Holiday Decorating Hack: Smart Plugs

November 14, 2022

Who doesn’t love the Holidays? But for the most joyous time of the year it sure can be stressful. The American Psychological Association found that more people in the US find their stress increases rather than decreases during the holiday season for a variety of reasons. Between figuring out what gifts to give, lack of time to shop and cook, and the overwhelming hype of the holiday season, we all feel an increase in stress during the holidays.

As someone who is constantly eyeing everything through the lens of process improvement, I’m always looking for ways to be more efficient. This may explain a lot of my passion around smart home technology. I love it when I come home in the evening to a lit home or changing channels on our TVs by voice.

Keeping that in mind, along with the Holidays around the corner, I’ve been thinking about ways to make life easier and reduce Holiday stress.

As a kid I can remember my Dad running Christmas lights around the front entry and eaves of our home. Of course this was back before people really thought through placement of electrical outlets or had switched outlets. So as the oldest kid usually got stuck with the duty of unplugging the outdoor lights in the evening. How convenient it would have been to turn them off with a smart switch or by asking Alexa — instead of barefooted in pajamas late in the year out on the front porch.

Over the years, I have used a lot of different solutions for holiday lighting and accessories — mechanical timers, digital timers, dawn-to-dusk sensors, timers that run lights for a certain number of hours and then shut off. But mechanical timers get out of sync if you lose power. Mechanical and digital timers are a huge pain to synchronize. Many timers are only 2-prong, which rules out using them for any holiday decorations with a ground pin. There are very few traditional timers that also have remote control via radio remote.

And though all of these various solutions worked well enough, they all had a variety of shortcomings. Most homes aren’t set up for smart outdoor Holiday lighting. You can bet This is high on our list of smart solutions Debbie and I are designing into our new home. But for existing homes, the next best thing is smart plugs to cover just about every holiday decorating and lighting need.

Smart plugs not only solve all of those problems but they introduce more flexibility and possibilities beyond what traditional timers are even capable of. It just doesn’t make sense anymore to buy traditional timers. Here are some smart plugs to consider for your Holiday decorating needs and to make life at least a little less stressful.

Kasa Outdoor Smart Plug

This is a single outlet unit but there are is a two outlet option as well if you have multiple strings of lights. Some of the key benefits are:

  • Wifi — Up to 300 feet

Kasa Indoor Smart Plug

I wanted to include this indoor outlet as lighting for your Christmas tree or other decorations can also be automated. It has all the same benefits as above, except the weather resistance, but is UL certified for safety use. Kasa products are trusted by over 5 Million users.

Amazon Basics Outdoor Smart Plug

This is a dual outlet unit. Some of the key benefits are:

  • Wifi — Up to 300 feet

GE CYNC Outdoor Smart Plug

This is another dual outlet unit. Some of the key benefits are:

  • Connectivity — Wifi and Bluetooth

Wyze Plug Outdoor

Another dual outlet unit. And Wyze produces a variety of smart products I’m fond of as they’re generally pretty economical. Some of the key benefits are:

  • Wifi — Up to 300 feet

Ring Outdoor Smart Plug

This is another dual outlet unit. Some of the key benefits are:

  • Wifi — Up to 300 feet

While you could just use the app for all of these to set the timers and call it good, that’s not exactly taking full advantage of the flexibility that smart plugs offer. Clearly, I’m an advocate for them, so let me run through some of the things you should do to make the most of smart plugs around the Holidays.

While you can mix and match smart plugs as long as they are compatible with the greater smart home system you’re using, I highly recommend buying smart plugs from the same company for two simple reasons.

If you go with a company that has a well-developed product line and platform, you’re likely to have an overall smoother experience and fewer issues. Further, you’ll be able to use the company’s app independently of your smart home platform or completely on its own if you don’t have a smart home platform like Amazon Alexa or Google Home Assistant.

You can emulate a basic timer, and you can even emulate a dusk sensor by setting your smart plugs to turn on at sunset. But you can also adjust that in ways that you couldn’t on a traditional timer. You can set the smart plugs to turn on any number of minutes ahead of dusk, for example, so your decorations are on during the transition period. You can also link smart plugs to external sensors like cameras or motion detectors. Maybe not as useful at Christmas time but definitely fun for automating Halloween decorations for scary trick or treating effects. I covered this in my recent article ‘Turn Your Smart Home Into A Haunted House For Halloween.’

Just like with other smart home gear, you can group smart plugs together into scenes. This makes it easy to group together decorations, both inside and out, so you can custom tailor your decorating effects or what stays on for what portion of the day. For example, you can have multiple ‘scene’ layers active for any particular Holiday — scenes for outdoor lighting, scenes for window lighting, scenes for the indoor lighting, etc. And any combination of scenes.

If you’re using your smart plugs with a smart home assistant like Amazon Alexa or Google Home Assistant, it’s fun to set up specific verbal triggers for things. You can stick to the basics like “Alexa, turn off the Christmas tree” to turn off the plug for the Christmas tree, or “Hey Google, turn on the decorations” to turn on all the plugs in your holiday decoration scenes. But you can make verbal triggers anything you want, which gives you a lot of flexibility (and maybe make them easier to remember). If you want to shut down every Christmas decoration inside and out, you could say, ‘Alexa, Christmas is canceled.’ If nothing else, it’ll raise some eyebrows or generate some interesting discussion.

As you can probably tell, you have a lot of options and I’d encourage you to have some fun with your smart home devices in general. The Holidays just give you a good excuse to get creative. And you can also exercise a little process improvement and reduce Holiday stress. Hopefully I’ve inspired a little thought here on what the possibilities could be around your smart home. Or future smart home.

How are you leveraging smart home tech for the Holidays? Have you used smart home devices in the past to drive Holiday spirit? If you could do anything to decorate your home with smart home devices, where would your imagination take you? What are your thoughts on using smart plugs for outdoor needs? Or do you just send your oldest child out in their pajamas to unplug the Christmas lights?

Let Debbie and I know in the comments, DMs and emails how you’ll be leveraging smart home for the Holidays as we really enjoy hearing from you. Thanks again to all those following Debbie and I through our home building journey. It’s great to hear your success stories and suggestions as we move through the process. And if you like the content I’m posting each week, don’t forget to ‘Like’ and ‘Follow.’ Until next week …

SmartHomeOnTheRange.com

SmartHomeOnTheRange.com

In full disclosure, I’m not an affiliate marketer with links to any online retailer on my website. When people read what I’ve written about a particular product and then click on those links and buy something from the retailer, I earn nothing from the retailer. The links are strictly a convenience for my readers.

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Tod Caflisch

Smart Home technology visionary with passion for out of the box solutions for home technology integrations, focusing on efficiency, safety and sustainability.