Combat Holiday Hazards with Smart Home Tech

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I don’t know about you, but I grew up with parents who liked to scare the bejeezus out of us to keep us safe—and the holidays were no exception. As a kid, I got drunk on the dazzling sparkle and promise of the season: Santa, sugar cookies, music, and all the twinkly, twinkly lights. There wasn’t any room in my heart, soul, or eyes for danger.

But that didn’t stop my folks.

According to them, everything that made the holiday so spectacular was likely to kill us if we weren’t careful, along with other hazards around the house the rest of the year. And it all started with the tree and those strings of sparkling lights. We were staunch purists when it came to the tree:

  • It had to be real.
  • It had to make the house smell like a forest.
  • It had to leave a neverending blanket of needles in its wake.
  • It had to be at risk of bursting into flames at any moment.

That last one may seem alarmist, and I assure you that it is. But when you still believe it’s okay for some large, strange man to break into your house once a year, you can’t discern a credible threat from an exaggerated one.

Christmas lights on a tree plugged in at night and outlet starting to spark and catch fire.

Image: MediaProduction, iStock

Holiday threat number one: A dry tree

Watering the tree was a constant point of concern—and conversation. My brothers and I got a barrage of lectures about the importance of keeping that red metal bowl the tree was screwed into full of H2O. And then we got nonstop reminders.

“If the tree runs out of water it will dry out and burst into flames.”

“Is the tree running out of water? If it does, it will dry out and burst into flames.”

“Do those needles look dry? Don’t come crying to me when that tree dries out and bursts into flames!”

Holiday threat number two: Left-on lights

The second point of nonstop worry was the lights I loved so much. They were the instrument of destruction that would ignite the dried-out tree and make it burst into flames. They needed to be carefully plugged in and then unplugged again and again—whenever we left the house, went to bed, or closed our eyes for too long.

Under no circumstances were those lights to shine and blink and twinkle unsupervised. Which made me sad, because I loved driving by all the houses with trees ablaze (not literally) in the front window. I wanted to come home and be greeted by a luminous, shimmering vision in evergreen and tinsel.

But it was not to be.

A holiday miracle: Tech-ing the halls

Imagine my delight (decades later) at the discovery of gizmos and gadgets that could transform my deathtrap of a holiday into everything I’d always wanted—with little to no risk of anything bursting into flames.

Here are some smart home technology hacks I’ve discovered for the holidays that make the little girl inside of me dance with more joie de vivre than the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Christmas tree watering system

Santa's tree helper
Santa's tree helper automatic watering system list price as of post date. Read full disclaimer.

Keep that tree hydrated!

Cleverly clothed in the guise of a gift, Santa’s Tree Helper waters your tree with its 2.5-gallon tank and automatic watering tube. Plus, a water sensor lets you know when it’s time to refill the tank. No need to threaten bursting or flames of any kind.

This automated watering system also keeps you from overfilling the tree (and drenching those pretty gifts) thanks to its nifty water level sensor.

Watering alerts

Dry tree alerts
tree nanny
Tree Nanny

Amazon list price as of post date. Read full disclaimer.

Let classic Christmas songs tell you it's time to water the tree.

The Tree Nanny plays "Jingle Bells" when it senses low water in the tree reservoir. But the best feature is the funnel, which lets you pour water from a comfortable height. No crawling under those prickly needles spilling water everywhere. 

Indoor/outdoor smart plug

Smart plug
black iHome plug list price as of post date. Read full disclaimer.

Control your lights and your power bill!

Come home to an irresponsibly bright holiday display of lights that would bring a tear to Clark Griswold’s eye with the iHome iSP100. This smart plug works with an app and other smart home devices (like Amazon Alexa) to let you control your lights from anywhere.

You can save electricity while you’re at work or running errands, and then swipe your finger to fire up the festive display when you’re on your way home.

App-controlled string lights

App-controlled smart lights
twinkly christmas lights list price as of post date. Read full disclaimer.

Turn your lights into the star of the party!

Kick it up a notch with these smart lights by Twinkly that give you more than remote control. You can control these lights with the app or use voice control with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.

The Twinkly lights dazzle with different colors and programmable effects for every holiday mood. Plus, when you synchronize multiple light strands across your home, you’ll be the envy of the block.

All I wanted when I was a bright-eyed youngster was a holiday experience that wasn’t threatening to end me. Now my grownup holiday wish list is loaded with smart devices that can do everything from keeping the tree nice and hydrated to turning the lights on and off at will. Whether or not you had an alarmist upbringing, you can make your holiday more magical (and a heck of a lot safer) by incorporating the latest smart home technology.


Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. utilizes paid Amazon links.

Certain content that appears on this site comes from Amazon. This content is provided “as is” and is subject to change or removal at any time.

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Data as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change. SafeWise uses paid Amazon links.

†Google, Google Nest Secure, Google Home, Google Nest Protect, and other related marks are trademarks of Google LLC.

Rebecca Edwards
Written by
Rebecca Edwards
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past decade. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month poring over crime and safety reports and spotting trends. Her expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her expert advice and analysis in places like NPR, TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, HGTV, MSN, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, and an ever-growing library of podcast, radio and TV clips in the US and abroad.

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