I’m looking for something quick and simple to replace the elderly timer for my Christmas tree and I’m not sure where to start.
We have iPhones, iPads, a reasonably recent Apple TV, and a couple of Macs, but no sort of smart home or hub in place. Something I could control/schedule from the phone or iPad would be great. I don’t need access when I’m away from home.
Does anyone have a quick and straightforward solution?
Is your tree indoors or outdoors? If it is outside, your local hardware store probably has a “dumb”, inexpensive photocell timer that will turn the lights on at dusk, and off several hours later. You can set how long the lights remain on. However, being only a week before Christmas they may be sold out by now.
Dave, when you say you have a “reasonably recent” Apple TV, how recent is it? Is it HD or 4K, or older than that? Check the model and let us know. It may matter for a HomeKit-based solution.
There are many HomeKit-compatible devices available that let you control power flow to a device like a lamp or Christmas tree remotely, and many others with their own apps based on WiFi, Bluetooth, or sone other networking technology.
I recently got tired of wriggling behind the tree to plug and unplug the tree or use the switch on the power strip, so I bought a four-pack of devices to do that job. I don’t use the timer function on the tree as it happens, but we do use it on a nearby lamp with a similar plug of earlier vintage. One of our Apple TV 4Ks acts as the HomeKit hub.
I have also started using Meross smart power outlets. Easy to set up via the iOS Home app. They use wifi rather than Bluetooth (a range limitation with Eve devices).
Also easy to create Automations such as timers with the Home app. Sunrise & sunset are available for timed automations.
Meross (Australia) also have “outdoor” smart power outlets, although I wouldn’t risk them getting soaked.
BTW - Belkin/Wemo withdrew from the Australian market a few years ago. I replaced a couple of the Wemo outlets that I had in favour of ones that get firmware updates.
I added a set of WEMO smart outlets to Homekit. Its sets up easy, and I just ask Siri, “Hey Siri, Xmas tree lights on!” and done. Or I can turn on from my home app. I will assume your have a wifi network at home, and you can use your ipad or iphone to to take pict of the WEMO code to add to the home. I had misplaced a 3 pack of these and can’t find them anymore-only as singles…you can sometimes find deals, and also have a wall switch for counter lights, and a living room lamp.
A couple of years ago I purchased a set of 3 WeMo smart plugs primarily to replace a timer that had failed after at least a decade of constant use. I think the package was recommended by Wire Cutter. I’m not up to date on which smart plugs are recommended now and I would be agnostic at this point.
In my use, the plugs are simply programmed as timed outlets to turn on/off plugged in lights (and Xmas tree) on a schedule, so this sounds like what you’d like to do. They can also be turned on/off from the app itself.
I purchased the Take Control of Apple Home Automation book which is comprehensive and useful.
The WeMos weren’t super easy to set up. (Took me a while to realize the plugs use the 2.4G Wifi band when normally my devices are using the 5G band.) WeMo customer service was very helpful. Once set up they’ve worked reliably with a few power outage exceptions.
Once it sees the smart plugs, the Home app is easy enough to use to set up programs and/or control the outlets directly from any Apple device. I’ve had the Home app do some weird things from time to time requiring reprogramming the actions but I’m not sure what has caused those issues.
In our case an Apple TV works as a ‘hub’ for Apple’s Home app.