How To Make Alexa The Center of Your Smart Home

Alexa can control everything from your lights to your television

We all know that Amazon’s Alexa can be a great at answering quick questions, reminding you of calendar events, and helping you order products through Amazon. But, did you know Alexa can also be a powerful tool in setting up your smart home?

There are hundreds of smart home devices out there these days, from connected lights to thermostats to wall outlets. To operate most of them you need to download a device-specific app. While that’s not a huge deal if you’re using just one device, for instance, a set of lights in your bedroom, the process can get increasingly more complicated the more devices you install in your home and the more apps you have to install on your phone to control them all.

Once you’ve paired your smart home device with Alexa; however, you’ll be able to control everything using your voice. That means you can turn on your AC, lock your front door, and even change the channel on your television, all without lifting a finger. Rather than just being an addition to your smart home setup, Amazon's Alexa can (and should) be the center of it.

How to Set Up Alexa to Run Your Smart Home

Unlike setting up other smart home devices, pairing connected devices with Alexa is a fairly simple process. To do so, you’ll need to launch the Alexa app on your computer, and then enable the skill for each of the devices you plan on using with your Amazon Echo or Echo Dot. For instance, if you have smart lights and a smart thermostat you’ll need to enable the skill for both of them individually in order for them to work. Enabling a skill in most cases is literally as easy as pressing a button.

Once you've enabled a particular skill, some smart home devices also require you to pair your device with your Dot or Echo, a process that's done simply by saying "Pair Devices" to Alexa and letting her to her thing. She'll find your light bulb, thermostat, or other device and handle the connection process herself. Easy peasy.

If you're just getting started building out your smart home, then here's a list of some of the smart home devices out there that are currently compatible with Alexa as well as how to get them to work with the Echo or Dot in your home.

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Lock Your Front Door With August's Smart Lock

If you have an August Smart Lock then you can use Alexa to lock your door. With this skill enabled you can ask Alexa questions like “Alexa, is the front door locked?” to make sure everything is safe and secure before heading to bed. You can also use Alexa to lock your door one you’re inside. For security reasons; however, the feature does not work for unlocking the door. Enable the August Smart Lock Alexa Skill here.

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Power On and Off Your Lights

When it comes to smart lights, you’ll need to not only enable the skill for them to work, you’ll have to show Alexa where your lights are as well. To do that, once you enable the skill for the smart lights you own, you’ll need  to say “Alexa, discover devices.”

Phillips’ Hue lights are arguably the most-used smart lights out there. You can enable the Philips Hue Alexa skill here. Once enabled, you can both power the lights on and off as well as set different brightness settings or activate different scene settings you’ve already set up for the room.

If you have Kuna-Powered security lights, you can also use Alexa to power those on, by simply saying the name you’ve given the lights within Kuna. For instance, you might say “Alexa, turn on my backyard lights.” You can enable the Kuna Alexa Skill here.

Alexa also works with Vivint, and Wink-enabled lights, as well as several others. Check out the full list of Alexa-supported smart lights here.

If you already have your smart lights installed in your home, then you can control them using the same names you gave them in your smart light's app. For instance, you can ask Alexa to turn on your porch lights, or dim the lights in your bedroom.

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Control Your Television Using Logitech's Harmony Hub

If you have a Logitech Harmony Hub, you can use Alexa to control a lot of your home theater setup. The feature works with Logitech Harmony Elite, Harmony Companion and Harmony Hub, and when connected allows you to do everything from turn on your television on launching Netflix or a specific channeled. You can also use Alexa to power on gaming systems connected to the hub, such as Microsoft’s Xbox, and turn off your entire entertainment center at once when you’re ready to head to bed. You can enable ​​Logitech's Harmony Hub Alexa skill here.

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Control Your Thermostat With Alexa

You’re already comfortable on the couch when you realize it’s just a little too warm. Rather than get up and turn the thermostat down, an Alexa integration can make it so you can just ask Alexa to adjust the temp for you.

Alexa works with a number of different thermostats including Carrier, Honeywell, and Sensi. The most well-known thermostat with Alexa compatibility; however, is probably Nest. Once you have the Nest Alexa skill enabled, you can ask her to do things like changes the temperature on a certain floor of your home to something different, or bring the temp in the whole home down by a few degrees. If you’re just not sure whether it’s hot in your house or you’re having a hot flash, you can also simply ask Alexa what the temperature is.

Check out the full list of Alexa supported thermostats here.

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Connect Alexa To Your Sonos Speaker

Sonos is working on a software solution that will allow you to use its line of speakers with Alexa, but for now, you can make your Sonos speakers work with Alexa by physically connecting your Echo Dot to your Sonos speaker.

Sonos has detailed instructions up on its site explaining how the process works, but essentially you’ll need to connect your speaker and Dot together using a stereo cable. Once connected, whenever your Dot wakes up (i.e. when you say “Alexa”), your Sonos will wake up as well. That means you’ll be able to hear Alexa’s responses to general questions a little louder, as well as play your music at a much higher volume than is possible on a Dot or Echo on its own.

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Control Your Frigidaire Cool Connect Smart Air Conditioner

If you have a Frigidaire Cool Connect smart air conditioner, you can control that with Alexa. To do so, you first need to enable the Frigidaire skill within the Alexa app. The app will prompt you to enter your login credentials for the air conditioner, which will be the same ones you use in the Frigidaire mobile application. Once connected, you’ll be able to do things like turn the air conditioner off and on, lower the temperature, or set the temperature using your voice rather than the app.

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Power on Anything Connected To a Wemo Outlet

With Belkin’s Wemo switches you can literally control anything that you plug in. The switches aren’t powerful enough to do things like change the channel on your TV or dim your lights, but they can handle basic on/off functionality for anything that’s connected to them. Try it with something like a fan in the summer, or an electric space heater in the winter. The functionality with this one is only limited by your imagination, and much like the lights, you'll have to ask Alexa to search for your devices once you enable the skill. You can enable the Belkin Wemo Alexa skill here.

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