The holiday season is upon us and for many, that means dragging huge boxes of lights and decorations from either an attic or basement. It’s time to take out the ladder, figure out which lights didn’t make it from last year and start stringing bushes, columns, porches and rooftops with beaming lights of joy. Decorating for the holidays is an old tradition, but the nightly process of turning those lights on and off can benefit from modern technology. So sprinkle a little cinnamon on that eggnog and read on for how to control your Christmas lights with your iPhone.
What You’ll Need
To automate your lights, you’ll need to either have an existing home automation system or make a small investment. If you don’t have one, this might appear to be an expensive proposition. That would true if the setup were solely for controlling your Christmas lights. This is a great time to get started with home automation and the Z-Wave controller can be used for controlling lights, thermostats, appliances, dimmers and more. You can run multiple events targeting several devices by creating scenes. For example, you can turn off all of your lights, including your outdoor lights.
- Vera Lite (or other Z-Wave controller)
- GE Wireless Lighting Control Outdoor Module
- A single power-strip that connects all of your extension or power cords for your lighting.
Note: For the purpose of this tutorial, I’m going to assume you’ve successfully set up your Vera Lite.
Pair Outdoor Module With Z-Wave Controller
The Vera Lite includes 4 AAA batteries, so it can function away from the power source and router. Disconnect both the cables and press the ‘battery’ button at the top left. The blue power light will flash and with 10-15 seconds will be a solid light. The Vera is now ready for the inclusion or pairing process.
The GE Outdoor Module has a three prong plug. You do not have to plug this in at the desired location for setup. Find an outlet near your Vera and plug-in to the wall socket.
Even though this is an entirely new device, Z-Wave controllers prefer that you ‘unpair’ a device first before the inclusion process. Press and hold the ‘-‘ sign until the amber light starts flashing slowly. The Vera is now in ‘remove or exclusion mode’. With the GE Outdoor Module within 3 feet, press the black power button. You should see the amber light blink at four times its normal speed and return to a slow blink. This means the Vera has successfully removed the device. Now let’s add it.
Press and hold the ‘+’ until again you see the slow blinking amber light indicating the inclusion mode. Press and hold the pairing button on the GE module. You’ll see the rapid succession of flashing lights, again confirming it has been added. Press and hold the ‘+’ button to save your changes. At this point, you can connect the power source and ethernet cable to your Vera. Your GE module should be plugged into the outdoor power receptacle.
Login to your Vera control panel and you should see a new ‘appliance’ among your devices. To keep organized, I’ve labeled mine ‘Christmas Lights’. Using the free Vera Mobile app, you will now have access to On/Off control of the GE module. Now you can avoid the cold and turn your lights on or off from your iPhone. We could call it a day, but let’s take automation of our holiday lights one step further by creating a scene and using a plugin to trigger your lights. Ideally, I would have preferred to use the IFTTT service, but the developers from Micasaverde have yet to get approval for publishing their app.
Open your Vera control panel on your desktop browser and select Apps > Install Apps. Search for and install DayNight. Select Devices > All. On the Day/Night plugin, select the wrench. Select ‘Night’ and on the Settings tab adjust for minutes relative to sunset.
Select the Automation tab and click on ‘New Scene’. Select ‘Night’ on the plugin and select Christmas Lights ‘On’. Click on ‘Save Changes’. Keep an eye out for sunset and watch your lights. You can adjust the time to perfect your settings.
If you are new to home automation or have an existing system, using the steps outline above, you can control your outdoor Christmas lights using your iPhone. Now you avoid those cold midnight dashes to unplug your lights and your house will light up automatically.