Haunted smart house: A guide to tricking out your Halloween home

Ghoulish lights, terrifying ringtones - put your smart devices to spooky uses

Build a spooky smart home
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Ghosts, ghouls and gadgets: Halloween is a holiday when the smart home really comes into its own. It's when you get to put those colorful smart bulbs to work, scare your neighbors with smart speakers, and – if you really dedicate to the cause – possibly guarantee no child will ever knock at your door ever again.

Here we'll guide you through some ways you can put your gadgets to good use by creating creepy scenes, playing haunting sounds and giving those Trick or Treaters a proper scare come 31 October.

Trick your smart home out with our Halloween

Frightening lighting: How to set up spooky smart lights

From chilling color effects to bright lights that shock and surprise, there’s plenty of scope for creating a spooky smart home with smart lighting.

So get yourself some outdoor lighting. Products from Ring and Philips Hue are good options here, the main difference being with Hue you get color-changing options. Both also offer motion sensors that can trigger the lights as people approach your home.

We tricked out our house with Ring's Path Lights and the Philips Hue outdoor light strip this Halloween. A motion sensor by the steps will turn the light strip green as people walk up them, and the Ring lights illuminate as they walk past courtesy of built-in motion sensors - lighting up the fake gravestones we placed behind each one. Yes, we really went there.

Read this: The best smart lights

For regular “dumb” lights we plugged some orange fairy lights into an outdoor iDevices smart outlet and programmed them to come on at night and turn off in the morning.

New this year is Philips Hue’s Go portable smart lamp, this turned out to be ideal for popping inside a pumpkin. Set on a schedule, we used Hue Labs’ Haunted Glow scene to bring the pumpkin to life at nighttime. Its flickering oranges and pinks were very effective.

How to build a spooky Halloween smart home

To set up your own spooky scenes with your Hue lights, you need to use Hue’s Labs - a feature inside its app. It's a great way to get your indoor lighting "spooky-fied." Select it in the Explore section of the app and set up the Fright Lights formula to create a Hue Scene that flashes, flickers and cycles through ominous hues of blue, white and green.

There are also some third-party apps such as Hue Haunted House, Hue Halloween, Firestorm for Hue and BooHue that you can find on the Apple or Android app store to create some fun effects.

Outside of the Hue ecosystem, you can pop a colored smart bulb in a lamp and pair it with a door sensor using SmartThings, an Echo with a Zigbee hub, or HomeKit, depending on your set up. Now, every time you open the door to any unwitting trick or treaters you can have the light suddenly turn green or orange for a spooky surprise.

Shivering shrieks: Make your video doorbell scream

A cacophony of creepy sounds is sure to make your house stand out as the scariest on the block and the smart home has lots of solution for this.

Billed by Ring as the busiest doorbell day of the year, Halloween is the day video doorbell's were made for. Ring is ready for the season with some new Halloween-themed faceplates and some spooky chimes you can turn on in the app.

Its sound affects only work with the Chime accessory, the device you plug inside your home, so you’ll want to put that as close to the door as possible (annoyingly, the ringtone on the doorbell itself stays the same).

There are lots of sounds to choose from, including ghosts, a howl, a scream, witch cackles, a creepy laugh and even a special Addams Family chime tone, to tie in with the new movie. To set it up follow these steps:

  1. Select Devices in the Ring app
  2. Select the Chime or Chime Pro on your account.
  3. Select Audio Settings.
  4. Select Chime Tones.
  5. Look through the list of tones and select your preferred tone.
  6. Tap Save Changes, wait for it to update.

New this year, Google has rolled out a spooky sounds option for its Nest Hello video doorbell. You can’t choose your ringtone, but when you enable the Spooky Sounds option you get a slightly different creepy ringtone each time - such as haunting laughter, witch cackles, and ghostly ghouls.

As a bonus, these come right out of the doorbell itself, as well as any connected smart speakers in your house (Hello doesn't have an indoor chime), so it's a bit scarier for visitors than the Ring. Just pop into Settings for your Nest Hello in the Nest app, scroll down to Doorbell Themes, there you’ll find Spooky Sounds.

Another fun way to spook the trick or treaters it to hide a Google Nest Mini or Amazon Echo Dot in a cauldron or under a witch's hat on your doorstep and have it play some haunted sound effects.

More Scares: Alexa's Halloween party tricks

Google has a soundtrack pre-set, just say "Hey Google, get spooky" and any Google Nest or Home speakers you have will play an hour-long playlist of "spooktacular" (according to Google) sounds and music.

Alexa can get in on the action. Ask it to enabled a skill like Halloween Sounds and the speaker will doll-out creepy music until you tell it to stop. There’s also a kids version of Halloween Sounds if you don’t want to be too spooked.

For a more robust outdoor sound system, you could use an Alexa- or Google-enabled Bluetooth speaker - such as the Sonos Move.

Pop it in the bushes and link it to a Philips Hue outdoor motion sensor through the Alexa app or SmartThings, then have it let out a blood-curdling scream anytime someone walks past.

How to build a spooky Halloween smart home

Freaky effects: Set your smart plugs to scary

Smart plugs are a great way to manage any electrical holiday decorations and make sure they're only on at the optional time. We set one up with our inflatable skeleton, so he only pops up after dark.

Read this: 8 ingenious uses for smart plugs

But they're also great for helping create some freaky effects. For example, plug in a fog or smoke machine to a smart outlet, pair it with a motion or contact sensor and get the scary smog rolling whenever you open the door to those trick or treaters, or anytime someone walks along the path to the front door.

How to build a spooky Halloween smart home

Safety first: Be smart about security

Of course Halloween isn’t all fun and games. Sadly there can be some miscreants about on a night when everyone is wearing masks and roaming the streets.

Keep an eye on your property when you’re out Trick or Treating with an outdoor security camera. One with a bright floodlight - like the Ring Spotlight or Eufy Floodlight Cam - is ideal for scaring off real-life spooks.

If you haven't got time or cash for a full-on smart security set up, you could always pick up a smart camera and a motion sensor like the Wyze Cam and Sense bundle.

Pop the camera at the window to look over your property and put the motion sensor near your door so it triggers the camera to record when someone gets too close.

TAGGED    smart home

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