How to build a cheap outdoor smart speaker

How to build a cheap outdoor smart speaker

If necessity is the mother of invention, then frugality and ingenuity must be at least second cousins.

This story begins in 2018 when your server finally moved to the suburbs after toiling in Boston for 14 years.

My three favorite things about my house are the driveway, the garage, and the deck. However, the platform needed tunes, and my desire for an expensive wireless speaker was diametrically opposed to my desire not to spend any money.

I managed by streaming music from my phone to a Bluetooth speaker for the first summer, but the problem with Bluetooth is that once you walk away, the music fades and dies, leaving your guests longing for the smooth sounds of yacht rock.

There’s also the issue of constantly needing to make sure the speaker is charged and paying extra for a waterproof speaker or having to move the speaker indoors every time it starts to rain or snow.

I then turned my attention to Sonos, which doesn’t need a constant connection. But, its speakers start at a whopping $200, and there’s still the problem of how to leave one outside without it getting damaged by the elements. There had to be a better and cheaper way.

Spoiler: There is. This is how I did it.

Measure twice, order once

The heart of the system here is an Amazon Echo Dot or similarly sized smart speaker. The current-gen Echo Dot is too big, so we need a $30 3rd-gen Echo Dot (measuring 3.9 inches wide) or a $20 2nd-gen Echo Dot (measuring 3.3 inches wide). inches wide). Yes, the Google Nest Mini is also 3.9 inches wide. but also more expensive.

Why the size restrictions? Well, we’re going to house the speaker inside an outdoor lighting fixture, which is designed to protect a light bulb from rain, sleet, snow, and wind. If it fits a third generation Echo Dot, great. Regardless, they sound better than the 2nd-gen version and are only about $10 more.

So yes, you’ll lose a lightbulb in exchange for hands-free, voice-controlled music streaming.

provide the power

Of course, we will need to turn on the speaker. To do so, a light socket to wall socket adapter is required. I have a pack of two for $5.

Remove the bulb, then screw the adapter into place. Congratulations, you now have a two-prong outlet living inside your sconce.

Now, there are two additional optional elements that you can use to tidy up this setup a bit. If you want to use the Echo Dot’s bulky power adapter and bundle up its long power cord, that’s fine.

But I opted to use a tiny iPhone-like power cube (this one costs $5) and a 6-inch micro USB cable, which also costs $5.

connect it all together

So the bulb-to-power adapter screws into the light socket, the little USB power hub then plugs into the power adapter, the 6-inch USB cable then plugs into the hub, and finally the Echo Dot is connect to USB cable. .

A quick whiff of ozone later, and you have a fully powered, hands-free outdoor smart speaker.

Even though I live in the northeast, I keep mine plugged in year round. It has survived hurricanes, snow storms, 100 degree days and frigid winters. The only drawback is that the audio quality is so-so. If you’re an audiophile, this probably won’t work for you. However, if you just want tunes, you’ll probably be happy, and the whole setup process takes about five minutes.

Total bill: $20 to $30 for the Echo Dot, depending on the version, then about $15 for the adapter, plug, and cable. Enjoy!

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