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How to control your Christmas lights with voice commands

You’ve got presents to wrap, meals to prep, and family quarrels to squash — there’s no time to dig around under the tree to turn on the lights. Here are some key strategies to control your Christmas lights with your voice alone.

Roll with smart lights from the get-go

Holiday lights decorating a house.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

If you’re starting your Christmas decoration collection from scratch, you can beeline to the most convenient option: smart holiday lights. These lights connect to your phone for remote access via a dedicated app. They often tie-in directly with Apple HomeKit and Google Home, and thus are accessible through each voice assistant, as well. You’ll need to double-check which lights support which assistants, but you should be able to find some lights that fit your preferences.

Though you can get specific holiday smart lights, there are more traditional smart light bulbs that you can upgrade around your home and use the corresponding app to apply holiday colors and animations. These bulbs are great because they’re useful year-round. If you have smart light bulbs like these installed, you’re already good to go!

To activate your lights with voice Google Assistant on smartphone, you need to:

  1. Press and hold the Power button on your phone.
  2. Wait for the beep or visual prompt indicating the device is listening.
  3. Say the light control command out loud.
  4. Wait for the confirmation beep and reply.

To activate your lights with Siri, it’s a similar process. On your iPhone or iPad:

  1. Press and hold the Power button.
  2. Wait for the beep or visual prompt indicating the device is listening.
  3. Say the light control command out loud.
  4. Wait for the confirmation beep and reply.

Alexa and smart speakers tied in with Google Assistant and Siri operate a little differently.

  1. Say the command word near the smart speaker. This is either “Alexa,” “Hey Google,” or “Siri.”
  2. There’s no need to wait for a command prompt after issuing the command word. Say the light control command immediately after. So, you would say “Alexa, turn off all my lights,” or “Hey Google, turn on my living room lights.”

Upgrade with a smart plug

If you’ve already got some perfectly good (but admittedly dumb) Christmas lights, you’ll have to add connectivity. Smart plugs will let you turn lights and other appliances off and on remotely through your phone and various voice assistants like Alexa and Siri. The only real catch is ensuring the plugs are within range of your home wireless network.

Which smart plugs you roll with will depend on your budget and preferred voice assistant. Though generally, you’ll find broad support across all three major options, so double check before taking the plunge on a smart plug. Having multiple smart plugs using the same brand will help you light up everything simultaneously from the same app, or in preferred grouping.

An added bonus of using smart plugs is that you can monitor power usage for your lights. This benefit is more of an issue for old incandescent lights than for LEDs. By running the lights on an automated schedule, like at sundown every day, and having the ability to remotely turn them off when nobody’s home, you can save a few bucks on your electrical bill. Those savings are pretty important during a month when your budget is all but blown on gifts.

Automations can be helpful beyond just saving power, too. The right trigger setup can remove the need to activate your Christmas lights via voice at all. Just take a look at some of the things you can do with smart light automations. Generally, these automations are built into the smart plug’s dedicated companion app, but you can also set them up in your phone’s existing apps if it supports Apple HomeKit or Google Home.

Lastly, you’ll need to consider additional options if you want to control outdoor lights. These types of lights are good for voice control since it can otherwise be fairly inconvenient to access manual controls in the dark. Outdoor smart plugs are built specifically to weather the elements. These products are a whole other family of smart plugs to explore. Wireless signal becomes a bit more of a challenge once you have to start reaching outside, so be sure to check the signal strength with your phone at the target location before getting an outdoor smart plug.

Hook up the smart speakers

Now that your lights are smart, issuing commands to them through your phone should be a breeze. We can pull this convenience train even closer to your stop, though. Smart speakers feature an always-on microphone to issue hands-free commands. Apple, Google, and Amazon all have smart speakers that support their respective voice assistants. Plenty of third-party speakers can give you something to bark orders at, too.

If you don’t have any smart speakers, they’re dirt cheap, and can save you the trouble of trying to find your phone to flip the lights inside or outside your home. With prices for entry-level smart speakers hovering around $50, you could afford to pepper a few of them throughout the house for easy access anywhere.

Bridging the gap

Sometimes the combination of smart plugs, lights, and voice assistants don’t perfectly line up. Luckily IFTTT has a long-standing tradition of connecting disparate services. Even though the base service is free, you may want to splurge on the subscription for access to more complicated automations and faster responsiveness.

That’s all there is to it! Hopefully you’re amply armed with all the how-to knowledge you need to control your Christmas lights with your voice while juggling all of the other chaos the holidays have in store for you.

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Simon Sage
Simon has been publishing in tech since before the first iPhone was released. When he's not busy lighting a candle for the…
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