Smart-Home Devices to Make Your Holidays Easier

Smart-Home Devices to Make Your Holidays Easier

Join Hafta-Ichi to Research the article “Smart-Home Devices to Make Your Holidays Easier”

All the holiday planning, coordinating, decorating, and entertaining can sap some of the enjoyment out of a season that should be full of cheer. Although people may not immediately associate the holidays with technology, in many ways smart-home devices can take a bit of the stress and worry out of the season by doing some of the more mundane (and necessary) work for you.

The best smart-home devices install easily, work dependably, and make tasks that you need or want to do easier. Here are a few ways in which smart-home devices can make your holidays brighter.

Holiday light control

If your holidays mean filling your home inside and out with miles of string lights, blinking icicles, inflatable yard decorations, and glowing roof ornaments that are visible from space, you know the pain of crawling around on your knees every evening to plug them all in. Wirecutter tested dozens of smart plugs that you can program to turn on automatically based on the time of day, or set to follow a custom schedule.

Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Outdoor Plug
Photo: Sarah Kobos

Wirecutter recommends the Wyze Plug for indoor use. For outdoor use, we like the Kasa Smart Wi-FI Outdoor Plug, which has two independently controlled outlets—so you can control, say, a string of yard lights separately from an inflatable snowman. If you link these smart plugs to a smart assistant such as an Amazon Echo or Google Assistant speaker, you can turn the cheer on and off with a simple voice command. That’s a lot easier than squeezing behind a prickly tree every night.

A GIF showing the Philips Hue light bulbs installed in a living room lamp, cycling through several colors.
No need to paint the walls to change the look of your room. Just change the color scene of your Hue bulbs. With 16 million colors, you won’t get bored quickly. Video: Grant Clauser

Besides controlling the holiday lights, you can swap out your regular bulbs with smart bulbs and change the whole look of a room by changing the lights’ colors. The smart bulbs Wirecutter likes, including Yeelight, Philips Hue, Eufy, and LIFX bulbs, can create custom scenes in different colors to light up walls or illuminate your decor to match a holiday or mood. As with smart plugs, you can control these bulbs with Alexa or Google Assistant.

A room decorated using Twinkly Smart String Lights, including a Christmas tree with red and white lights forming a candy cane twist, plus a red and white design on the mantlepiece.
A mix of preset and programmable patterns lets you customize the look of a tree in any way imaginable—why stop at hanging candy canes when you can make the entire tree a giant candy cane? Photo: Twinkly

You can also swap out your usual string of Christmas lights for a smart version, and control them like a smart bulb. Wirecutter recommends the Wi-Fi–enabled Twinkly Generation II Smart RGB-W LED String Lights that let you pick among animated settings that cause the lights to flicker with alternating colors or pulse like a candle. They’re also weather resistant, so you can use these string lights either inside or outside your home.

Doorbell cameras

The holiday season means two things are likely to show up on your doorstep: visitors and packages. A doorbell camera can help you make sure you’re not surprised by either. Wirecutter reviewed all the latest doorbell cameras and especially liked models from Arlo, Eufy, and Nest that allow you to view and chat with porch visitors through a smartphone app—whether you’re on the other side of the door or the other side of the world. Doorbell cameras can also alert you when a package is dropped off, so you can run to the door to pick it up, call a neighbor if you’re not home, or, in a worst-case scenario, identify the thief who ran off with it. In fact, just the sight of a doorbell camera on a front porch may deter such package thefts.

The Google Nest Cam Outdoor shown attached to a wooden fence outside, from our review of the best outdoor security cameras.
Photo: Rachel Cericola

If installing a doorbell camera seems like too much work, a Wi-Fi outdoor security camera —Wirecutter’s pick is the Google Nest Cam Outdoor, and Arlo’s Pro 2 also makes a great choice—can provide many of the same benefits, including recording suspicious activity. But those cameras don’t come with doorbells, and aren’t as good for interacting with visitors.

Smart protection

According to the National Fire Protection Association, the top three days for home candle fires are Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day, and fires that begin in a Christmas tree are more likely to become serious as they become increasingly flammable as they dry out over the course of the holiday season. A smart smoke alarm like the Nest Protect alerts you to a small problem before it becomes a big one. And unlike a standard smoke alarm, a smart one can alert you even when you’re not home, so you can call for help. If you also have a Nest smart thermostat and a Nest security camera, the Nest Protect can automatically turn off your HVAC system to prevent the spread of smoke throughout your home, and even start recording video if it senses smoke, so that you can see what the problem is.

If your holiday plans involve hitting the road to crash someone else’s festivities, but you’re worried about leaving your home unattended, smart home gear can help there too. Smart security systems can let you sleep soundly knowing your house is being monitored. Smart lights and plug-in adapters and outdoor lights can be set to create the illusion that someone’s home, and a variety of sensors, such as leak detectors, can alert you if something goes wrong. You can read more about all of these ideas here.

Smart assistants

In addition to helping you turn out the lights as described above, a smart speaker like the Amazon Echo or Nest Audio can help with an assortment of holiday-related tasks. Amazon’s Alexa can create multiple shopping lists (gift lists, party lists, house-cleaning do-to lists), schedule reminders (pick up Cousin Eddie at the train station), track an airline flight, and alert you that a package has been delivered (from Amazon, of course). Both smart assistants can even help you order last-minute gifts (but you still need to wait for them to be delivered.)

A smart display, which is just like a smart speaker but includes a touch screen, can help find seasonal recipes and even play how-to videos to help make sure your meal comes out right. We’ve been using both the Amazon Echo Show and Google Nest Hub Max in the kitchen. Both also include built-in cameras so you can make video calls with family members who can’t join you for the holidays.

A close-up of the HomePod smart speaker.
Apple has a long-standing reputation for embedding moments of design cleverness and even delight into its products, and the HomePod offers both, from setup to sound quality. Photo: Jon Chase

Despite the abundance of smart skills, playing music is still the most popular use of smart speakers. The Amazon Echo (4th Gen), the Nest Audio, and Apple’s HomePod can each fill your home with music for your holiday party, and you can set up all three systems for multiroom music. That means you can perfectly synchronize all your holiday tunes from room to room—or when you tire of the holly-jolly, switch to something arctic-cool—using just your voice, without ever touching your phone.

Hafta Ichi
Source: The NY Times
Keyword: Smart-Home Devices to Make Your Holidays Easier

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *