outdoor environment is one that is not dissimilar to a big hurdle on a project inside the home: working with the designer or architect. Dealing with the landscape architect is the No. 1 challenge dealers face, according to the survey. Weather-related concerns also remain a problem for many dealers.