Whip up rich cups of hot chocolate and get the whole family together to deck your halls. This year, though, spruce up your whole home with the help of smart lights and seriously up your Christmas lights game.
The best smart lights aren’t just for day-to-day use. Being versatile and highly customizable, they can help you throw in some dazzling displays to your traditional holiday decorations as well – so much so you can with enough patience and a little bit of imagination create your own Christmas at Kew-worthy light displays.
That’s on top of giving you the convenience of hands-free controls and other advantages like automatically turning off based on room occupancy and lighting up the whole house on schedule if you’re traveling to make it look like someone’s home, deterring burglars (something Kevin McCallister could have used to his advantage).
To help all the Yuletide-loving revelers with that, a few of the top smart light manufacturers have rolled out some amazing smart Christmas lights this year, a few of which my colleagues and I are already taking out for a spin. But, if you’re hoping to limit your holiday spending this year, you can also use your existing smart light bulbs, light panels, and strip lights.
But how exactly can you use smart lights to add a bit more flair to your decorations? Here are some ideas, whether you’re keeping your spending to a minimum or splurging on serious Yuletide bling.
Dazzling with smart Christmas lights
Donate your old string lights, and bedeck your tree, archways, stairs, and more with smart Christmas lights instead. While traditional string lights are often fragile and prone to failures, the smart Christmas lights I’ve tested myself – the Govee Christmas String Lights and the Nanoleaf Smart Holiday String Lights – are much more robust and well-made. Plus, you don’t have to manually turn them on and off every day since you can just set routines and schedules.
Perhaps more importantly, however, is that they’re bright, vibrant, and capable of displaying millions of colors and light scenes, which means you can customize them based on your current mood or aesthetic. If you’re not feeling inspired, both Govee and Nanoleaf have lighting scenes in their respective apps, so you can simply use those to make your decorations sparkle.
I’ve got my Govee one set to the Easter light scene, for example, because I like that it’s displaying multiple colors on my little tree. But Govee also has holiday-themed scenes like Christmas Tree, New Year's, Candy Cane, Christmas Eve, Sled, and Santa Claus that are available specifically for its smart Christmas light models.
Create your own Santa-approved scenes
If you do have the time and creativity to create light scenes, you can use your existing smart light bulbs and light strips. Create a candy cane lane by setting your light strips to red and white, make your house look like it’s full of fireflies, or copy the dazzling facade of It’s a Small World at Disneyland.
What you can and cannot do largely depends on the type and brand of your smart lights and their accompanying app. The Govee and Nanoleaf apps have intricate light labs that allow you to create complex light scenes, the Philips Hue app is a little simpler when it comes to designing light scenes, and Wyze’s app is pretty limited.
Still, even with the simplest app, you’re likely able to choose your colors to help make your dream Christmas theme come to life, whether you’re going for a cozy wintery one or a full-blown extravaganza of colors.
Decorate with your smart light panels
Already got some smart light panels? Get yourself some replacement adhesives, and get to unmounting those panels. Because smart light panels are modular, you can set them up to form different designs and even specific familiar shapes – I made my Nanoleaf Lines set to look like the Starship Enterprise, for example.
This means that whether you have Govee Glide Hexagon Light Panels Ultra, Nanoleaf Shapes, or even the wood-looking Nanoleaf Elements, you can also make them look like some of our favorite Christmas symbols. I’ve seen people make theirs look like a candy cane, a sleigh, and a Christmas tree. If you don’t have space in your apartment for a proper tree, it’s the perfect alternative! I’ve even seen one in the shape of Santa’s face – red hat and all.
Doing this is going to be a little more involved especially if you already have yours mounted on the wall since you have to take down each panel and re-mount the whole thing to your desired new shape. But, it’s truly worth your time.
Create impressive light displays
If you’re going all out this year, you can be the envy of your whole neighborhood with the Govee Curtain Lights. I’m currently testing this one myself, and it’s pretty impressive. Better than all other curtain lights out there, this not only allows you to design your dynamic lighting effects and light shows but create different imagery as well.
That means that you can design your own Christmas scenes – like Santa coming down the chimney, Rudolph pulling the sleigh, sparkling icicles, a season’s greeting, or even your favorite cat making biscuits – that everyone can see through your sliding door or window. You can even set it up outside on the deck or balcony since it’s got an IP65 rating.
You’d think this would be expensive considering just how customizable it is and how much it can do, but it’s more affordable than you think. And, it’s worth every penny too.
Festoon your outdoors
Speaking of the outdoors, many of the smart Christmas lights on offer have weatherproofing, which means that they can also be set up and used outdoors to bedeck your porch, garden, and front yard.
If you’re one of those folks who go all out and create your own outdoor Christmas displays, then the Govee Christmas String Lights, Nanoleaf Smart Holiday String Lights, and Philips Festavia String Lights are all great options for lighting up your trees, shrubs, and yard decorations.
Just make sure you’ve got a covered or sheltered electrical outlet to plug it all in.
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Michelle Rae Uy is the Computing Reviews and Buying Guides Editor here at TechRadar. She's a Los Angeles-based tech, travel and lifestyle writer covering a wide range of topics, from computing to the latest in green commutes to the best hiking trails. She's an ambivert who enjoys communing with nature and traveling for months at a time just as much as watching movies and playing sim games at home. That also means that she has a lot more avenues to explore in terms of understanding how tech can improve the different aspects of our lives.