There has never been a better time to bring smart home devices to the outdoors.  The technology has matured significantly, home wifi ranges are growing, and developers are coming up with innovative ways to make the outside of the home as smart and easy as the inside has already become.

What kinds of outdoor smart home devices are available?  Smart home devices for the backyard and patio can improve your grilling game, light up your landscaping, clean the pool, provide security, and even get you out from behind the lawnmower.  A smart backyard will allow you to spend your time enjoying it instead of maintaining it. 

With the arrival of spring, and summer just around the corner, everyone is looking forward to enjoying the outdoors.  Backyards and patios are great for relaxing and entertaining, but they can require a lot of effort to keep up.   After a long week at work, it would be nice to have a few days to relax instead of tending to backyard chores.  The smart home devices available today can help keep the yard in tip-top shape and entertainment-ready with minimal effort.  

Yard Work

A neatly trimmed, lush, green lawn signifies a home with pride.  But is there anyone who actually enjoys performing lawn care?   Teenage boys and landscaping businesses count on the fact that while we love nice looking grass, we hate taking care of it.  Here are some ways in which smart devices can help keep your grass looking its absolute best.

#1 Smart Irrigation

Automated irrigation systems have been around for decades.  In a sense, they were smart for their day, but by today’s standards, they sure are dumb.  While it was easy to set a regular schedule for your sprinklers, all it did was save you the trouble from remembering to turn them on and off. 

But what if it’s been unusually hot and sunny all month?  Or perhaps it’s been raining for the last 3 days.  A smart sprinkler controller, like the Rachio 3, can make zone-by-zone adjustments to your watering schedule using weather monitoring. 

For those who don’t have a below ground irrigation system but who would still like smart automation, the Eve Aqua fits the bill.  This smart device connects an outdoor spigot and hose sprinkler for automated spot watering.  Apple Homekit enabled means you can water your lawn with voice commands too.  And with auto-shut off, there’s no fear of accidental flooding.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, as much as 50% of outdoor water use is inefficient and wasted.  Using a smart device to control your irrigation system is not only eco-friendly; it can save you money.  S

#2 Smart Lawnmowers

Once robotic vacuums hit the scene sucking up crumbs and dirt from our home floors, it was only a matter of time before the technology was applied to the lawn.  That day has arrived! 

iRobot, maker of the leading robotic vacuums, has released the Terra Robot Mower.  Using trademarked Imprinttm Smart Mapping and beacon technology, this robot mower will remain within set boundaries.  For those who love the look of mower lines in the lawn, Terra can do that too.  And when Terra needs to charge, just like it’s vacuum cousin, it will go dock itself.

The Robomow is smart mower able to whack tall, unkempt lawns up to ¼ acres in size.   Unlike the iRobot version, this mower requires the installation of perimeter wire around the lawn boundaries.  This little mower can also be controlled using a phone app or a physical remote that is sold separately.

Lighting

The right lighting around your home and landscaping not only increases curb appeal, but it expands its functional area, increases safety, and deters criminal activity.

#3 Exterior Home Lighting

Smart outdoor lighting for your home can take many forms.  Philips Hue, already a leader with indoor smart home lighting, now takes that expertise outdoors.  With fixtures such as the Hue Lucca, homeowners will be able to control exterior lighting.  Set schedules, routines or turn on your outdoor lights with your voice.

Pathway lights can greatly enhance the look and safety of walkways around your home.  Hue’s Calla lights can provide bright white lighting for maximum safety or up to 16 million different colors to perfectly highlight both mood and surroundings. 

The Philip Hue Lightstrip Outdoor is an incredibly versatile outdoor lighting system.  It is 197 inches of flexible luminescence with uses as varied as your imagination.  No matter which voice assistant your home relays on, Hue lights work with Alexa, Siri, and Google. 

#4 Landscape Lighting

Backyard landscaping disappears in the dark of night.  When appropriately lit, landscaping comes alive with unique beauty and drama.  Again Philips Hue leads the way with outdoor spotlights to enhance and create eye-catching features

Hue’s Lily Outdoor spotlights can be mounted to structures or staked to the ground.  The lamp head is capable of 360 degrees of rotation so you can keep the angles just right, no matter how big your bushes or trees might grow. 

