Smart home hubs, utilising technology like Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa, can help with the holiday festivities.
If you’re buying new Christmas lights this year, select ones labelled ‘smart’ on the box. These will link to your smart assistant over your Wi-Fi network, and can light up on your command. Alternatively, you can turn your existing lights into smart lights. All you need is a Wi-Fi-enabled plug, such as the Arlec Grid Connect smart plug, which works with Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa and the Grid Connect app.
Set-up is simple: first, connect your Christmas lights to your smart plug before inserting the smart plug into the wall power point. Always leave it switched on. Now you can turn your lights off and on remotely, using a smartphone app to get Alexa or Google Assistant talking to your smart plug over your Wi-Fi network.
A smart plug can turn any light into a smart light, says Bunnings smart lighting buyer Rachel Holmes. “Give the smart plug a simple name in the app, like ‘Christmas lights’. Now it’s easy to control the lights using your smartphone – even when you’re away from home,” says Rachel. “Even easier, just ask your smart assistant to ‘turn on Christmas lights’ and the lights will quickly spring to life, lighting up your home with a single command.”
A smart plug can also act as a smart timer. Using the smartphone app, you can create a schedule that automatically turns your lights on and off every day.
“With an Arlec Grid Connect smart motion sensor, you can set your smart Christmas lights to wake up instantly whenever someone walks into the room,” explains Rachel. “Another option is to use the GPS features on your smartphone to automatically turn on your lights when you’re almost home, so it feels like Christmas as soon as you walk in the front door.”
A single smart plug is ideal for controlling the lights on your tree, but if your Christmas lights are more elaborate, try an Arlec Grid Connect smart four-outlet powerboard, which allows you to plug in up to four sets of lights and control them individually. You can also control all of the plugs as one by creating a group in the smartphone app – call it ‘Christmas lights’.
Another option is to make a smart home routine. Routines let you group actions, and they can be triggered by a single command to your smart assistant. For example, a ‘Good Morning’ routine can instruct Google Assistant or Alexa to switch on the lights, forecast the weather, check your appointments and then play the morning news. To set up a routine in a smart home app, choose a voice command or other trigger and add actions you want to include. “The beauty of routines is you only need to create that long list of actions once, then your smart assistant can perform them all with just a single command," says Google’s Matt Gaskell.
To keep it simple, give the routine a name that rolls off the tongue, like ‘It’s Christmas time’, and link actions like the ‘Christmas lights’ group, dimming the lights in the living room to set the mood, and playing carols on smart speakers around the house.
Our guide Smart homes: where to start, will walk you through the process.
Some photographs feature products from suppliers other than Bunnings. Some products are not available at all Bunnings stores, but may be ordered.