Consumer Reports: Smart lighting and more holiday light hacks

Whether you want to dim or dazzle with your holiday lights, we have got an easy solution.

Every year, Jeffrey Staples, a former theater guy, creates a holiday light show at his home.

"I always wanted to put a light show in the theaters synchronized to music but I didn't have the technology to do it," he said.

After years of tinkering and practice, he has parlayed that dream into a holiday side hustle with hundreds of followers.

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Consumer Reports said even if you do not have the tech skills that Staples possesses, there are products to help manage your lights and kits that offer up some extra fun.

"The simplest way to control your holiday lights is honestly with a smart plug. They're really affordable, you can set them to turn on and off with your local sunset and sunrise times," said Dan Wroclawski of Consumer Reports.

Smart plugs cost anywhere from $15 to $65. Best to get one that's wi-fi capable. To set up just plug it into a wall outlet, plug your lights into the device and then you can control your lights from your smartphone.

If you want to take it a step further Wroclawski also looked at several smart light kits that can change colors, create festive patterns and effects, and allow you to set your lights to music.

He said they do require some tech skill and they cost more than regular lights about $60 to $200.
"They're a lot of fun. They definitely provide that whimsy that I think a lot of people could use right now, but there were some hiccups," he said.

The Lumations Holiday Music Light Show set was the easiest of the bunch to set up.

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And while the kits might not come close to Staples's elaborate productions, perhaps you can experience some of the same delight he looks forward to each holiday season.

"The thing that brings me the most joy in doing the light show is being able to see people pull up in their cars and roll down their windows and the kids their eyes light up," said Staples.

CR said any smart plug will do for indoor use. But for outdoor lighting, choose a smart plug specifically rated for outdoors. You will pay a bit more and most likely need to purchase it online. And do not forget if you need an extension cord, make sure that's rated for outdoor use, too.
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