#5 Outdoor Smart Plugs

Smart plugs are used for all kinds of applications indoors but are not durable enough to withstand outside elements.  While there are a number of ways in which to use the new outdoor smart plugs, an application homeowners are sure to love when they connect their holiday lighting to it. 

The Maxcio Outdoor Smart Plug connects to 2.4GHz wifi without the use on an additional hub.  Set up is completed using the Maxcio app, and is compatible with Alexa and Google for voice control.  The Maxcio plug has two outlets available.

More on outdoor smart plugs here!

If a larger capacity smart plug is required, the Bolun Wireless Smart Plug can support up to three plugs.  Each outlet has its own waterproof cover for extra protection from the elements when not in use. 

Entertaining

One of the great joys of summer is entertaining family and friends with a backyard barbeque.  Smart home device can help hosts spend less time on the details and more time enjoying each other’s company.

#6 Smart Grills

Serious about your grilling and barbequing?  You might want to take all the guesswork out of it and consider a smart grill.  Green Mountain Grills makes a wifi-connected pellet grill.  This grill can be controlled using Green Mountain Grill’s phone app.  And when taking advantage of Server Mode, this grill can also be controlled and food temperatures monitored even when away from home.  Perfect for low and slow cooking. 

The Lynx Smart Grill is a gas grill.  From the Lynx app, users can select from hundreds of recipes and receive step-by-step instructions, even detailing exactly where on the grill to place the food.  No need to keep watch by the grill. It’s okay to walk away and be social.  This grill sends you notifications when it’s time to take action.

Char-broil makes a Digital Electric Smoker.  Taking all of the guesswork out of smoking meats, both iOS and Android apps guide users through the process.  The temperature inside the smoker is monitored as well as the meat.  This smart smoker will even take outside temperatures into consideration when estimating cooking time. 

Of course, if you already have a great grill, there are smart devices to at least help determine when that steak has reached just the right temperature.  The iGrill Mini from Weber uses a smart thermometer and wired probe to monitor temperatures while grilling.  Temperatures can be watched via an iOS compatible app, but don’t wander too far.  This device uses Bluetooth, limiting the functional distance to about 150 feet. 

#7 Music

It’s not a party without some good tunes playing.  If being able to manage the playlist on the fly is important, Bluetooth speakers are an excellent choice. 

The Fugoo Style-S is a highly rated portable speaker and designed to be rugged enough to withstand outdoor use.  With 15 hours of battery life, there’s little need to worry about running out of power. 

Frequent entertainers may want to invest in a pair of outdoor Bluetooth capable speakers.  BT Blast Pro speakers by Sound Appeal were designed in outdoor use in mind.  Weatherproof and fade resistant, these speakers should perform and look good for years to come. 

#8 Smart Fire Pits

Fire pits are hot, literally and figuratively.  Not only do fire pits provide fantastic nighttime glow and ambiance, they also deliver great warmth, allowing the party to keep going long after the sun goes down. 

One huge downside to a backyard fire pit is smoke.  If there’s any wind, half of your guests will be huddled together on one side to avoid getting smoked out.  But the crackle and smell of a real wood fire have great appeal.  True campfire fans are reluctant to give that up. 

The BioLite Steel Wood Burning Fire Pit is smart solution.  This portable fire pit can burn wood logs or charcoal briquettes.  The airflow system and 4-speed fan keep smoke from getting out of control and can be adjusted from the onboard controls or via the BioLite Energy app. 

No need to mess with buying wood if gas fire pits are more your speed.  Gas provides all of the warmth without the smoke and ashes.  Are you a Do It Yourselfer?  Consider impressing your guests with a smart fire pit you can control from your phone.  When they ask where you got it, tell them you made it yourself!  Here’s a YouTube Video on a smart fire pit built using a GE Smart Switch connected to the Samsung Smart Things app. 

To build one like in the video you will need:

Pool Maintenance

A backyard pool is tons of summertime fun, but maintaining it can be a troublesome chore.  Trying to keep up with the dirt and yard debris that inevitably ends up in the pool can be a daily job.  Figuring out what chemicals to add and when can be a true guessing game.  You can hire a pool service to make things a bit easier, or you can invest in some smart pool equipment.

