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You can automate that: Deck the halls with these 6 holiday shortcuts

Going all out this holiday season? It's a perfect excuse to try out some new toys for your smart home.

Let's face it, if all house projects had tinsel and toy trains involved, they'd get done a lot faster. So while you're decorating for the holidays, why not channel some of that spirit into smart home improvements? We're going to show you how a few connected devices and the app IFTTT can take your winter wonderland to the next level. With the right set up, IFTTT can light up your home, play tunes, and even keep Santa on schedule without requiring you to lift a finger. But be warned. All this home automation may lead to some early auto-gifting (you know, when you buy gifts for yourself).

Have the house light itself

You brave the cold--and maybe even your fear of heights--to get those holiday lights hung. And then the inevitable happens. You forget to turn on the lights. This year, try experimenting with a connected switch. Plug in your holiday lights and let IFTTT do the rest. This recipe automatically turns on your smart switch every night at sundown. And, for those of us who forget to turn the lights off, this recipe powers down the party at bedtime. Now if only IFTTT could help put out the candles...

What you need:

  • Connected outlet like Belkin WeMo Switch

String up holiday lights that pay for themselves

If your holiday lights are due for an upgrade, today's LED strings pay for themselves in energy savings in one holiday season. So now you've got no excuse. According to the Department of Energy, regular incandescent C-9 light strings cost $10 to power for 40 days at 12 hours a day. LED C-9 lights cost 29 cents for the same usage, and have a way longer life expectancy. Not only do you save big on the bills--you're keeping your house safe. With more efficient lights, you can string together tons more without frying your sockets. The household outlet isn't supposed to exceed 210 watts. That doesn't leave you much wiggle room when you consider that 50 feet of incandescent lights eat up 20-40 watts, and sometimes as much as 175 watts, per string. Fifty feet of LED holiday lights, on the other hand, use under 4 watts. That's a whole lot more freedom to run wild with your decorating plans.

What you need:

  • LED holiday lights

Tinker with your designs after the lights have gone up

Who says it's too early to start playing with your new toys? You're an adult. This is your time to shine. Go the extra mile on your holiday light upgrades and pick up an app-connected LED light string like Lumen Play. It lets you change colors and flash your lights from an app on your phone. With that kind of versatility, you can start installing lights earlier next year and create custom themes as the season changes--orange for Halloween, fall colors for Thanksgiving, multi-color strings for the holidays, and all white for New Year's Eve. At this rate, you may never have to take your lights down!

To get the full effect even from your couch, you can use IFTTT to match your indoor lights to the themes hung outside. Connect smart, color-changing bulbs around your home, and let the app do the rest. Recipes like this one can make the whole house blink just as the ball drops at midnight.

What you need:

  • Philips Hue light bulbs
  • Lumen Play LED holiday lights

Play porch carols on demand

Can't get enough holiday carols? Don't hold your breath for those cute kids that used to come by--they're busy with their Hatchimals. IFTTT to the rescue once again. Have it queue up a holiday playlist on your Sonos speakers when you get home. If it's the surprise at the door you're after, try installing a Singled Pulse in your porchlight. The smart bulb packs a JBL speaker inside, and can play carols al fresco, where they were meant to be heard. And with the help of your Amazon Echo, there's no reason to hear the same song twice. To keep adding spice to your playlist as the holiday season goes on, just ask Alexa to play a new song and IFTTT can automatically add it to your holiday playlist.

What you need

  • Singled Pulse bulb
  • Amazon Echo

Combine the family's photos in one album

Every year, you do your part. You take photos of everyone else. Maybe you even have IFTTT automatically post them to Facebook. And then you've got a great album with only one problem: you're nowhere to be found. Instead of manually scouring everyone's photos before they're buried at the bottom of timelines, automatically create an album of photos tagged with you and your loved ones. Have IFTTT save tagged photos to Dropbox and an iOS photo album so you don't miss anything.

Track "Santa's" delivery schedule

In the world of two-day shipping, Santa comes in all different colored uniforms, depending on which delivery company he or she works for. Sometimes, it's hard to know which Santa is the Santa you've been waiting for. One mistake could leave you with a disappointing delivery of bulk toilet paper. Boxoh and IFTTT can help you keep your deliveries straight, whether you used USPS, FedEx, UPS, or DHL. If you're sending a gift far away, get a text when a certain delivery has made it into the right hands. For really precious cargo, you can have Boxoh and IFTTT send you a push notification whenever status changes, so you can track down the right Santa--whatever he's wearing

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