Raise your hand if you've had enough of the annual put-holiday-lights-up/take-holiday-lights-down tradition. It's tedious, potentially dangerous work, as there's almost always a ladder involved, to say nothing of eaves that require tippy-toe reaches. What if you could put up lights that stay put year-round, suitable for not only Christmas but also Halloween, July 4 and other occasions?
That's the idea behind Govee's Permanent Outdoor Light kit, which is available in 50-, 100- and 150-foot configurations. Last year, I installed one on my house, and I'm still extremely happy with it — though getting there took some doing. Here's my Govee Permanent Outdoor Light kit review.
A quick note before I go on: Last year, these kits were sold out for months leading up to — and then after — the holidays. This could happen again, so if you have even the slightest interest, I'd act now while they're in stock.
The kit comes with three, six or nine light-strings, each one measuring 16.4 feet, that get joined together for whatever overall length is needed. Unfortunately, you can't shorten one of them if it's too long, so you might need to get creative with installation. In my 100-foot kit, I ended up using five of the six, which proved just about perfect for going from one end of my house to the other.
I did hate leaving that the last string unused, but adding it to the setup would have created a weird mid-eave termination. If you run into a similar issue, Govee now sells individual 16.4-foot lengths you can add on, though those are available only direct from Govee.
The kit comes with a useful quick-start setup card along with a pretty basic instruction manual; unfortunately there's no mention of a more detailed online version (though I did find this helpful video). My installation began with the very tall eave over my garage. I ended up hiring a handyman for that part, as I wasn't comfortable going up a 20-foot ladder. Each LED in the string has a strong peel-and-stick adhesive, but I also opted to screw in some included plastic clips along the way, the better to keep everything in place.
I did run into one problem. Although I tested all six light strings indoors before venturing outdoors, the third one I put up refused to work. I tried swapping it for one of the other strings; same result. An email to Govee customer support returned a frustrating, fractured-English response that didn't really address the issue.
Thankfully, I discovered that by unplugging the control box, then plugging it back in after the additional lengths were connected, everything worked properly again.
That box connects to your home Wi-Fi network, thus allowing you to control the lights via Govee's mobile app and, if you have one, an Alexa or Google voice assistant (sorry, Siri users). Depending on where and how you install the lights, that control box might end up inside your house or just outside; mine landed in the far corner of my garage, and luckily I had no trouble connecting to it. If you end up with a similar setup, you may need a Wi-Fi extender to get a signal out there.
Once the lights were up, I turned to the Govee app. I'll be honest: It's pretty confusing in places. For example, there's a feature called Effects Lab, but no explanation of what it is or how to use it. And while it's fairly easy to set up timers that automate lights on and lights off, I found myself baffled by the Auto-Play option.
Meanwhile, each of the four available modes — Music, Color, Scene and DIY — reveals a different set of sub-tools to figure out. Scene is the easiest, as it's where a single tap will activate various presets — though even these are a bit muddled, because they're divided into tabs labeled Natural, Festival, Life and Emotion.
On the day before a big Michigan State Spartans football game, I wanted to program what seemed like a simple setup: alternating green and white lights (the team's colors). It took me quite a while to figure out how to do this, and it turned out to be a painstaking manual process.
But here's the good news: The app is complicated, but the lights themselves are fantastic. They're very bright, and when installed properly they sort of bathe the surface beneath them, making the overall effect seem bigger. It's fun to mess around with all the different scenes; some glow, some blink, some animate the lights in different directions.
True story: On Halloween, a lot of neighborhood parents came to the door with compliments — and not just because we were giving out full bars. Many of them said, "I want these! Where can we get them?" (Again, the lights, not the candy.)
I will say $300 feels steep for a strip of LEDs, bright and weatherproof and "smart" though they may be. On the other hand, many other permanent light kits cost even more, so in that respect this feels like a bargain. I also appreciate Govee's 3-year warranty, which makes me feel better about the investment.
And let me put it another way: One trip to the ER after toppling off a ladder? Way more expensive. Forgive the gallows humor, but it's true. My Govee lights are up and they're staying up. I've risked my holiday-decorating neck for the last time.