#9 Pool Monitor

How often are you testing the pH of your pool?  Maybe once per week?  You will always know the condition of your pool with a pHin.  This little fin-shaped monitoring device continuously tests the status of your water 144 times per day.  When an issue is discovered, a notification is sent to a phone app, allowing you to get on top of issues before they can get out of hand.  

In addition to letting you know when to add chemicals, pHin will also provide detailed dosing instructions.  The monitoring service does require a subscription however.  The first year is included with pHin purchase and then renews at $99/year. 

Similar to pHin is Sutro.  Though not as sleek looking, Sutro also will continuously monitor pool water with results clearly displayed in the Sutro app.  The difference is Sutro’s monitoring doesn’t simply let you know when the pool needs attention.  The app will display pH, free chlorine levels, as well as alkalinity.  Sutro is also a lower profile monitor and compatible with the use of pool covers.  Sutro expects to launch Summer 2019, but product pricing and subscription details have not been released yet.

#10 Pool Cleaner

No matter how clean you try to keep the pool area, it seems like everything ends up in the pool, either sinking straight to the bottom or floating on the surface.  The Polaris 9650iQ Sport is not just a robotic pool vacuum; it is a smart robotic pool vacuum. 

What makes this vacuum smart is onboard wifi capability, enabling scheduling and programming from the iAquaLink app.  Directly from the phone, you can instruct this cleaner to work on the floor, walls, or waterline.  There is also a Lift option, where the robot will climb the pool wall for easy retrieval.  The app will also let you know when the easy-to-clean canister needs to be emptied.

Maytronics has developed the MyDolpintm app to remotely control some of its Deluxe and Premium Class Dolphin Robot cleaners.   Via the app, users may schedule cleanings, remotely drive the robot, set cycle times, delay a scheduled cleaning, and select cleaning modes. 

#11 Pool Alarm

Although pools are great family fun, they are also one of the most dangerous home hazards.  Water safety should be a paramount concern.  According to the CDC, there are on average 3,536 fatal unintentional drownings each year.  There are several smart options for keeping children safe from accidental drowning. 

Home alarms such as iSmartAlarm Contact Sensors can be placed on all access points to the backyard or on pool gates.  Battery operated and easy to install, if a child, or anyone else, opens the door, alerts will trigger. Fully customizable, alerts may be chimes, sirens, or app push notifications. Voice control can also be implemented with the iSmart Alarm Amazon Alexa skill.

When attending events at other homes or locations, an option for keeping track of the little ones is the My Buddy Tag.  This wearable smart device can send alerts to a phone via Bluetooth when a child has wandered too far or falls into a body of water. 

Made from soft silicone, the My Buddy Tag will stay securely on your child’s wrist, requires no subscription, and will last for approximately one-year before requiring a replacement battery. 

Security

Would you know if someone is lurking in your backyard?  A common entry point for burglars is through sliding glass doors.  Not only are they frequently unlocked, but even when they are locked, the latches are relatively easy to defeat.

Installing security cameras in the backyard can help alert you when suspicious activities are taking place.  The Ring Spotlight Cam is a perfect option for backyard use.  This little camera has excellent night vision, motion-sensors, two-audio capability, and a 110-decibel siren.  The Ring Spotlight cam is an ideal addition to those already using a Ring Doorbell as all Ring devices can be controlled from within a single app. 

Installation is incredibly simple.  The Ring Spotlight cam requires no wiring or external power source.  However, it should be installed in an accessible location so that depleted batteries can easily be replaced and recharged.

Smart home no longer applies only to the inside of the home.  There are multiple applications to bring smart technology to the backyard and patio, allowing homeowners to work less and enjoy more.

Related questions

How can I get wifi in my backyard?

Changing the location of your wireless router or access point may increase the signal in your backyard.  Be sure to use the 2.4GHz frequency as it has better coverage at further distances. 

Can I use smart light bulbs in my exterior fixtures?

Yes, as long as the light fixture is somewhat sheltered from the elements, smart light bulbs may be used outside.

Will I need a wifi hub?

Whether or not a hub is required will depend on the specific smart home device.  Please review the device information to determine if a hub is required or included with your purchase.

by Melissa Lagerquist