Simple automated Christmas lighting with BlissLights, HomeKit and Siri

I usually put up my Christmas lights around Thanksgiving, and in the past that has meant putting LED light nets on some shrubs, running a string of lights along the gutter line of the house, and then changing out some security bulbs in the front yard with red and green lights. This year, my travels kept me from doing that so I had to figure out a way to get lighting done in minutes rather than hours. Fortunately, I was able to make the house look festive very quickly with BlissLights laser projectors ($139.00), HomeKit, and Siri.

How do BlissLights work? They are small laser projectors that use holographic laser technology to project thousands of tiny bright dots on a house or other "target". There are actually two different types -- BlissLights Motion and BlissLights Color. With the former, some of the light dots move and flicker, while with the latter the projector also uses LED lights to provide a background color. 

BlissLight Color. Photo by Steven Sande, ©2016

BlissLight Color. Photo by Steven Sande, ©2016

Setup is about as easy as you can get: BlissLights come with two stands, one that is a "dish-like" stand for placing atop snowdrifts (that's what I'm using), while the other has a stake on the bottom of it. One of my neighbors has placed the projectors on top of some feet foot tall PVC pipes so the lights will still work with drifts up to four feet! Yes, I'm going to copy that idea next year.

Once the BlissLights have been connected to a power source, they automatically switch on. There's a built-in timer that keeps the lights on for six hours, the turns them off for 18 hours before repeating the cycle. There are also small remotes for each type of BlissLight that let you change the default time or make other adjustments.

Now Christmas wouldn't be Christmas around the Sande household if I wasn't able to ask Siri to turn the Christmas lights on or have them go on automatically at local sunset, so of course I bypassed the regular cycle and plugged them into a Koogeek Smart Plug (affiliate link, Apple World Today may receive compensation for purchases). That plug, which we reviewed last month and is shown below, retails for $39 and is HomeKit compatible. 

Using a three-plug splitter on the single outlet on the Koogeek Smart Plug, I was able to plug in both of the BlissLights I purchased. I named the plug "Christmas Lighting" so Siri would use proper grammar when announcing that the lights were on -- when I used "Christmas Lights" Siri said "Christmas Lights is on" instead of "Christmas Lights are on". Now Siri responds to "Siri, turn on Christmas Lighting" with "Christmas Lighting is on", which is grammatically correct. Yes, I am pedantic.

HomeKit also lends itself to automation, so I set up two "automations" in the Home app. The first turns the lights on at local sunset, while the other turns them off at 11:59 PM. 

What's fun and useful is that if I want to turn off the lighting earlier, I can just use Siri on my Apple Watch and say "Hey, Siri, turn off Christmas lighting" and it complies. No need to put on shoes to go out into my cold garage and unplug the lights!

While BlissLights aren't really HomeKit compatible, it's great to know that they work well with just about any HomeKit-compatible smart plug. Next year, I need to add just one more BlissLight to the mix and I'll have my Christmas lighting ready to go for the foreseeable future.