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Make outdoor living more fun

By Michael J. Solender

More Information

  • Outdoor living

    • Products for leisure living now constitute a $6.2 billion industry, up 5.4 percent compared to 2002, according to the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association.

    • Nearly half (49 percent) of grill owners see their outdoor grilling station as a cooking area, while 29 percent view it as an entertainment area and nearly a quarter (23 percent) see it as a place to rest and relax, according to the association’s 2012 State of the Barbecue Industry Report.

    • Bringing the comforts of the indoors outside in the Old North State can mean almost year-round enjoyment of Carolina blue skies.



Correspondent

With the arrival of spring, many of us can’t wait to spruce up the patio with plants and other touches, fire up the grill and have friends over to enjoy the backyard.

These devices and systems can help you and your family get done fast and spend more time splashing in the pool with guests or napping in a lawn chair.

Music in the air

The Rukus XL is a portable sound system that wirelessly streams tunes from your Bluetooth-enabled smartphone, tablet or PC for music in any corner of your yard. It operates up to eight hours on a solar power-charged battery. An AC power cord is included. Eight full-range speaker drivers, covering all frequency levels from high treble to low bass, give stereo sound in a footprint about the size of a briefcase. Available at Amazon.com, Frontgate and other outlets for about $150. www.etoncorp.com

Cool Jams Portable Party Cooler makes it easier to bring a party outside without a big investment in setup. Chill up to 72 cans of your favorite beverages in a collapsible stand cooler. It also has a holding pocket for your iPod or MP3 music player, as well as built-in speakers. The polyester shell has an insulated interior. Price is $69.99 at www.greatgiftsformen.com.

Relaxed and in control

If maintenance is taking some of the fun out of having your own pool or spa, the Intellitouch automation system might be for you. The system lets you remotely monitor and make adjustments to small spas and lap pools, as well as large fresh and saltwater pools. Get email alerts about chlorine and other chemical levels and power, cleaning and pumping systems. Also create special lighting effects – think red, white and blue themes for Independence Day. The accompanying ScreenLogic software lets you control all of this from an iPad, computer or smartphone. Systems start around $1,000. www.pentairpool.com.

Raindrip’s Weathersmartpro is a self-adjusting timer for irrigation that senses and responds to weather conditions. The system is designed to save money and conserve water by consulting a wireless weather station that detects temperature and rainfall, then adjusts programmed watering cycles as needed. Available at Lowe’s and Home Depot and at www.raindrip.com for $89.99.

Now you’re cooking

The Sterling FR G is TEC’s top-of-the-line grill. It combines convection and infrared heat in a cooking process that is designed to produce more tender and juicy meats in less time and with less energy than traditional grills.

TEC contends its grill is 50 percent more fuel-efficient than traditional convection grills because its ceramic burners use 35 percent infrared heat combined with 65 percent hot air (convective heat), producing foods that are moist and flavorful. TEC’s technology also is designed to reduce hot and cool spots due to specially designed burners that have a radiant glass panel between them. This also helps eliminate flareups. With a temperature range of 200 to 800 degrees, this grill will smoke a turkey at low heat or sear a steak at high heat. It reaches maximum temperature in seven minutes. Available in two-, three- and four-burner models direct from TEC at www.tecinfrared.com. Retail price is $4,499 for a two-burner model on a pedestal with two side shelves.

Fluke’s FoodPro Plus is a commercial-quality, digital-read thermometer that uses contact-free infrared to scan surface temperatures and a probe to detect internal food temps. Top chefs and skilled backyard grillers often bring food to perfect doneness by keeping watch over internal temperatures, which are especially important for food safety when dealing with proteins such as chicken or hamburger. Priced at $239, at http://bit.ly/Z4ntw4.

Garden magic

Click and Grow is an electronic garden pot that arrives with seeds already planted. Watering and fertilizing are handled automatically. Ideal for patios and homes with limited garden space, the pots come with battery-operated sensors that draw fertilizer and water (you fill a reservoir) as needed. Herbs such as basil, mint, sage and parsley are available, as are a variety of bedding plants and flowers. Starter kit with smart pot retails for $59.99; $19.99 for each additional plant cartridge. www.clickandgrow.com.

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