Connect 101: How Do I Create a Christmas Light Show?
Technology| By Stephen Fenech | November 20, 2020
We answer the question "How do I create a Christmas light show?" and include steps to set up your smartphone or voice as a controller in this simple guide.
It wouldn’t be Christmas without a little extra sparkle. Christmas lights are an easy way to up the festivity scale in – and on – your home. These days, it’s even easier to create a Christmas light show that will dazzle your neighbours, with smart lights, smart tech and companion apps making it easy to automate the spectacle every night. Follow this guide to light up your Christmas.
How Do I Choose the Right Set-up?
Whether you want to light up your house or light up your tree, there are a few things to consider before you purchase your Christmas lights. Firstly, you need to choose the type of light – either incandescent string or LED Christmas lights. Then, think about whether your lights will be used indoors or outdoors – different lights can handle different conditions. For example, the Brilliant Lighting 2m Outdoor Waterproof LED Strip can be used inside and outside, while the Philips Hue Lightstrip Plus can be used indoors or in a weatherproof undercover spot (such as on a protected balcony or porch).
Hot Tip: According to Click Energy, LED Christmas lights are cheaper to run than incandescent lights and if you use the lights for five hours a night every day in December, the show should only add an extra dollar or two to your electricity bill.
What To Try
How Many Christmas Lights Should I Use?
Homeowners are entitled to decorate their house how they see fit – within reason. Each council will have their own set of rules to follow regarding creating a Christmas light show on the outside of your house, so check their regulations before you deck out every inch of your roof. But there are a few general rules of thumb to follow: make sure your lights aren’t too bright and don’t shine directly into a neighbour’s house; and, if you have Christmas tunes playing alongside the show, ensure the volume isn’t too loud and that the songs aren’t played too late into the night. Renting? Seek permission from your landlord and your strata manager before going ahead with your Christmas project.
What Other Tech Do I Need?
To make your Christmas lights “smart”, they need to be connected to your WiFi network, so ensure they are positioned in a spot that your network reaches easily. (Check out this guide for Easy Ways to Boost Your WiFi Signal at Home.) This means you can connect the lights to your home network and control them with your smartphone or a smart speaker.
If the lights themselves don’t have the ability to connect wirelessly, then you can connect them to a smart switch, such as the TP-Link Smart WiFi Plug HS100. This allows the lights to be turned on and off remotely, via the switch, using a companion app on your smartphone. If you have a lot of lights, you can always use the TP-Link KASA Smart WiFi Power Strip 3 Outlets to control them. There’s also the Brilliant Smart Double Adaptor which allows you to control two sets of lights at the same time. When plugged into these adaptors and switches, the lights can be controlled using the companion TP-Link KASA and Brilliant Smart apps – simply download them to your smartphone and follow the instructions.
Hot Tip: If you have the Philips Hue lightstrips and want to add music to your Christmas light set-up, you can download the free Hue Sync app for iOS or Android. Follow the instructions to make the lights flash and pulse in time with the music.
What To Try
- TP-Link KASA Smart WiFi Power Strip 3 Outlets
- TP-Link Smart WiFi Plug HS100
- Brilliant Smart Double Adaptor
- Brilliant Smart 4 Port Powerboard 4 USB
How Can I Sync Lights With Smart Speakers?
You also have the option of controlling your connected Christmas lights via your smartphone or via voice commands through a smart speaker such as the Google Nest Hub. To make this possible, the lights or smart switches connected to the lights need to be added to the Google Home app.
Open the Google Home app, tap the “+” symbol in the top-left corner and select “Set Up Device”. From here, the app will recognise the lights (if they have WiFi capability) or the smart switch. Google Home will then ask you to choose a WiFi network and enter your password to connect the device to your network and ask you to name the lights and their location (for example: “Front Christmas Lights”). When this process is complete, the device will advise that the lights are connected to your network. The name you give the lights will be what you use for voice commands. For example, to turn the lights on you’d say: “Hey Google – turn on the Philips Hue Front Christmas Lights”.
If you have an Amazon Echo Dot 3rd Gen Smart Speaker or the Amazon 5.5" Echo Show, use the Amazon Alexa app and select “Add Device”. Then find your compatible device’s type and brand. Alexa lets you match the product and can even scan your network to detect the product.
With an Apple HomePod, you can ask Siri to control your lights with your voice if the lights are HomeKit compatible (look for the HomeKit icon on the package to see if it is). Open the Home app on your iPhone, tap the “+” symbol or “Add Accessory” to scan the code on the lights or the packaging or hold the iPhone near the lights to pair automatically.
What To Try
- Google Nest Mini 2nd Generation Chalk
- Google Nest Mini 2nd Generation Charcoal
- Google Nest Hub Charcoal
- Google Nest Hub Chalk
- Amazon Echo Dot 3rd Gen Smart Speaker Charcoal Fabric
- Amazon Echo Dot 3rd Gen Heather Grey
- Amazon 5.5" Echo Show 5 Charcoal
- Amazon 5.5" Echo Show 5 Sandstone
- Apple HomePod Space Grey
- Apple HomePod White
How Do I Schedule the Lights to Turn On and Off?
Once the lights are connected to your network, you can create a schedule to turn on Christmas lights. If you have the TP Link KASA companion app, this is as simple as creating a new event, choosing the days it will occur and setting a specific time for them to turn on and off. Start by finding your device in the app, then selecting “Schedule” in the bottom-left corner. Press the “+” symbol in the top-right and choose the time to turn on and the days you’d like to repeat that. You will also select the time and days to turn them off. Tap “Save” at the bottom to create the schedule. If the connected light’s default function is to flash, it will be in this mode when it turns on. Otherwise, you will have to toggle this setting on the product itself.
If you are using the Brilliant app, press “Add Home” and give it a name. Connect your phone to your home’s WiFi and click “Add Device” and then choose “Lighting”, then the type of device. You can then turn on your device and it should start flashing to indicate it is ready for syncing. The app should now give you the option to confirm, then type in your WiFi password and press “Confirm”. Once connected, you can then assign a room where the lights are located. End with “Done". Hit the home button and the light should be on the list of devices.