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

Smart home technology has expanded dramatically over the past few years, and there’s no shortage of cool tech available to help you with your holiday decorations. Halloween is a particularly great one for smart home gadgets to help with, as you’ll find a variety of products available that create unique lighting and sounds — as well as a few ways to tweak them to create a spooky atmosphere.

With so many products up for grabs, it can be difficult to figure out where to start. If you need some help sifting through all the options, here’s a look at which smart home devices are best for Halloween — and how they can make your home the talk of the neighborhood.

Light it up

Spooky halloween lighting haunted house.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

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), you can also control Sylvania Smart+ bulbs via partner systems such as SmartThings, Belkin WeMo, and the Wink Hub. Voice control options include Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, while some indoor bulbs benefit from using 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 setup without the need for additional controllers.

The $75 Sylvania Smart LED ZigBee RGBW Outdoor Accent Kit includes a 14-foot run of nine external RGB lights and an outdoor, wet-rated power supply. Keep in mind these lights require a ZigBee hub to get working properly.

The lights are mounted on short, plastic spikes which can be easily fixed into a lawn or flower bed. The cables are flexible too, making it easy to angle the LEDs toward the house, trees, or ornaments. 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.

A great alternative to these Sylvania lights is the Govee Outdoor Spot Lights, which regularly costs $70 for a two-pack. As the name suggests, these essentially serve as spotlights to illuminate large portions of your home (or yard) in a variety of colors. And since they don’t require a hub, they’re a simple solution to help you create a spooky atmosphere.

For eerie garden lighting, installing Lily Outdoor spotlights to illuminate walls or create spooky uplighting for trees is a simple job, while Calla Outdoor Pathway Lights can help trick-or-treaters find their way to the front door. A 16-foot flexible Lightstrip 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 minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit, and they conveniently plug into an outdoor power outlet and support interconnection, so they can be hooked together with ease.

For the porch, greet trick-or-treaters with the portable Philips Hue Go, 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 hours of the evening.

Sync ’em up for spooky ambiance

Spooky halloween effects light a garden blue.
Now it’s time to sync the lights 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. Start the connecting process by opening the Sylvania Lightify app. Go to Devices and click the Add button to launch a device search. The app should detect the lights quickly (if not, power them off and on again to reset connectivity). Now you’re ready to pair the lights 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.

Inside the house, you can 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, plus 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 variety 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 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 White and Color Ambiance Starter Kit packs the Zigbee-powered Hue bridge and four E26 RGB bulbs. It’s certainly not the cheapest smart lighting system available but includes everything you need to create fantastic effects around the home.

Add spooky sound effects

Spooky halloween lighting with Philips Hue Go.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

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, the combo offers real potential for spooking out the neighbors. Check out the video below, which combines a Philips Hue Go lamp and a Bose Soundlink Mini Bluetooth speaker — both small enough to hide in a bush near the front porch or behind the front door.

Let the doorbell bring the fear

Your lights can make your front yard feel like Silent Hill, but you can up the ante by using a smart doorbell to play a truly spooky sound the moment an unsuspecting trick-or-treater rings the doorbell. As an added bonus, you can replace your doorbell with a different faceplate that better fits the theme of the season.

When someone presses your Ring doorbell, you can have Alexa answer them. This works fine if you aren’t there, but a better way is to answer the doorbell yourself. You can respond to doorbell rings with a creepy cackle, or you can let Ring do the work for you with one of their built-in responses.

Ring isn’t the only company branching out for the most macabre time of year. Google Nest doorbells have also added several new sound effects, including that of a ghost, a witch, a monster, and more. These Halloween-inspired sounds can play whenever someone rings the doorbell.

When the excitement has died down and the front doorbell has finally stopped ringing, settle down in front of your favorite scary movie, with chills amplified by the Philips Hue Play Light Bar. Designed to sit behind a TV or computer monitor, Hue Play cleverly syncs colored lighting with the action shown on screen, boosting in-room ambiance 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 spooky atmosphere around the home.

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Terry Walsh
Terry Walsh is a British-born technology writer living in Canada, whose first computer was a cherished 48k ZX Spectrum…
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