Consumer Reports: Stepping up your holiday light display

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Posted at 8:49 AM, Dec 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-14 09:49:16-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Whether you want to dim or dazzle with your holiday lights – there's a new device now that can help. It's called a smart plug.

According to the folks at Consumer Reports, you add one of those to your Christmas lights, and it'll do wonders.

Every year, Jeffrey Staples, a self-described former theater techie, 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," said Staples.

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

Consumer Reports’ Dan Wroclawski says even if you don’t have the tech skills that Staples possesses, there are products to help manage your lights and kits that can offer up some extra fun this season.

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

Smart plugs cost anywhere from $15 to $65. You’ll want 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 says 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," Wroclawski said.

While the kits might not come close to Staples' elaborate productions, perhaps you can experience some of the same delight he looks forward to each and every 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,” Staples said.

Consumer Reports says you can use any smart plug for your indoor lights. But for outdoor lighting, you're going to want a smart plug specifically for outdoor use. You’ll pay a bit more and probably will have to buy it online.

Another important reminder, if you've got lots of lights in your yard and are using an extension cord, again, make sure you're using one that made for outdoor use.