Technology transforms holiday lights
Clark Griswold would be proud.
Thanks to advances in lighting technology, suburban homeowners across the country have a lot to choose from when it comes to creative ways to deck their halls for the holidays this year.
Forget about white incandescent lights and animatronic reindeer.
Think lasers. Think smartphones. And hundreds, if not millions, of color choices.
Single light bulbs that hold three LEDs — red, green and blue — are the secret behind a new category of holiday lights that offer up to 16 million color combinations.
Known as RGB lights, they can be dialed up or down in a variety of ways via a smartphone app. And because their color range is so varied, they can be kept up year-round and used for any number of holidays — Halloween, the Fourth of July, Easter, you name it.
Lumenplay offers the most colors by far at more than 16 million. The exotic lighting system doesn't come cheap ($79.99 for a starter pack) and is only available in 10-foot strands. But you can string as many as 500 lights together on one controller, which comes with the starter pack.
GE also offers RGB lighting technology with its new iTwinkle light sets and pre-lit Christmas trees, while Texas-based decorating firm Christmas Décor is offering the lights as an option for holiday customers this year.
All the talk of RGB technology leads right into the next holiday lighting trend this year — "smart" lights or lighting systems controlled by your smartphone.
Both the Lumenplay and iTwinkle systems are operated via apps available for Apple and Android phones. With just a swipe of your screen, you can dim or brighten outdoor lights, set them to music, or choose new colors and patterns.
With iTwinkle, you can even record a greeting to play, like "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas," spokeswoman Amanda Hayes says.
Most of these apps have a range of up to 150 feet, meaning you can control the action from across the yard or while plopped on your couch watching "It's A Wonderful Life" (or the Griswolds in "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation") for the 10th time.
"No longer do you have to venture outside to plug in your lights," says Dave Geraci with Ohio-based Technical Consumer Products.
TCP recently unveiled a smart home lighting system known as Connected by TCP, which links to a home's Wi-Fi or mobile network and is controlled via smartphone, computer or a special remote.
Projected laser lights
Using small spotlights, this technology projects thousands of tiny pinpoints of red, green or red and green lights onto your home or any other hard surface. California-based BlissLights offers them for $179 or $199 each, depending on whether the lights are in motion.
To a passerby, "at first glance, they look like traditional holiday rope lights, but actually they float freely across the house's exterior, plants and more to create a display that neighbors will think took hours to design and hang," BlissLights spokeswoman Natalia Barclay says.
There are no cords or wires involved with the laser lights, says Nick Burks of Atlanta-based Pinnacle Lighting Group.
"For people who live in the northern part of the country, it's extremely helpful when you have to take them down and it's zero degrees outside," he says. "Instead of taking a string of lights down in January, just unplug the fixture and put it in a box and you're done."
This technology has been around a while but was mostly limited to smaller, incandescent light strands that you'd put in a window box or small porch display.
Now they come in LED strands up to 30 feet long with batteries that are much more powerful and longer lasting. Many feature auto-timers and buttons that control blinking and other patterns.
At online retailer Lights.com, you can connect up to six strands of battery-powered lights for a total of 600 LED lights on one battery pack, spokeswoman Aimee Majoros says.
You know what that means? 180 feet of energy-saving holiday sparkle.
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