Project Planning & Tips

Power on the patio

Here’s how to juice up your patio for family and friends.

Patios and pool decks aren’t simply for sunbathing. Parties, family meals, work sessions, movies and more all happen out there, too. These days, outdoor electrical outlets, charging stations, wifi, sound and media devices are must-haves for many homeowners. Unfortunately, most houses were built well before the modern technology era, forcing us to reverse engineer some power supply solutions. Why have a beautiful outdoor living space and your safety ruined by criss-crossing extension cords?  Here are a few more appealing and clever ways to provide for electrical needs on the patio.

Charging stations

One way to encourage people to put down their phones is to provide a separate place for the devices to charge. Set up a small table with USB connections and various types of cords in case  guests have forgotten to bring their own accessories. This keeps guests outdoors where the fun is, and those who rely on GPS or Uber to get home will deeply appreciate the gesture.

Just because it’s a charging station doesn’t mean it can’t be stylish. Check out this planter that adds a natural element to a very modern need. New designs in charging stations are coming out every day, like this product named Gloo, a sleek, bottle-shaped light source and charger. 

If your patio is a meeting space (or you simply have a big family!), consider investing in an industrial-sized, wall-mounted kiosk (which may require professional installation and will need to be permanently shielded from the weather).



Wifi extenders

Reading a book or a favorite magazine poolside is one of the best benefits of having a pool deck. But until lately, that’s only worked with printed media. Extend your home’s wifi so you can break out the tablet or e-reader with all your favorite books and magazines cued up.

Wifi extenders are wireless devices that amplify the signal from the home’s router (the machine that broadcast’s the internet service provider’s connection to the internet). These devices will need to be under waterproof shelter. Look for an outlet in the garage or under an outdoor kitchen counter. Directions to setting up the boosted network are included with the device and are simple to follow. You may need to name your outdoor network something other than your indoor one. And always make sure to use a password. Print the password on a card to display at parties. PC Magazine has a round-up of wifi extender models for you to look through.

 Bluetooth speakers

 No built-in speaker system outside? No problem. The once-cost-prohibitive tech is now common fare. Bluetooth wireless speakers now come in every price range. “Bluetooth” is the name for the short-wavelength radio protocol used in wireless communication with your computer, phone or other device. Your device can be several feet away from the speakers but still must be in the general area for the speakers to pick up the bluetooth signal. The strength of the speaker sound depends on the speaker.

 You can find weatherproof Bluetooth speakers that are fashioned in the shape of rocks, or you can find a sleek rectangular device that blends in with the patio decor. They come in many colors and sizes. One helpful trick: buy each family member their own portable Bluetooth speaker. This way they will each be responsible for charging their own batteries and they can always have one available for their own use.

 Outlets in the Outdoor Kitchen

If the stars aligned and the creek didn’t rise, you have plenty of outlets installed in your outdoor kitchen. If, like the rest of us, your patio didn’t anticipate the 21st century, there are a few things you can do. The cheapest and easiest solution is extension and power strips (look for ground fault circuit interrupter power strips), but that isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing option. Hiding the cords in the plantings may be possible, but unless they are weatherproofed, the cords will always have to be moved indoors when not in use. If you already have at least one outlet in the outdoor cabinetry, it may not be feasible to have an electrician extend the power from that outlet to a new one. The next option would be full underground installation of electrical cable. This may sound like a bigger project than it is. The ditches needed to run cables underground are not that deep. They can be run under a walkway edge or along the fence line. Patio pavers are ideal is this situation because they can be lifted up and reset. Ask your electrician or landscape contractor about your options. If you are in the planning stages of a new patio or outdoor kitchen, you probably will need more outlets than you think. Think about what kind of power supply needs (and headaches) you have in your indoor kitchen to get an idea of how many outlets you may need in your outside one.

 When it comes to electricity and technology, many of us back away from addressing the problem ourselves. Adding a wifi extender, getting some Bluetooth speakers and adding a charging station is within the skillset of anyone who has a cell phone. Consult an expert for actual electrical installation, but try your hand at some tech support basics first. Your patio and pool deck can become the most juiced-up, connected destination in the neighborhood.

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