Smart holiday string lights can add some serious flair to your festivities. With millions of color options and some dazzling effects, they offer a lot more versatility than a set of standard LED string lights with a smart plug. But they also cost a lot more. If you need an argument to convince your other half (or yourself) that it’s worth spending a few hundred dollars on smart lights this year, here you go:
Every year, we buy a few new boxes of string lights because some of the ones from last year stopped working. So, if you add up all the money I’ll spend over the next two years on buying new lights each year, it easily covers the extra expense today.
Plus, these are way cooler, and we can use them for more holidays: spooky oranges for Halloween; festive fall colors for Thanksgiving; pinks for Valentine’s Day; red, white, and blue for the Fourth of July. If you think about it, we’re actually saving money.
There are lots of smart lighting products that can add extra holiday ambiance to your home, from curtain lights to light strips, accent lights, and even whole-home permanent lights. Here, I’ll focus on the simplest but arguably most essential one — string lights. They are the best option for decorating your Christmas tree (if you celebrate), and all of the models we tested work both indoors or outdoors, so you can decorate your porch, landscaping, and house with them, too.
The smart features that you’re paying (a lot) extra for include the ability to schedule the lights through an app and add them to smart home routines so you can say fun things like “Alexa, turn on Christmas!” They also offer many more colors than standard string lights, so you can use them year-round, and they let you set dynamic lighting scenes that can sizzle up the season. And let’s face it, for many suburban neighborhoods, spectacular holiday lighting has become another front in the battle to keep up with the Joneses.
There’s enough to deal with around the holidays; you don’t want smart lighting headaches on top of it all. I looked for an easy setup experience and a simple, reliable app.
Support for one or more smart home platforms, or all of them through Matter, is important. It lets you add the lights to automations and routines and sync them with other smart lights and gadgets in your home. Smart home integration also adds voice control through Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or Apple’s Siri, which is convenient and fun for some holiday magic.
Preset lighting designs you can activate from the app or with your voice are easier and generally prettier than trying to design something of your own. I looked for the best preset designs, not just the widest variety.
Reliable connectivity is crucial; 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi will mean better reach outdoors, but connectivity with a mesh network like Thread or Zigbee can add greater range, which is especially useful if you want to use these outdoors. Local control over these protocols can also increase speed / reliability versus relying on a cloud connection. (Matter also adds local control.) One brand I tested, Twinkly, can even connect to its own Wi-Fi network, a bonus if your outdoor decorations are far from your router.