How to create spooky Halloween effects with smart home lighting and sound

spooky halloween lighting haunted house

With indoor and outdoor smart home tech readily available and increasingly affordable, it’s easy to transform your home for festive occasions and holidays. With a little help from mobile apps, you can synchronize spooky Halloween effects with lighting and sound, preparing your home for the candy-swapping marathon ahead.

You’ll find a range of fabulous lighting systems available on the market today, with Philips Hue, LIFX and others available from big box electrical and home improvement stores. But bear in mind that very few are suitable for outdoor use, so if you want to transform your home’s exterior, you’ll need to do some research up front.

Light it up

One system to check out is the SYLVANIA Smart+ range (branded as OSRAM LIGHTIFY in some countries), which comprises indoor and outdoor lighting options including standard A19 bulbs, LED flood and spotlights and flexible lighting strips, as well as outdoor garden lights. There are white and color options available, and the choice of hues stretch into the thousands – perfect for holiday lighting.

Alongside its own apps (for Android and iOS devices) SYLVANIA Smart+ bulbs can also be controlled via partner systems such as SmartThings, Belkin WeMo, and the Wink Hub. Voice control options include Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant, while some indoor bulbs benefit from Apple HomeKit/Siri support. So, if you’ve already invested in a smart home system, you may find you can simply add Smart+/LIGHTIFY bulbs to your home without the need for additional controllers.

spooky halloween effects lightify garden blue

The $70 SYLVANIA Smart+ Gardenspot Mini RGB Lighting Set includes a 14-foot run of nine external RGB lights and an outdoor, wet-rated power supply. It doesn’t include a controller, so if you don’t already own a compatible smart home hub, you’ll also need to add the $30 SYLVANIA Lightify Zigbee controller to your shopping list.

The lights themselves are mounted on short, plastic spikes which can be easily fixed into a lawn or flower bed. The cables are flexible too, so the LEDs can be angled toward the house, trees, or ornaments as you wish. If you’re fixing the lights to a deck, steps or another flat surface, you can use a screwdriver to unclip the LEDs from the spike and surface mount.

Need more lights? There’s a GardenSpot Expansion kit ($30) which adds another three feet of cable with an additional three lights.

If you’re using the spikes to put your lights in place, you’ll find that they slide easily into a flower bed or the lawn. Plug in, power on and they’ll glow purple to let you know they’re working well.

spooky halloween lighting gardenspot daylight
Terry Walsh/Digital Trends
Terry Walsh/Digital Trends

Sync ’em up

With the lights powered on, you now need to sync them with your smart home controller. SYLVANIA’s LIGHTIFY app isn’t the slickest smart home software but supports basic power controls, dimming and an RGB color picker.

Go to Devices and click the Add button to launch a device search. The lights should be detected quickly (if not, power them off, and on again to reset connectivity) and can be paired with your app.

As these are RGB LEDs, you can now adjust the lighting palette to find the spookiest hue! Sadly, you can only select a single color for all of the LEDs in the run at any given time, but the lighting is bright and the color rendition is reasonably good too.

To raise the hair just a little higher, combine your lights with audio effects.

Inside, you could choose to synchronize your outdoor lighting with additional SYLVANIA smart bulbs, but there are other options, too. Philips Hue is a popular smart lighting range with a wide assortment of bulbs, lamps and lighting fixtures and a dedicated developer community. A leader in indoor smart LED lighting solutions for over six years, the company has recently extended its range with a slew of outdoor lights.

While Hue works with a range of smart home kits and controllers from other manufacturers (including Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit and Google Assistant), you will need a Starter Kit with the Philips Hue Bridge that connects to your router. The $70 Philips Hue White Starter Kit offers the cheapest entry point, bundling the bridge with two tunable white bulbs – but the resulting effects won’t be particularly spine-chilling.

Alternatively, a new $200 White and Color Ambiance Starter Kit packs the Zigbee-powered Hue bridge and four A19 RGB bulbs. It’s certainly not the cheapest smart lighting system available, but includes everything you need to create fantastic effects around the home.

spooky halloween lighting philips hue go

Add spooky sound

For eerie garden lighting, installing Lily Outdoor spotlights ($280 for a three pack) to illuminate walls or create spooky uplighting for trees is a simple job, while Calla Outdoor Pathway Lights ($130) can help trick or treaters find their way to the front door. A 16 ft. flexible Lightstrip ($160) can bend around decks, curved flower beds and paths for additional accents. These new outdoor additions to the range are both water and weatherproof, with operating temperatures down to -4 F, conveniently plug into an outdoor power outlet and support interconnection, so can be hooked together with ease.

For the porch, greet trick or treaters with the portable Philips Hue Go ($80), a rechargeable battery powered RGB lamp, supporting 16 million colors or tunable white light. The three-hour battery life is reasonably short, but will get you through the peak candy-throwing hours of the evening.

To raise the hair just a little higher, try combining your lights with audio effects, using Hue Labs’ Halloween Living Scenes or the third-party Hue Halloween (iOS/Android) and Hue Haunted House (iOS/Android) apps. Pair your smartphone or tablet with a hidden Bluetooth speaker, then fire up the app.

It triggers an assortment of dramatic lighting scenes on your Hue bulbs with accompanying, gruesome sound effects. Creaking doors, sinister footsteps, thunder and lighting, ghoulish groans, cackling witches and more. You can instruct the apps to automatically play a continuous “scarescape” of themes and effects or put your mixing skills to the test with freestyle freak-outs.

It’s great fun for the kids (but definitely too scary for little ones) and, when paired with a Philips Hue Motion Sensor ($40), the combo offers real potential for spooking out the neighbors. Check out the video below which combines a Philips Hue Go lamp and Bose Soundlink Mini Bluetooth speaker – both small enough to hide in a bush near the front porch, or behind the front door.

When the excitement has died down and the front door bell has finally stopped ringing, settle down in front of your favorite scary movie, with chills amplified by the new Philips Hue Play bar ($170 for two). Designed to sit behind a TV or computer monitor, Hue Play cleverly syncs colored lighting with the action shown on screen, boosting in-room ambience for movies, music and video games.

Once you’ve made that initial investment in smart home tech, you’re set for any holiday or special occasion. Experiment with different lighting schemes or preset themes from third-party apps to create a welcoming, festive or indeed spooky ambience around the home.

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