Saturday, June 25

I am using these cheap smart plugs to control my holiday lights

Every Christmas season, I add more and more lights to our decorations. The first year it was just the Christmas tree. The following year, I put lights on some outdoor bushes and lights on the windows. The following year, I couldn’t pass up a deal for an illuminated sculpture combo of Snoopy and Woodstock. This year, I finally splurged on two lighted deer and icicle lights.

I’m not quite as Griswoldian as some of my neighbors, one of whom has a patio full of inflatables; In particular, we have a lot of fun with Santa riding an elephant and a T-Rex with a gift, but it adds a nice festive look to our home.

I’ve also discovered over the years that investing in some of the best smart plugs and some of the best outdoor smart plugs, and knowing how to create an Alexa smart home routine, makes things a lot easier. This is how I set up my Christmas lights; maybe this will help you with your decorations.

Smart plugs for the holidays: what to use

Inside my home, my Christmas tree lights are plugged into an old Wemo Mini smart plug; It’s not sold anymore (you can buy the Wemo WiFi Smart Plug), but it still works fine. Above, I have a couple of TP-Link Kasa smart plugs that I use with my window candles.

For my outdoor lights, I have a Kasa KP400 outdoor smart plug from TP-Link, as well as the Ring outdoor smart plug. In this scenario, the Ring connector acts as a splitter, but is a good model for Ring owners. The only thing to keep in mind is that your Wi-Fi signal must be strong enough to reach any outdoor smart plug; otherwise, you may need to invest in a new router.

There are plenty of smart plugs, both indoor and outdoor, that should suit your Christmas lighting needs. But the only feature that each should have is scheduling based on sunrise and sunset times; Even better is a sunrise / sunset offset, so you can have the lights turn on and off at a specified time before or after sunset. That way the lights don’t come on too early when it’s still too bright outside to see.

The plug will automatically adjust the time the lights turn on based on the local sunset and turn them off based on the local sunrise. I set the lights to turn off around 11pm until midnight so I’m not wasting energy when no one is going to see them.

Smart plugs for the holidays: where Alexa fits

If you don’t want to go through the hassle of setting separate smart plug schedules, an Alexa or Google Home routine can make life a lot easier. Using Alexa as an example, I first created a group in the Alexa app of all my Christmas-related lights. Then I established a routine to turn all my lights on 15 minutes before sunset, and then a second routine to turn them all off at 11:30 pm.

Within the Alexa app, I can also turn the lights on and off individually, or I can just call Amazon’s voice assistant through any of the best Alexa speakers to turn things on.

Alexa and Google Home are pretty even in this regard; Google Home lets you specify specific locations where you want a routine to start, which is useful if you have a home in another part of the country. But the Alexa app allows you to specify the brightness and duration that you want the lights to turn on.

I found it helpful to label smart plugs and store them with holiday lights as well. Makes it so much easier next year to remember what is going and where. Just be prepared to wait a few minutes before the smart plugs start working; If companies have been vigilant, there will surely be a firmware update or two. That’s a minor inconvenience to making sure your days and nights are joyous and bright.

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