Christmas light displays, like most holiday traditions, can be as modest or extreme as you want them to be. Whether you want a simple setup or a blinding beacon for Santa to spot from 10,000 feet, app-controlled, programmable Christmas lights are an easy way to add some sparkle and convenience to your display.
Here’s how to choose the right programmable Christmas lights.
- Programmable Christmas lights and apps
- How to program your Christmas lights
- Smart electrical outlet plugs for on/off control
- LED string lights vs. LED strips
Programmable Christmas lights and phone apps
Some programmable Christmas lights come with preset colors and lighting cadences. Others give you total control over color, on/off timers, ambient music syncing and more from your smartphone.
Want to control your Christmas lights with your iPhone? Here are a few popular app-controlled Christmas lights to check out this season.
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|Product||Color options||Length (ft.)||Number of lights||Music syncing||App control||String/strip|
|Elfeland LED Strip Lights||5||32.8||300||Yes||Yes||String|
|Lumenplay® App-Enabled Lights||16 million||12.5||12||Yes||Yes||String|
|MINGER DreamColor LED Strip Lights||16 million||16.4||150||Yes||Yes||Strip|
|NIDENIONLED Smart String Lights||1 (white)||65||200||Yes||Yes||String|
|Philips Christmas LED Illuminate Starter Kit||1 (multi)||24||25||Yes||Yes||Strip|
|Twinkly LED String Lights||16 million||57.5||175||Yes||Yes||String|
Instructions for how to download and use the Christmas light apps listed above are usually included with the packaging. All apps are compatible with Android and iOS systems, so you can take control of your lights right from your smartphone.
App-controlled Christmas lights typically come with these features:
- Turn lights on/off
- Set timers for auto on/off
- Custom color settings
- Dim/brighten lights
- Light flashing effects
- Speed and direction of light effects
- Sync with ambient music
As you can imagine, these features offer tons of potential for creating your own custom Christmas lights display. Here are a few tips for how to program your Christmas lights to get the look you want.
How to program your LED Christmas lights
Applications and how to use them will vary by manufacturer, but they will likely contain these steps for programming your Christmas lights.
- Download the app or necessary software. Directions for downloading necessary software should come with your packaging. Many apps, like the Lumenplay® App and the MINGER DreamColor App, are available for free in the Play Store for Android devices and the App Store for iPhones.
- Connect your phone to the lights. Plug the lights in and bring up the app on your phone. The app will likely show you available strands to connect or give you the option to automatically connect to strands. If you have multiple strands, look for identifying numbers on the strands to know which ones you are programming in the app.
- Choose your color schemes, if necessary. Some are preset, like with red, white and green for Christmas, pastel colors for Easter, etc. Select a preset if it has the colors you want, or create your own. Most apps display a color palette for you to select your custom color. Note that the order you select your colors in will likely be the order they are arranged along the strand. You can drag selected colors and drop them in the order you want them to appear.
- Adjust brightness. Make your light strand, or parts of your light strand, brighter or dimmer depending on how you want them to complement the rest of your Christmas light display. Your app may feature a setting to make the lights brighter or dim automatically at set intervals.
- Add lighting effects. There are many ways to customize how your display lights up. Choose from effects such as fade, twinkle, color order and stacking, random or just let them shine with no effects. Consider playing with the different lighting effects before installing your light strands to get a feel for how it will look.
- Sync with ambient music. Nearly all programmable lights that have lighting effect capabilities also feature the option to sync to music. This is usually an “on” or “off” type setting. Most apps have some songs preselected, or you can choose songs from your phone’s media library. When synced, your display may change brightness levels, fade and blink to the rhythm.
These steps may not apply to all programmable LED Christmas lights and apps, but they’ll get you on the right track for creating your custom display. If you don’t need the color customization or light effects, but still want to have phone control over when your Christmas lights turn on and off, consider smart electrical outlets.
Control smart electrical outlets from your phone
Smart electrical outlets feature on/off and timer settings you can control from your smartphone. It’s not as high-tech or flashy as programmable LED Christmas lights, but it’s a convenient way to control your display with your phone.
Use your Android or iPhone to control your Christmas lights’ on and off settings with outdoor smart outlets. These devices, like the Oittm Outdoor Wi-Fi Outlet and the iDevices Outdoor Switch, typically feature one or two weatherproof plugs and are generally affordable.
Indoor smart electrical outlets are also available and are perfect for controlling your Christmas tree lights with your smartphone.
LED Christmas lights: Strings or strips?
When shopping for programmable Christmas lights, you’ll probably come across string lights and light strips. Both provide the energy-efficiency and programming potential of LED Christmas lights but are best used for different applications.
LED Christmas light strips are best for linear surfaces.
Think roof lines and windows. Most light strips have an adhesive backing, making installation a bit easier. Plus, many can be cut, so you can get just the right length without any excess hanging over. The downsides of LED Christmas light strips are that they often cost more than traditional string lights and the convenient adhesive backing may not last multiple seasons.
LED Christmas light strings are best for everything else.
Think around the trees, bushes, along walkways, custom roof designs, etc. With string lights, your home is a blank canvas. Decorate how you like—there’s no right or wrong! The downsides of string LED Christmas lights? Securing them to the house can be a challenge and, for the most part, you’re stuck with the length.
Both LED string lights and strips can come with programmable and custom app-controlled capabilities. If your LED lights don’t have app control or pre-programming built-in, you can get smart electrical outlets to control your display.
It’s never too early to get started on your programmable Christmas lights. In fact, putting up Christmas decorations can boost happiness, so go for it!
Be sure to check out the Allconnect® holiday playlist if you’re looking for some great seasonal favorites to add to your programmable display. Share on Facebook or Twitter to spread some extra holiday cheer.
Originally published 10/25/18. Last updated 11/19/19.