The Best Gear for Hacking the Hell Out of Your Christmas Lights
There are few things that warm the hearts of Anglicans more than a home all lit up for the holidays. That bright, glowing goodness comes at a cost though—specifically, to the person who’s hauling tangled wires and bulbs across a roof. It’s no fun, though clearly for many, the trouble is worth the reward. If you’re the Lightmaster for your household, here’s some gear to improve your display—as well as some high-tech tricks to level up your light show.
If you really really want to do this thing the smart way, get some Lumenplay lights. The lights are indoor- and outdoor-friendly, and controlled entirely via app. The app lets you choose any shade to change them to, or you can choose a color palette (who says pastels are for Spring only!?), and also add effects for a mini light show. And of course, there’s also the most necessary of features: Being able to remotely turn them on and off.
Philips Hue Lightstrips
The Philips Hue line is one of the most popular, prettiest connected lighting options—and the Lightstrips product in particular is ideal for decorating. The super flexible strips can line windows, floor boards, and awnings (just keep them a little protected from the elements—underneath an overhang should work) and then controlled via the Philips Hue bridge and the accompanying app. It’ll cost over $100 to set it all up, so it’s not the cheapest system. But it’s one you can use year-round, changing the color scheme as you please. And the strips are rather discreet, so tucked award in certain areas means you can just use the lighting when you want and leave ’em off at other times.
You can use Belkin’s WeMo products even if you don’t want to go high-tech with your lights themselves. All you have to do is use the WeMo Wi-Fi-enabled outlet, and then everything plugged into that sucker can be turned on or off via your smartphone. It’s a one-purchase solution for anyone interested (but not that interested) in this whole connected-home thing. It’s also a no-brainer for anyone with an Amazon Echo, since you can use Alexa voice commands to turn your light display on and off. Just like the future.
IFTTT can help you modernize this holiday tradition. The platform, which stands for “If this, then that,” is full of recipes that allow you to trigger various technologies in your home. IFTTT has a variety of Christmas light-specific options. You can set up your lights so the display shuts off when it’s raining, or you can use it indoors by setting a system that turns your tree lights off when you leave. And those are just the recipes that are already available: If you buy a few smart home devices, you can create pretty much any trigger you want. Turn the indoor lights green with Hue bulbs or Lightstrips and a tweet, if you want; switch on the WeMo-connected lights when the sun goes down; blast the Nest when it hits ungodly temperatures outside. Do whatever you want!
Maybe the idea of stringing wire and glass all over your property and climbing your roof in the cold not only to set up but then take down your lights is unappealing. If this year, you’re ready to forgo the tradition but still want to adorn your home, it might be time to check out a holiday-themed projector. The LUCKLED MagicPrime projector throws 800 square feet of festive lights all over your house—and remote controllable, making things easier yet. This sort of system also allows for some variety; you aren’t stuck with the same boring combo. Choose different red and green star variations on a whim. If you have a larger home, though, be advised that you might want two of these bad boys—which gets a little spendy, but for some buyers, it’s really worth it to keep you off the roof. Want more options? Here’s the Star Shower Laser Light Projector, and the Starscapes LED Motion Projector, which throws up some seasonal shapes.
Remote Controls and Timers
Perhaps you or someone you know isn’t totally on board with Smartifying their holiday decor quite yet. That’s OK—there’s some “semi-analog” gear that will still make the whole process decidedly better, starting with remotes and timers. There are a few good options, including the this timer and remote control that automatically turns lights on at dusk and off at dawn. If you don’t want to rack up a crazy electric bill by being in the holiday spirit all night, you can also program your lights to turn off in a few hours after the sun goes down. You’d be wise to also consider something like this for indoors, unless you enjoy crouching behind trees or furniture to find an elusive, overloaded power strip.
While these products won’t save you this year, next year you is going to be a big fan. The hell that is untangling yards of lights, with their breakable, fragile bulbs, shouldn’t have to be relived. Grab one of these stupid-simple storage wheels with accompanying carrying case and know that 12 months from now, you’ll be very happy. There’s also a miniature version for small indoor lights.
There are few things worse than adorning your home with tiny, glittery orbs only to plug them in and stare at a dead string. One bad bulb, and the festive ambiance is ruined. The LightKeeper Pro helps you find the dead bulb in question and then repair the circuit, giving you back your precious lights. More importantly, snagging one of these might keep you from making multiple runs to pick up yet another string of white indoor lights.
Gutter and Roof Hooks
Not ready to throw it all in and go with the one-light system? At least make things easier for yourself by picking up some gutter hooks. Think of them like shower curtain fasteners for your house… and in this analogy, the lights are your shower curtain. And your house is a shower. Whatever, you get it. Put down the hammer and nails and just use these. Bonus: They are super cheap. If you’re confused on which type of hook is best for your home, scroll down to step six of this handy Lowe’s guide.
If you’re putting up lights anywhere, there’s one old-fashioned tool you absolutely need: a sturdy, dependable ladder. The Little Giant Ladder can raise up to 13 feet, or simply stay a step stool. But one thing is certain: It’s not going to collapse on you. It can withstand 250-pounds, without weighing a ton itself. If you’re going to do this job, you should do it right—and safely, please.
Here’s another oldie-but-a-goodie: the power stake. Instead of trashing your yard with power strips, get a power stake, so you can just shove it upright in the ground. This Coleman model also includes timer settings, so you won’t need the extra remote for that dusk/dawn automation.