Your Christmas tree might be bright, but here’s how to make it smart

Never crawl under the tree again! Alexa, turn on the Christmas tree lights

There’s nothing like a Christmas tree decorated with lights and ornaments to get you and your loved ones in the Christmas spirit. One of the more annoying things about that Christmas tree, however, is having to continuously plug and unplug those beautiful lights when you come home, leave the house, or turn in for the night.

Did you know you can turn your tree lights on or off with an app or your voice instead? Just like many of the other electronics and lights in your home, you can connect your Christmas tree to Alexa or Google Home and control it with your voice. You can even create routines involving your tree. Here’s how to make your Christmas tree smart this holiday season.

Use a smart plug

Maxcio Outdoor Smart Plug

A smart plug can turn your regular Christmas tree into a smart tree. You can purchase a TP-Link mini smart plug for around $16 on Amazon. There’s also a pretty sweet holiday deal on Amazon right now where you can get a 3rd gen Echo Dot and an Amazon smart plug for $45. With the regular price on the Echo Dot being $50, and the regular price on the Amazon smart plug being $25, this is a savings of $30. There are also several other brands available, many of which have an app you can you use or they work with Alexa or Google Assistant.

“Alexa, turn on the Christmas lights”

Once you choose a smart plug, you can setup your smart tree.

Step 1: Download the app associated with your smart plug and create an account. You’ll be able to find the corresponding app in the smart plug’s instructions. For instance, if you have a TP-Link smart plug, you’ll probably use the Kasa app.

Step 2: Connect the plug. Make sure your strings of Christmas lights are all connected and plugged into one another on your tree. However, instead of plugging the main plug into the wall, plug it into the smart plug, and then plug the smart plug into the wall outlet.

Step 3: Connect your smart plug to Wi-Fi. Add your smart plug via the corresponding app. Typically, you do this by selecting a “+” icon or selecting “add a device.” Then, follow the instructions in the app to finish setting up your plug.

Oftentimes, you select the type of device you want to add (smart plug), and then the app will ask if there’s a specific colored light blinking on the plug. If the indicator light is not blinking, you may need to unplug the device or hold down the reset button for 10 to 15 seconds to get the indicator light to start blinking. In most cases, once the indicator light is blinking, you can begin setup and the app will search for the device and connect to it automatically.

Step 4: Name your smart plug. Most apps allow you to name your smart plug with a name like “Christmas tree,” so you can easily identify it.

Step 5: Connect the smart plug to Alexa or Google Assistant, whichever you prefer. To link to Alexa, go to the Alexa app and link your smart plug by selecting on “smart home,” then “+” to “add a device,” then select “plug,” then select the brand of smart plug and link your accounts. This is pretty easy, and the app will walk you through the process.

Step 6: Create a routine. In the Alexa app, select the hamburger menu (the three bars) in the upper right hand corner, then select “routines.” Select on the “+” symbol to create your routine.

If you have other smart devices, like light switches, you can make a “bedtime routine” that makes the Christmas tree and lights around the house turn off when you say “Alexa, it’s bedtime.” You can check out this tutorial here to learn more about routines.

Step 7: Say, “Alexa, turn on the Christmas lights,” or whatever you have decided to call your smart plug.

Use smart holiday lights or LED light strips

Instead of going the smart plug route, you can also purchase smart lights strips to decorate your tree. While some lights (like Twinkly and TreeHue) are specially made for the holidays, others (like Nexlux LED strip lights or Rxment RGB LED light strips) are LED lights you can use to decorate your home anytime of year.

Depending on which smart lights you choose, they’ll have features like dimming, color changing, the ability to pulse to the beat of music, app control, and voice control via Alexa or Google Assistant.

Step 1: Download the app associated with your LED light strip, and create an account. You’ll be able to find the corresponding app in the instructions. For instance, if you have an Rxment light strip, you’ll use an app called “Magic Home.” After you download the app, create an account and login.

Step 2: Decorate your tree. Place your lights on your Christmas tree the way you like them and then connect them to the power supply.

When decorating a six-foot-tall tree, you usually require about 400 lights (100 per 1.5 feet of tree). If you’re using Rxment lights for instance, you’ll need about three strips. Many LED light strips are cuttable and linkable, which allows you to place them just the way you like.

Step 3: Follow the instructions in the app to connect your lights to Wi-Fi. The app instructions will vary widely by brand; but typically, the light strip will light up in a certain color or manner to indicate it is ready for setup, and the app will walk you through the process.

Step 4: Connect to Alexa or Google Assistant. Go to the Alexa (or Google Home) app, and add the skill and/or link the account. This will allow you to voice control your smart light strip (if applicable).

Step 5: Customize your lights. Set routines, set your lights to music, dim them, or change the colors.

Step 6: Say, “Ok, Google, turn on the Christmas lights.”

Tips and Tricks

  • Add techie ornaments like this Digital Photo Ornament to make your tree even more high tech.
  • Sync the light strips around your house with the lights on your tree to make your entire home dance to Christmas tunes.
  • For some smart plugs and light strips, your phone may need to be connected to a 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi network.
  • Some LED light strips, like some of the Philips Hue strips, require a bridge.

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