4 ways to improve your yard, garden or patio with tech


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Erin Lawrence

The backyard might seem an unlikely place for technology, but there are several ways to automate, beautify or otherwise make life easier in your yard. We took a look at these options on Global Morning News TV and 770 CHQR with Gord Gillies.

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Philips Hue Outdoor lighting

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There was once a time when those tiny solar powered outdoor stake lights were the height of backyard lighting design. These days, however, we can do so much better. Thanks to the advent of the LED lighting, and Wi-Fi connectivity, we can have smart, colour changing lighting wherever we go.

Phillips Hue has expanded its popular line of indoor smart lightning to the outdoors. Previously I reviewed the Philips Hue spotlights and bollard lights, and I’ve also had the chance to check out their flexible outdoor LED light strip.

Not surprisingly these outdoor lights are made to withstand the weather. Philips says they are “made for wet environments” and they’re “fully weatherproof” but no IP rating is supplied on the box. The box also says they’ll function in temperatures from -20°C – 45°C  (-4°F-113°F) So they should withstand cold, snow and rain.

Will they survive a Calgary, Canada winter? I installed the Hue spotlights and bollards last fall and I can say they ran all winter long, despite a cold snap of -25°C for about a month. I fully expect the light strip will perform just as admirably.

Husqvarna Automower

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It’s just like a Roomba for your lawn!  The Husqvarna Automower can be set on an electronic schedule, so it will keep your lawn trim all season long.  The robomower doesn’t go out once per week and slice down the lawn by two inches, instead it mulches the lawn by cutting very small amounts each day; the lawn will appear as though it just stops growing.  The robot is fully autonomous, and will find its way around your yard mulching grass until it needs to return to its base station for a recharge.

The Husqvarna automower should be professionally installed; a guidewire laid in the grass and held in place with stakes keeps it on your property.

Surprisingly, this mower is absolutely silent when it runs.  Compared to the ear-splitting grind of a traditional electric or gas mower, you will not even hear this one at work in your yard.  In fact, it was so quiet, I had mine scheduled to run at night, and I never heard it, nor did my neighbours.

The Husqvarna Automower has anti-theft protection built in. Plus, the mower won’t hurt anyone, human or animal, that comes into contact with it.  For starters, the mulching blades are small, so they likely wouldn’t even make contact with flesh.  If they did, they have a foldaway spring which prevents them from cutting when they hit a hard object.

Read and watch the video review of the summer I spent with a Husqvarna automower here.

biolite firepit, review

BioLite FirePit

Fire pits are nice, but they can be ashy, smoky messes after a few ragers. So isn’t it about time someone re-invented the fire pit? Enter BioLite, makers of a vast array of camping and outdoor gear that’s also super tech-enabled. They’ve recently released their new BioLite FirePit, and I had a chance to get hands-on with it for a few days of camping and yard use. Here’s what I learned about it.

This compact, portable metal box has collapsible legs so you can pack it down. Weighing about 20 pounds, you wouldn’t want to bring it on a hike, but it’s perfect for your trunk or a day at the beach, campsite or picnic area. BioLite FirePit has a removable grill top so you can cook on it, or just use it to have a small but roaring fire. You can burn either wood or charcoal in the BioLite FirePit, depending on your needs and what’s available.

Plus, the BioLite FirePit has technology built in. On the side is a large 10,400mAh PowerPack which also houses a fan. This fan which can fan your flames, when needed. The fan can be controlled by the buttons on the module or by connecting the power pack to your phone via Bluetooth, so you can make adjustments to the fire from your smartphone. And when your phone starts to die, you can connect it to the power pack and you can recharge it right on board.

meater wireless thermometer cooking bbq review how to

Meater wireless meat thermometer

Meater is a small wireless, rechargeable Bluetooth meat thermometer. It connects to a free companion app and allows you to monitor cooking, check temperature and optimize your grilling or oven roasting.

The nice wooden box Meater comes in doubles as a charging station. With just one AAA battery you should get 100 charges, each lasting 48 hours. (I’m still working my way to 100 to prove it) and the back of the case is magnetic, letting you stick it to the fridge for easy and convenient storage.

Removing Meater from its case turns it on, so once it’s out, just push it into your meat.

Read more about my experience with Meater; it has some bugs to be aware of if you’re thinking about getting one.

Wondering about other backyard tech, or want to suggest a review for me? Post your comments here on the site.

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