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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

A HomeKit dimmer for my outdoor patio lights

A patio, with lights

Like seemingly everyone else, during the early days of the pandemic I tried to spruce up our outdoor space by buying some LED string lights. They were affordable, and with a simple kit I was able to suspend some nice lighting above my patio.

But plugging and unplugging the lights was no good, so I began my chase of an acceptable way to control the lights remotely—turning them on and off, yes, but also dimming them. I started with a radio-based remote dimmer, which worked—but the remote wasn’t very good, and frequently required multiple button presses to do the job.

I dreamt of an outdoor dimmer compatible with HomeKit. Lutron makes an outdoor smart plug that’s HomeKit compatible, and I tried it—but unfortunately, it doesn’t offer dimmer functionality, just on and off. I finally found the Treatlife outdoor smart dimmer plug, which did work—with Alexa and Google Home, but not HomeKit.

So it was Homebridge to the rescue! Turns out that Treatlife is just one brand name for the Tuya line of products, and there was a Homebridge app for that. After registering as a Tuya developer and getting an API key, I was able to get the dimmer to run somewhat reliably.

I set up a HomeKit automation that automatically turns on the lights, at about 20% brightness, after sunset and then turns them off after we’ve gone to bed for the evening. Even when we aren’t outside, it’s really nice to be able to look out the doors from our living room and see the patio rather than inky darkness.

But I never stopped looking for a proper HomeKit-enabled outdoor dimmer. And just the other week I found one, the $30 Meross Outdoor Dimmer Plug. I wish I could give you a lot of details about it, but that’s the thing… it just works. I pulled out the Treatlife/Tuya dimmer and popped in the Meross model in its place, added it to HomeKit via the Home app, and everything just works.

So if you, too, bought a bunch of cheap LED string lights and want to control them with HomeKit, I have good news! There’s finally something that will do the job.

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