Decorating for the holidays can be fun but it can also be stressful, especially when you don’t give yourself enough time. While decorating the interior of my house is one of my favorite parts of the holidays, I can’t say the same about the exterior.
Last year, I waited too long and couldn’t get the right hooks to hang up Christmas lights on the side of my house. This year though, I figured I could check two things off my list by using some of the best smart lights instead of ordinary string lights.
The best thing about using smart lights as opposed to ordinary lights or even Christmas lights is the fact that you can change their color with a tap on your smartphone or even with your voice with one of the best smart speakers. This also means that you don’t have to take them down at the end of each holiday season and can just leave them up year round.
Starting over from scratch
When I moved into my house last year, I was pleasantly surprised when the porch lights turned on at dusk. Even though they weren’t hung properly and both strings were missing a few bulbs, I did admire how the previous owner had them set up using a plug-in timer.
While I eventually added these lights to my smart home using a few of the best smart plugs, I knew that sooner or later, I wanted to take them down and start over from scratch. Unfortunately, the previous owner put them up using a staple gun which is not only unsafe, it’s also impractical as it makes the lights harder to take down.
Although Philips Hue lights are my preferred smart lights thanks to their ease of use and Hue Sync capabilities, Signify doesn’t make string lights. Fortunately, Govee does and they are also much more affordable.
To this end, I decided to use Govee’s Smart Outdoor String Lights ($99, Amazon) to decorate my porch. While I initially ordered one box of 96 feet of lights, I ended up having to order another set to cover my entire porch.
A more permanent solution
Besides completely redoing my porch lights, I also wanted to make sure that they could be taken down and replaced easily. This meant going with hooks for a more permanent solution as opposed to using staples. Sure, it took two whole evenings to install all of the hooks, but this way, changing out the lights after their 20,000 hour lifespan is up will be easy.
This was actually my first time working with string lights and the one thing I wanted to avoid was having them sag. Wire would have done the trick but it also would have complicated things further. Instead, I used a ruler to mark one foot between each hook and made sure to install the hooks in the middle of the roof’s studs so that they wouldn’t fall out.
In the end, my fingers were sore from screwing in a total of 150 hooks (in fact I still have a blister on my right index finger) but it was worth it once I hung the lights up. Since I had to use two packs of Govee Smart Outdoor String Lights, I started hanging them both from the middle of my porch and worked my way out. This also let me use one extension cord running up the back wall to plug them in.
However, I was really pleased by how I was able to hide their power adapters and control boxes on top of the awning and out of sight. This served a practical purpose as well since the lights themselves are waterproof (and shatterproof), but their control boxes and power adapters aren’t.
Now I’m ready for every holiday
As these are smart lights, I had to download and install Govee’s smartphone app to really test them out. The app itself may not be as intuitive as the Philips Hue app but it does have far more straightforward scenes. While Philips’ scenes have abstract names like “Painted sky” and “Memento”, Govee has scenes for “Fall”, “Summer” and “Christmas”.
As I plan to use my new smart lights extensively during the holidays, I fired up the Christmas scene and was greeted with a moving wall of light where the majority of the 60 bulbs glowed green and then yellow while a few lit up red. The photo below doesn’t really do it justice but needless to say, I was impressed.
With Halloween just around the corner, I tried both the fall and the cornfield scenes. Fall had the lights alternate between orange and a light pink but I preferred cornfield (pictured below) as the lights alternated between yellow and orange. Regardless, either would complement Halloween decorations well.
I wasn’t done testing out the Govee app though as it still had one more trick up its sleeve; the ability to sync the lights with music. Unlike how Philips Hue relies on Spotify on mobile or its Hue Sync software on your computer, the Govee app actually uses your device’s microphone to sync your lights to music. As a result, you can sync your lights with music playing on your phone or even with music from one of the best bluetooth speakers. It worked well during my tests and I think this year, I may actually set up a holiday light show for the first time using this feature.
Now that I have new smart lights installed on my porch that can change their color with a tap of my finger or by talking to one of the best Google Home speakers scattered throughout my house, I’m ready for every holiday, not just Christmas. Even if there isn’t a preset scene like for Fourth of July or St. Patrick’s Day, I can always change the color of each individual bulb myself.
If you’re tired of decorating for the holidays every year or just want to add a bit of fun to your backyard, smart lights do the trick without standing out which means you’ll have more time to decorate elsewhere. You can also check out this TikTok Christmas tree lighting hack that is a game-changer.
More from Tom's Guide: You can also check out how I turned an old monitor into a digital dashboard and how I synced my smart lights with my TV and it blew my mind. Also, while you are shopping for the holidays, watch out and don’t fall for these holiday scams — get your last minute shopping done safely.