DIY your holidays
It's time to get your home ready for the holidays! We've rounded up projects you can tackle now to make your home safer, smarter and bursting with holiday spirit.
Set a festive scene
Try setting up a routine with a Google Home or Amazon Echo speaker that turns your smart bulbs to whatever festive colors you want and cues up a playlist of holiday music.
Install a security camera to prevent package theft
This time of year, you're ordering tons of gifts online and shipping them to your house. Keep those gifts safe (or at least less appealing to thieves) with a security camera, like the Ring Spotlight Cam above.
Here are six other ways to prevent package theft.
Make your holiday lights smart
With the help of a smart plug, you can control the lights on your tree or house with your phone.
Get a smart plug -- check out our favorite smart plugs here -- and download its accompanying app. Then, plug your lights into the plug and you'll be able to turn them on from anywhere right on your phone.
You can also get your holiday lights to turn on when you get home.
Set up Christmas lights in 10 minutes
If you like being festive, but just really don't have time to put lights up this year, consider using a holiday light projector like the ShowHome App Laser RGB 3D Projector.
These projectors beam images and festive lights onto your house to make it look cheery, without the trouble of hanging lights. All you do is plug them in and aim them at your house.
Make a quick speaker
Did a meet-up just turn into a holiday party? You can crank up the tunes on your phone by setting your phone in a mug or glass cup. The cup funnels the sound waves and amplifies them. Here are some more quick DIY speaker ideas.
Double your oven's capacity
Cooling racks can be used to double your oven's capacity when baking cookies.
Simply line a cooling rack with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Then, place your cookies on it and put it in the oven.
You can slide actual cookie sheets underneath the cooling rack, giving you double the cooking space.
Keep holiday light plugs off the ground
Leaving cord connections laying on the snow or wet ground can cause electrical shorts and possibly shocks. To protect the connections, grab a plastic container (takeout containers or old food storage containers work great) and cut a notch in each side.
Put the plugs inside the container, letting the cords rest in the notches. This plastic barrier will help keep the connection dry.
Protect yourself when hanging lights
Avoid shocks while hanging your lights by using the right ladder. The Electrical Safety Foundation International recommends using a wooden or fiberglass ladder.
Install a smart thermostat
In the winter, a warm home is a cozy home. The holiday season can be tough on your comfort though, not to mention your energy bill.
Keep your house guests snug and toasty, without spiking your energy costs with a smart thermostat. These intelligent HVAC controllers learn your heating preferences and patterns to maximize efficiency.
Automate a heater
If you don't want to go the full thermostat route, then you could always use a smart plug to automate a heater and keep a bedroom warm at night without letting it run too much.
Physical controls are key
Just make sure you pick one with physical controls like these that'll work the way you want as soon as you plug it in. That's basically what the smart plug is doing -- when you turn a smart plug on and off (or automate it to turn on and off), you're really just cutting and restoring power to whatever's plugged into it (in this case, a heater). That's why you want physical controls that don't reset when the device loses power.
Another tip: Try adding a temperature sensor to your setup, then automate the heater to turn off automatically when the room gets warm enough for your liking, then back on when it gets cold again. You've got plenty of options -- and the sensor built into the Amazon Echo Plus smart speaker will do the trick, too.
Set up door, window and cabinet sensors
The holidays are hectic. There are plenty of social events to attend, visits to family and friends and vacations. No matter where you are, keep tabs on your home with a few affordable door and window sensors.
You'll get alerts when any door or window opens. Stick them on sensitive file drawers too, even liquor cabinets, basically anything you'd like to monitor discreetly.
To learn more, take a look at our favorite home security devices here.
Invest in a robot floor cleaner
'Tis the season for cheer, not tedious housework. Invest in a robot floor cleaner and cut down on your load of chores during the holidays, and for years to come.
One of our favorite models is Neato's Botvac Connected, but new models stand ready to dethrone the old champ.
Pick up a smart display
Once again, smart displays are a hot connected home gadget this holiday season. They can do useful things like control your smart devices or serve up cooking advice in the kitchen, and they're great way to video chat with friends and family who can't make it to your next holiday get-together.
Most of the major tech companies have competing products in this emerging field. Each has their own strengths, weaknesses and capabilities. See how connected screens from Amazon, Google and Facebook compare.
Make the move to mesh networking
If your home's Wi-Fi network suffers from dead zones and spotty, unreliable coverage, then a multipoint mesh router that relays a steady signal to all corners of your home might be just the thing you need.
There's a new crop of second-gen systems hitting the market this year from established names like Netgear Orbi, Nest and Eero, many of which offer better features, faster top speeds and lower costs of entry than before. That makes it a good time to buy in -- and setting these mesh systems up is an easy project you can knock out in minutes.
Swap in a smarter lock
Locks with keyholes are so last century. This holiday, hook your home up with a new keyless, app-controlled deadbolt. They come with impressive features like remote operation, keypads and total command over who enters -- and who doesn't. Many of these locks look fantastic, too.