Outdoor Alexa Project

  • 13 May 2019
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I have a fairly large backyard that was already setup 2 pairs of outdoor speakers powered by a Sonos Amp. Everything was great, except that I found myself constantly wishing I could control the system by voice as I could do from within my house. There were other smart lights and such that I also wanted to be able to control while outside, not to mention the normal Alexa questions about weather and such. I had a spare echo dot that I could bring outside and plug in when I needed, but I found that it wasn't really that practical. For one thing, there wasn't a single place I could put the dot where it would cover the yard very well. What I really needed was a way to place several alexa dots throughout the yard in permanent spots, and protected well from the elements. Here's what I came up with.

The general idea is that a cheap outdoor speaker could be the perfect container for an echo dot. The trick would be to find one that would fit a dot, hold it firmly, and allow the dot to hear and speak well. Here's what I came up with:

Parts:

Echo Dot, 2nd generation, refurbished - $30
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01DFKBI6G/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o02_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Dual outpdoor speakers (2 per pack) - $35
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00081NX5U/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Mount Genie Flush Mount (5 per pack) - $60
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0733YH3RH/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o02_s01?ie=UTF8&th=1

16 ft USB cable (2 per pack) - $8
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07D124DX6/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o02_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1

I also bought a few fence posts from the hardware store to mount the units on, where I didn't want mount under eaves, as well as additional outdoor power cords where needed.

The steps to build:
1- Pop off the speaker grill and removes screws underneath
2- Remove insulation and cut existing wires inside the speaker.
3- Drill a hole in the back of the speaker, big enough to fit the USB cable (device end). There is relative conveinant location underneath the sticker.
4- Place the flush mount inside the hole where the wolfer used to be. The mount will not be an exact fit but will be fairly snug.
5 - Pull the USB cable through the drilled hole, then into the side hoel in the flush mount.
6 - Connect the echo dot to the USB cable and place echo dot in the flush mount.
7 - Reassemble the speaker.
8 - Mount the speaker in the yard where it will cover the yard best, using the speaker mount provided with the speaker.

Tips:
  • Make sure you have good wifi coverage where you place the echos.
  • This setup only works with the 2nd generation echo. 1st and 3rd gen will not fit.
  • If mounting under the eaves of the house, You can hang the wire from hooks from an outlet to the location. If the USB cable is not long enough, you can use a USB extenstion or power cord.
  • If mounting somewhere else be sure to place wiring where it won't be damaged. If near water, keep power cords at least 10 ft away, but the USB cable is low voltage and should be fine (at least according to code in my area)
  • Alexa does not hear you quite a well outdoors, and her voice does not travel as well, so turn up the volume to max.
  • If mounting the speaker where it won't be covered, get some speaker covers to help protect from moisture when not in use.

I started this back in January and tried out a couple different cheap speakers before deciding on the Dual. There were smaller, cheaper marine speakers to use, but they didn't hold the echo very well, and her voice was muffled. I also could not see the blue light ring very well. I found the Dual + Mount Genie combination to sound almost as good as the echo dot by itself and still look clean. I've installed a total of 6 of these in the backyard and will probably stop there. There have been no issues due to cold or rainy weather, we'll see how it handles the summer heat.

Note: I actually had the Alex by the hot tub in place before Amazon had their superbowl stating an Alexa hut tub was a bad idea. 🙂




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