How to Make Your Holiday Decorations Work Smarter

Consumer Reports looked at how anyone can upgrade their Christmas lights

NBC Universal, Inc.

Now's the season for untangling lights, climbing ladders and decorating your home. If you want to make the process a little easier, there are some smart products that can help you take your holiday display to the next level.

"I always wanted to put on a light show synchronized to music, but I didn't have the technology to do it," said Jeffrey Staples, a former theater tech.

It took Staples years to create a light show that's turned into a side-hustle with hundreds of followers. But even if you don't have the tech skills that he has, you can still add some extra holiday cheer.

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

Smart plugs can cost anywhere from $15 to $65. Look for ones that are WiFi capable. You can set them up by plugging them into a wall outlet, then plugging your lights into the device, then control them from your phone.

If you want to take your decorations to the next level, there are also smart light kits that can change colors, create festive patterns and effects, and even be synchronized to music. Some of them can even be controlled via a smart speaker.

Wroclawski said you'll have to do a bit more setup and expect to pay a little more -- between $60 and $200.

"They're a lot of fun," Wroclawski said. "They definitely provide that whimsy that I think a lot of people could use right now."

Consumer Reports found the Lumations Holiday Music Light Show set was the easiest to set up. While it might not match up to a fully synchronized display, it will definitely up your decorating game.

"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' eyes just light up," Staples said.

While any smart plug will work for indoor use, Consumer Reports said that, if you're using it for outdoor lights, make sure the plug is rated for outdoors. You'll probably have to pay a little more and may have to buy it online. Also: make sure any extension cords used for exterior lights are rated for outdoor use as well.

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