This year I have my outside Christmas lights and my Christmas tree lights added to my smart home and I can turn them on and off via Amazon Alexa (see my how to guide) but how about adding intelligence to them? Who wants to manually turn on their Christmas lights on and off every day when you can automatic it?
I have my lights turn on exactly sunset each day, not using a fixed time (say 4:30pm) but by the actual time of day it goes dark. I don’t use light sensor or anything like that, I use the internet.
Step one is to have your lights controlled by a smart plug, I use a D-Link smart plug but there are plenty of other available from Samsung, TP-Link, Hive and more. My D-Link smart plugs are linked to my D-Link cloud service so I can remotely turn them on and off via the web. This also means I can control the plugs via IFTTT.com. IFTTT standard for IF THIS THEN THAT and is an online system for linking internet enabled services together. The IF part is the trigger (sunset) and then THEN part is to switch on the smart plug.
You will need an account on IFTTT.com so if you don’t have one go and create an account, if you already have an account sign into it.
Once you have an account you link your smart plug account to IFTTT. I have the D-Link smart plugs so I search for D-Link Smart plugs service and sign in with my D-Link account.
The next step is to find a service that triggers when it goes dark. I use Weather Underground which as well as providing weather information also knows what time the sun sets in your location. You tell WU your location and that way it knows what time it goes dark.
Now we have the building blocks in place the final step is to link them together. To do this you create a new applet
Click on the + to select your trigger, search for and select Weather Underground. Select the Sunset trigger.
Next click on the + to select your action. Search for and click on your smart plug service.
Select the Turn On action
Now select the name of your smart plug
Click on Create action to complete the setup. Your lights will now automatically switch on at sunset each day. I use one of these flows for my garden lights and I never have to worry about changing the times as daylight times change.
The final step is to create a switch off applet. I have one that switches off the lights at 10pm each day. To do this create a new applet that uses the Date/Time trigger as the IF part.
Have the Turn Off function of your plug as the trigger and you can set the time you want to turn your lights off each day.
That’s it a simple pair of routines that turns your Christmas lights on and off automatically.
Here is my video walk through of how to set up the two flows.
Ian Dixon is a Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Professional), founder of TheDigitalLifestyle.com tech site and producer of the weekly The Digital Lifestyle Show podcast. Ian has been writing and talking about Windows for over 10 years and has over 20 years in IT as an IT Manager. Ian has thousands of followers on Twitter and Facebook and over 4 million views on his YouTube channel.