Outdoor speakers liven up any backyard and set the mood for the party. Although they’re getting more and more inexpensive it would still be wise to protect your investment. Keeping your outdoor speakers working for you for many years doesn’t have to be a hassle, all you have to do is follow a few simple tips.
- keep your outdoor speakers clean
- routinely inspect your speakers, wires, and mounting hardware
- use speaker covers for bad weather
- use equipment rated for outdoor use
- put speakers in a safe location
These are so easy, yet so effective! Using the tips outlined here is really going to make a big difference in the lifespan of your speakers! Let’s get into the details here and go through the tips one by one.
- Keep Your Outdoor Speakers Clean
- Routinely Inspect Your Outdoor Speakers, Wires, & Mounting Hardware
- Use Speaker Covers For Bad Weather
- Use The Right Equipment
- Put Your Speakers In The Best Location
- Related Questions
Keep Your Outdoor Speakers Clean
Dirty speakers can shorten their lifespan as the dust, dirt, and grime can get in the grill and cover the sensitive parts of the speaker, like the connection plate. This could also prevent good airflow from entering the speakers. So, this means that overheating will become a possible issue, especially in hotter climates.
Consult the user guide from the manufacturer, this should have general directions for you to clean your specific speaker.
Aside from getting the dirt and leaves from the surface of the speakers, the insides may need occasional deep cleanings, depending on the type of outdoor speaker you are using. Most waterproof speakers have seals protecting the interior, so these seals should not be broken unless the user guide that came with the speakers has instructions for removing and reassembling the speaker.
Also, I would NOT recommend using a hose to clean any part of an outdoor speaker, even a waterproof one. Just because the speaker may be “waterproof” the seals may not be rated to handle the water pressure coming from the hose. Instead, use the steps outlined below.
How To Clean Outdoor Speakers
- Temporarily remove AVR/Amp connections
- Using a soft-bristled brush, remove all dirt and debris from the speaker housing
- Brush the speaker grill, and wire connections
- Use lukewarm water in a separate container, dip the brush in the water and use it to remove any stubborn stains
- If any dirt has not been removed, you can use a mild soap as well
- If using a non-waterproof speaker, open the casing and brush off any dirt inside, especially on speaker driver
- Reassemble and reconnect speakers, allow to completely dry before resuming use
As always, consult the user guide from the manufacturer, this should have general directions for you to clean your specific speaker. During your cleaning, this is a fantastic time to inspect your speaker setup. This includes inspecting any weatherproof seals, speaker wire, and speaker mounts.
Routinely Inspect Your Outdoor Speakers, Wires, & Mounting Hardware
Routine inspections are an important part of owning outdoor speakers. You can catch small issues that arise with your equipment before they become a more serious, and more expensive issue.
Speaker housings should be inspected for any cracks and excessive dirt. Any weatherproof seals should be checked to ensure they are free of excessive wear and tear. If you have an active speaker or a portable speaker, power ports and aux ports should be checked for dirt buildup and all dust covers should be secure.
Speaker wires are made of copper. While this is great for passing audio signals, it is also susceptible to corrosion and oxidation. This is more common in humid climates or patios with pools. If corrosion is found, a simple method to remove oxidation is to create a paste with baking soda and vinegar:
How To Remove Oxidation From Speaker Wire
- Remove the speaker wire from the speaker
- In a small bowl, create a paste using 3 parts baking soda, to 1 part vinegar
- Apply the paste to the oxydized copper and wait 10 minutes
- Buff away the paste using a microfiber cloth
- Let completely dry before reconnecting the speaker wire to the speaker
If your outdoor speakers are mounted, then the mounting hardware should be in good working condition. If not, then you run the risk of them falling, which can be a safety issue, as well as an expensive trip to the electronics store for a replacement.
Speaker mounting screws can often come loose due to the vibration that the speaker puts out. So, they should be checked ever so often to make sure they haven’t worked themselves free. Flat washers and spring washers should be used to absorb the vibrations from the speaker.
Use Speaker Covers For Bad Weather
This tip may seem very obvious to some, and others may wonder if it is even necessary. Even if you have proper weatherproof outdoor speakers, that does not mean that it’s up to the task of surviving extreme dirt or very heavy rain. Your speakers may come with an IP rating, which basically means the quality of the weatherproof seals.
Tip: In a pinch for some weatherproof speakers but don’t have proper speaker covers? Grab a grocery bag or two and tie them around your speakers. It’s not the most attractive cover but it does the job!
