When most people think of Smarthomes, they think of voice-controlled lights and video doorbells. But the gadgets you may already have can be used to take your Halloween decorations to the next level.
When you put up Halloween decorations, you have probably run into one of two problems. Either you always have to leave the plugged-in devices on, or you have to rely on analog timers that are complicated to set and quickly lose time. This especially leads to difficulties if you’re trying to keep everything in sync. And one of the best decorations of Halloween, the jack-o-lantern, can be the most tedious to light and keep lit.
Make Your Jack-O-Lanterns Scarier and Safer
When most people make a jack-o-lantern, they cut a round opening in the top of a pumpkin, dig out the insides and then carve a fun pattern into the side. This creates difficulty in placing a tea light, getting it lit from the top, and hoping it’s bright enough to make the pattern shine.
This year consider starting from the bottom. By cutting the opening from the bottom instead of the top you benefit in having a larger hole to work with, and you place the pumpkin on your light source instead of a light source in your pumpkin.
This trick works even better with a smart light. It’s easy enough to cut a notch in the back of the pumpkin for a power cord. Then you can place a smart light, like a Philips Hue Go, inside. With a Philips Hue light, you can do some fun things you can’t do with a conventional bulb or a candle.
For example, you can change the light to any spooky color you want, or even put different colors on rotation. If you love the flicker of a candle, you can achieve a similar effect for your smart light with an app like OnSwitch (for Android and iOS).
With a little extra work, you could even set up a smart motion sensor or the motion sensing ability of your smart video doorbell to activate or change the jack-o-lantern’s light when people approach.
Put Spooky Music Right Where (and When) You Need It
You could spend Halloween as the best werewolf DJ on the street, but if you have a streaming music service and a house full of Amazon Echo or Google Home devices you should let them do the heavy lifting. Find a Halloween playlist you love and set up multi-room audio for all your devices. Both the Echo and Home support this, and if a song isn’t to your liking all you will have to do is tell them to skip. Telling a Google Home “let’s get spooky” plays a Halloween themed soundtrack and flickers any smart lights to which it has access.
If you place a smart speaker outside, be sure to place it in its own room or group in your app and give it a descriptive name like Porch or Outside. Then you can easily control just that speaker and wait until trick-or-treaters are approaching to start the music. You can speak to a smart speaker inside the house and tell it to play spooky music on the outside device. You can use a mount with an Echo dot or Google Home mini, so you better hide the device for a greater scare, or you can even slip one into a spare jack-o-lantern to make them sing scary songs!
And don’t stop with just music. Hit up Spotify or Google Music or whatever service you use and search for “scary sound effects” to find all kinds of fun stuff.
Make Sure You Don’t Miss Any Trick or Treaters
If you have a video doorbell you will get more use out of it on Halloween than any other day of the year, so make the most of it. Make sure you’ve adjusted your motion sensitivity accordingly, and you’ll be sure not to miss any trick or treaters.
Extra Credit: Head to IFTT and connect the doorbell to your smart lights. When trick-or-treaters ring the bell, it can change the colors of your lights, or fade them out as you start the spooky music.
Keep Your Porch Light On (but Make It More Entertaining)
If you are hosting trick-or-treaters, you need your porch light on. You could change out your lightbulb with an outdoor rated smart bulb for fun colors (or, if you don’t have bad weather, an indoor smart bulb would probably be fine for the evening).
If you already have a Wink or Smartthings hub, you could also change out the light switch for a Z-Wave or ZigBee smart switch. You’ll gain the benefits of automation and voice control, and you won’t have to worry about someone turning off the light switch instead of using an app or voice assistant. For a spooky color, buy a cheap colored LED light and use that for the holiday. If you’re doing a scary house, you can stealthily kill the lights for a quick fright.
Make Your Other Rooms Spookier, Too
You also can use a lot of these ideas in the other rooms of your house to give your home’s exterior a little extra boost of spooky (or the interior, if that’s your thing). If you have scary window clings or other items propped at the window, place a few smart lights in proximity. You can use fun colors and dim lights to create some frightful window scenes. Even if you don’t have window decorations, a flickering, red room can be scary all on its own.
You could even create a routine that dims your outdoor light and fires up the window lights at the same time, setting up a fun little show. A sudden unexpected light can cast the shadow of your bat filled window when the kids least expect it.
If you have color-changing lights, Halloween is the perfect night to use those lesser-used options. Turn the room orange or red. Set up some routines to change the light colors slowly throughout the night to add to the atmosphere. If you have any smart plugs in the house link them in to turn off and on devices to add to the haunted house feel.
RELATED: The Best Smart Plugs
Take the Fun Outside
Halloween string lights, strobe lights, and sensor-driven witches and goblins are great fun—except at 3:00 in the morning when an animal sets them off, and the house is too bright. Consider instead using smart outlets to control any of your plug-in devices. Outdoor smart outlets are sold in ZigBee, Z-Wave, or Wi-Fi form factors. Most ZigBee and Z-Wave outdoor outlets control just one device (sometimes with a second plug that is always on). Some Wi-Fi outdoor outlets often do have two smart plugs, but instead of syncing to your hub these have their own app and usually connect to Amazon Echo and Google Home devices.
Just like with the porch light, you can stealth control the devices and suddenly turn them on for a good scare.
Use Sensors and Routines to Automate Your Handiwork
Once you have everything set up, don’t leave it to manual control. Your hub and your voice-controlled device support routines (or robots, etc.) to automate your work for you and sync your devices together. If you have any motion sensors, connect them to the routine so that when trick-or-treaters come near, your music starts playing and lights start flickering and changing colors.
If you have multiple smart lights turn some out while others turn off and others fade out. Now’s the time to throw a bright orange light against the window that has scary decorations. This will free you up to provide the treats or the tricks as best as your imagination allows. The final part of the routine should end in a well-lit porch light so younger trick-or-treaters can easily find their way to the candy.
Tying everything together will allow you to have the most fun with the least effort. With everything taking care of itself, you can focus on handing out candy or finding the best hiding space to jump out from as the show begins. Just be sure to have your video doorbell or your smart cameras record all the fun!
Image Credit: Romolo Tavani/Shutterstock, MaraZe/Shutterstock, Jeff Cameron Collingwood/Shutterstock, Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock, IrinaK/Shutterstock, roilir/Shutterstock, Maya Kruchankova/Shutterstock
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