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Control your holiday lighting the ‘smart’ way

Take your holiday lighting to the next level with these tips and some 'smart' lights. Matt Cardy/Getty Images

If Clark Griswold had Amazon Alexa and Google Home-enabled devices to help control his “25,000 imported Italian twinkle lights” back in 1989, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation would have been a much shorter and less funny movie.

Skip ahead 29 years, and the average person can now deck their homes out with these “smart” capabilities without much effort. If you want to out-Griswold, Griswold inside and out of your home this year, here are a few suggestions how.

Paint your yard in light

The Philips Hue line of smart bulbs are easy to set up and use, offer a range of products and can be controlled in many ways, including an app on your phone or through a voice-enabled assistant like the Amazon Echo or Google Home. The one thing Philips was lacking were outdoor lights. They filled this gap earlier this year by releasing a whole series of outdoor lighting options, including pathway and spotlights.

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READ MORE: Large Griswold-style holiday light displays increasing power use and costs in B.C.

Because these lights offer up to 16-million colours and a range of ambient white options, they can be used as regular landscape lighting year-round and then switched over to Halloween or Christmas modes when desired. You can have up to five lights connected together on one power source, but they do require a Hue Bridge ($69.99) in order to work (if you have Hue bulbs inside your home, you most likely have a Hue Bridge already).

These lights are not cheap and will set you back $349.99 for the Lily Outdoor spotlight starter kit, which comes with three spotlights and a power adapter (if you want an additional Lily spotlight, it’s an extra $119.99). The Calla Outdoor bollard pathway lights run $169.99 for the base unit, which includes a power adapter, and $119.99 for an add-on.

You can set these to come on between sunset and sunrise or for a specific timeframe you choose in the app. You can also have them change during the time (such as come on in bright white and dim to a soft white at midnight) and you can ask voice assistants like Google or Amazon to turn them on/off or change the colour and brightness.

WATCH: Best Buy Canada reviews the Philips Hue Lily

Make your dumb lights smarter

Whether you have old strands of classic Christmas lights on your house or newer LED lights, adding a timer — especially one that can be controlled via your phone or voice — is a must.

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For outdoor lights, the Geeni Outdoor Smart WiFi Plug ($29.99 at Canadian Tire) and the iHome Control iSP100 WiFi Outdoor Smart Plug ($49.99 at Best Buy) are both great options. They connect directly to your home WiFi (no special hub required) and offer one socket.

READ MORE: Passerby calls 911 in a panic after seeing National Lampoons-themed holiday display

Setup for both requires an app and an account with the respective companies. They can both be set to turn on at sunset and off at sunrise or for a specific timeframe you choose. They can also be controlled by apps or via the Google and Amazon voice assistants (the iHome also works with Apple’s Homekit/Siri and the Geeni works with Microsoft’s Cortana).

Belkin’s WeMo Mini Smart Plug ($34.99) is a great option for indoor lights. It only takes up one socket and is small enough to not block the other socket on your receptacle. It’s easy to set up and control via the WeMo app and works with all the main voice assistants (a bridge is required for Apple Homekit/Siri control).

Take your tree decorating up a notch

If you really want to go full Griswold this year, deck your tree out with the Twinkly Smart LED Light Set ($99.99 for 175 lights or $49.99 for 56 lights at Best Buy).

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Twinkly uses special technology that can detect each bulb’s location allowing you to customize your tree in ways you never imagined. Using the Twinkly app, you can run preset templates and animations or create your own custom ones. Want the top of your tree red, the middle blue and the bottom yellow? No problem. Want it to look like a spiralling candy cane? Done. You can also synchronize the lights to music for a really wild effect.

Twinkly uses your home WiFi connection and can be controlled via the Twinkly app or by Google Home and Amazon Echo voice devices.

UPDATE (Dec. 2019): The second generation Twinkly lights were released this holiday and along with an easier setup process (and more stable WiFi connection), they have upgraded the quality of the LED bulbs and now offer a special edition that includes RGB and warm white lights. Watch the video below to see all the new features of Twinkly Generation II.

SOUND OFF: Do you use smart home devices for your holiday lights? Let us know in the comments below.

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