Have Yourself a Smart Home Christmas
5 December 2020
The Holiday season is upon us and I imagine you’re at least planning your decorations for the festivities. Debbie and I continue to plan for our new home and the Holidays have given pause to consider needs for decorating our home. Obviously there are the simple things like making sure we have power outlets around our front porch and eaves for Christmas lights but how do we leverage smart home to really deck the halls? I’m not talking Clark Griswold stuff but there are a lot of pretty amazing things that can be done with Holiday decorating and smart home. Let’s take a look at what you can do to integrate smart home technology with your annual Christmas lights and decorations.
Let’s consider some basic outlet timers to get the party started. This works well if you’re operating on a tight budget. It’s also a beginner-friendly approach to automation.
If you’re not sure about smart home or just getting started, a good beginner option is outlet timers. Debbie and I started this way but it wasn’t as an introduction to smart home. It was convenience. Between our tree usually being in a corner and having to crawl on my stomach to get at the outlet to unplug the lights or having to step out on our cold front porch to unplug the outside lights, timers were a godsend.
Outlet timers enable you to automate your electrical decorations without the need to plug/unplug to turn on/off. Though functionality is pretty limited, timers are cheap enough though that they’re worth trying while allowing you to ensure your lights go on and off on schedule. For any low-powered appliances like Christmas lights and lamps, this is a cost-effective method of kickstarting some automation.
Here are 2 great options from Westek to consider:
The beauty of this timer is that you won’t need a hub, subscription or any tech skills to get it working. Its design allows you to leave one outlet open for other needs while you add the timer to other. If you need something smaller, this timer comes in a 1-outlet model, too.
The timer is rated at 15 amps and you’ll be able to accommodate the majority of lights and appliances along with motors up to 1/3 horsepower. All you need to do is plug your lights into this outlet and then schedule in the app.
The app gives you plenty of flexibility so when you’re away from home, you can randomize lighting to give your house the appearance of being occupied. For something specific like Christmas lighting, select on and off times by days or groups of days. You’ll never have to remember to switch your lights on or off and you won’t waste electricity by leaving them on when you don’t need them.
Much like the indoor timer outlet, the outdoor-rated version is tailor-made for those outdoor decorations and landscape lighting that brighten up the Holiday season. There’s a basic on/off button you can use to manually override settings but I’d imagine once you use the Westek app to create your own personalized timing schedule you’ll forget about it.
Setting things up and including the timer on your home wifi network is simple. Operation is just as easy once you’re up and running. The most effective part of Christmas decorations is the auto-off feature. You’re unlikely to forget to switch your lights on but how often do you end up going to bed and forget to turn them off? That’s a thing of the past with the scheduling feature.
The timer is also weather-rated for outdoor use in all types of conditions.
So how do you take your Holiday decorating to the next level while keeping things simple? While many outlet timers simply allow you to choose a set on/off time, you’ll get more flexibility with a smart plug.
With smart plugs you’ll be able to better customize your lighting coming on and off. For example, you may want the lights on much longer during the weekends. This is not always possible with a smart timer but is simple with a smart outlet.
If you’re prepared to invest in a home hub (or already have), you’ll be able to build out location-based automation tasks. This allows your Holiday lights to snap on when you return home and to power down when you leave. With the addition of a voice assistant like Amazon Alexa or Google Home, you’ll be able to introduce hands-free operation thanks to smart plugs integration with digital assistants.
The Wemo Mini WiFi Smart Plug comes in a 3-pack of compact smart plugs. This should give you all the options you need to automate your Holiday lights and decorations. An interesting design element is the stackable design of these plugs. You’ll be able to easily use a pair of these devices in a single outlet. You can also take advantage of smart timing to create schedules or get your decorations on and off with sunrise and sunset.
You’ll be able to remote control your Christmas decorations via the app even if you’re not at home. Wemo plays nice with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant but you can get even more creative by using IFTTT recipes to further enhance automation. With these smart plugs you’ll get all the benefits of automation even if you’re a beginner to smart home technology.
Now that you’ve seen how to upgrade the intelligence of your existing lighting, how about a more specific solution? For that, let’s take a look at some smart lighting.
If you want some LED lighting that’s purpose-built for smart home, there’re plenty of choices. But be prepared for the cost of these customized lighting solutions.
Twinkly Smart LED String Lights are stunning LED string lights that can be controlled in-app from your smartphone. And though these lights are highly effective at Christmas, you’ll be able to use them year-round. The Twinkly app includes smartphone camera mapping which allows you to create your own designs or select one of the preloaded settings.
The app is fully IoT-enabled and can be used on both Android and iOS. It’s also fully integrated with Google Assistant for additional ease of use. Set up is simple as all you need to do is set up the LEDs and then sync in-app.
Twinkly Smart LED String Lights are rated IP44 for outdoor use and fully waterproof. So indoor or out, you’ll be able to design/display some pretty amazing Holiday lighting.
Hopefully this has given you something to think about this Holiday season. If nothing else, my goal was to expand your perception of smart home as more than just nerdy stuff. If you’re just getting started with smart home I’d challenge you to give some of these options a try. After all, there’s no right or wrong answer, it’s all about what you want to make it. Think about your needs and then create a solution.
Our work with the architect continues toward finalizing our floor plan. The urgency to complete this has relaxed a bit though. We were targeting January to do site prep and pour the foundation but thanks to the pandemic and the fires in the western US the price of construction grade wood has doubled recently. Luckily we’re not in any rush and prices have begun to roll back. The silver lining — we’ll have more time to plan and potentially include new technologies and products in the project.
Debbie and I would love to hear about how you’re leveraging smart home and automation this Holiday season — Leave a comment, send us an email or respond on social media.