* If you would like to know more about IP ratings, I wrote a more detailed description of them in my Speaker 101 article.
Outdoor speaker covers not only protect your speakers from dirt and water but also protect them from the sun’s UV rays and direct heat. The sun can destroy the grill cloth and fade plastic or metal housings. The good news is that speaker covers are fairly inexpensive and may even be included with some outdoor speakers.
Use The Right Equipment
With all the choices we are given for our outdoor speaker setup, how do we know what we should be using? Choosing the right equipment can make the difference between a lifespan of a year to a lifespan of 10 years.
The most prominent part of any backyard speaker setup is the speaker itself. While you can most definitely use indoor speakers outdoors in certain circumstances, it isn’t normally the best choice. Outdoor speakers are engineered with better seals and ruggedized parts to allow them to withstand the weather much better than indoor speakers.
Tip: Outdoor speaker warranty coverage varies, be sure to research warranty coverage if you are in the market for new speakers.
If you are using a permanent outdoor speaker solution, you’ll most likely have them mounted somewhere, the side of your house, or perhaps a gazebo. In any case, the mounting hardware needs to be up to snuff. Sometimes speaker kits come with mounting hardware. My recommendation is to use anchor screws or anchor brackets that match whatever materials you’ll be attaching the speaker to. The video below outlines the different types of anchors you could use.
Often overlooked when setting up outdoor speakers, the speaker wire must be sturdy enough to the elements.
Gauge is the measurement of speaker wire thickness. For outdoor cable runs, I would recommend a relatively thick speaker wire, 12 or 14 gauge. For runs under 100 feet, 14 gauge should perform adequately. A proper speaker gauge will keep audio quality crisp and clear.
CL Rating: Speaker wire also carries a CL rating. The CL rating determines the voltage and fire resistance of the speaker wire. CL2 speaker wire can withstand electrical surges up to 150 volts. CL3 speaker wire can withstand electrical surges up to 300 volts. Use your best judgment when determining which Cl rating best fits your cable run and climate. When in doubt, go with CL3
Direct Burial: Sit tight, we’re still talking about speaker wire here. Another consideration that needs to be made is if you intend to bury your speaker wire at any part of your run. If that is the case then the speaker wire you’d use is speaker wire that has a rugged cable jacket and will most likely be rated at CL3. Look for the buzzword “direct burial“.
Tip: If you’ve got some spare PVC around or can find some quality conduit, you can use a more affordable 16 gauge speaker wire and run it through the PVC pipe, both for underground runs or alongside your home. Another benefit of running through a conduit is that you can paint it to match the exterior of your home!
Put Your Speakers In The Best Location
So, the “best location” is pretty subjective. The best location for your prime listening experience may very well differ from the best location to maximize the lifespan of your speakers. You must judge what’s best for your circumstances and priorities.
First up, and the one that you might be scoffing at, is to keep the speaker away from the pool. I know, I know, how are you supposed to enjoy your party music with the speakers away from the pool. This is mainly a recommendation to families with younger kids that like to splash. Waterproof speakers do a great job at keeping up with rain and splashes, but those seals can wear out over time. If you’re routinely inspecting the seals on your speakers and they are good to go, I would now worry too much about splashes.
Note: For people with saltwater pools, do keep in mind that the copper found in speaker wire is one of the least resistant metals to salt corrosion. Be sure to take extra care of your speaker wire if it is near your salt pool.
Protecting Your Speakers From The Rain
To protect your outdoor speakers from the rain and other bad weather, mount your speakers under an overhang. Mounting a speaker under some kind of coverage reduces the amount of poor weather that your speakers must endure. Don’t forget to use speaker covers or a simple grocery bag tied around the speakers for ultimate protection!
While everyone’s speaker situation is different, the tips outlined above will extend your speaker life to its maximum. I know some tips only apply to a passive speaker setup for use with AVRs. Portable Bluetooth speakers are getting more and more popular. My number one tip for extending portable speaker lifespan is just to bring it inside when not in use, whether it’s weatherproof or not!
How long do outdoor speakers last?
Outdoor speakers can generally last up to 10 years with proper care and maintenance. Factors that affect outdoor speaker lifespan are surrounding temperature and humidity, exposure to sunlight, proximity to water (including pools), owner care, and quality of wiring, mounting hardware, and weatherproof seals.