Smart Home Gadgets to Make Your Holiday Decorations Really Shine

Use these smart home tricks to make it easier to deck your halls this season.

Photo: Getty Images

It takes a lot of work to set a holiday mood—after you've untangled your lights, replaced missing bulbs, and strung them around every surface, you still have to go around and turn them on (and off) every single night.

But with smart plugs, your smartphone, and a little work on your part, you can make it so much easier. Imagine simply saying, "Alexa, make it festive," and having your lamp lights dim, your holiday lights come on (inside and outside)—and your favorite holiday songs start playing.

And the best part? You can get started with around $100 in basic smart home products for a pretty nice setup. (Though if you really want to splurge, you'll find some amazing products that'll make you look like a pro.)

Smart Home Holiday Essentials

You don't need a lot of bells and whistles for a really effective display. Just a few plugs and bulbs can get you started.

Kasa TP Link Smart Plugs

Smart Plugs

Smart plugs are the MVPs of the smart home—they'll enable you to turn things on and off with just a smart home command or a flick in your app (even if you're away!).

The TP Link smart plugs work with various voice assistants and are super easy to set up. Don't put them away with the holiday decorations, though—they come in handy for fans and air conditioners in the summer, or other small appliances all year round.

To buy: $15.99,

Outdoor Smart Plug

Outdoor Smart Plugs

Standard smart plugs can't stand up to the weather—but there are heavy-duty options you can use to run your lights and other decorations outdoors, too. You can program your lights to turn on and off at certain times of day—including setting them to go on a certain amount of time before or after sunset or sunrise.

To buy: $15.99,

GE Smart Light Bulbs

Smart Bulbs

While not absolutely essential for a holiday setup, replacing your light bulbs with smart bulbs is a smart investment that works well beyond the holiday season.

During the holidays, you'll be able to use them to change the bulb color temperature to a warmer, cozy shade, and dim the lights so your other holiday decorations become the star of the show.

Afterward, you can continue to use them to set the mood, turn on or off the lights by voice command, set them up to come on automatically at a certain point before sundown, and even have them dim automatically an hour before bedtime to help you feel sleepy.

To buy: $12.99,

Portable Speaker with Bluetooth

Bluetooth Speaker

If you aren't ready to spring for a voice assistant, you likely have a little Bluetooth speaker lying around that can help you provide the musical accompaniment for your smart home holiday scene.

(If not, this highly rated one from JBL will pump up your holidays—and can be used outdoors if you want to amp up your outdoor decorations.)

To buy: $49.99, Best Buy

Smart Home Upgrades to Really Make Your Season Bright

If you have a bigger budget, a few cool upgrades can make it even easier to wow your family. Think lights that change to go with the music—and smart speakers that can play everywhere in your house simultaneously.

Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo (or Other Voice Assistant)

Voice assistants make it super easy to run your whole smart home, without having to find your phone to start things up. The Echo has a nice speaker that'll play your favorite holiday song playlist, too.

And if you have multiple Echos, you can set them up to play the same playlist throughout the house simultaneously—which is great for parties!

To buy: $59.99,

How to Set Up Your Smart Home Holiday Display

You don't need a degree in computer science to create a seamless smart holiday display. Just follow the steps below.

  1. Get everything connected to your WiFi. This may be the most time-consuming step, especially if you're going for a more deluxe setup with a lot of different plugs and light bulbs. In general, you'll need to download the smart home product's associated app, and follow the instructions to get it connected to your phone and your WiFi.
  2. Choose your smart home app. You can always go into each individual app and set up schedules or turn things on and off, but the coolest part of smart homes is getting everything to run together seamlessly. Most smart home products now will work with all the major smart home voice assistants and apps (i.e., Google Home, Amazon Alexa, or Apple HomeKit). Pick the one you like best, download the app to your smartphone, and tap on devices to add your lights and plugs to the app. (As long as they're all on the same WiFi network, this will be simple.)
  3. Create a routine. Routines allow you to set up different smart-home to-dos to run together. You can set them up to occur when you say a certain phrase (like "Alexa, Santa's coming!"), at a certain time of day (like a half-hour before sunset), or even when an event happens—like when you come home at night.
  4. Test it out. Once you've hit save on the routine, it's time to test it. Just say the command, or wait for the right time of day, and watch your holiday display come to life.
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