Build an Alexa smart home: How to connect lights, plugs and more

How to add, connect and control your smart home tech with Alexa

How connect Alexa to your lights and plugs
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An Alexa smart speaker has the power to control your lights, plugs and other devices – and it's so easy to set up.

First, you're going to need some Alexa devices, which including smart bulbs, connected plugs, followed by smart home hubs, thermostats and security cameras.

Buying a connected bulb is the simplest way to get Alexa to control your home lighting, but it can be a little impractical if you had scores of bulbs around the room.

We usually advise newbies just to choose some mood lights to start off with, and then you can trick out the rest of your home lighting later.

And don't forget, lighting can also be controlled vis smart plugs for lamps – and you can even make the light switch itself connect to Alexa and leave the bulbs well alone. Read our guides for that, for more ideas.

In this guide we look at how to connect your devices up with Alexa and how to control them.

Alexa smart home speaker line-up

Why connect your home with Alexa?

So first of all, why bother to go to the effort of buying Alexa-compatible devices? Well, to put it succinctly, Alexa really starts to make sense in your home when controlling smart home tech from an Echo device.

Alexa is extremely adept at making smart home tech work together. It’s easy to set up single command groups that can control multiple lights, plugs and other devices together – which means a single command can set the mood in your entire house, be it walking in the door, getting ready for some TV time, or just switching everything off before bed.

How to set up smart home devices in Alexa

The first bit comes down to following the instructions of the specific device. We’ll take Philips Hue lights as an example. Before you get started you’ll make sure the Philips Bridge is installed, that your lights are plugged into fittings and they’re working properly within the Hue app.

That goes for any device that's not Amazon-made – you’ll need to install it properly first within its own app and ecosystem before you get going with Alexa.

echo zigbee speaker

Use the Echo Zigbee smart home hub

The exception to this rule is if you’re using the new 4th-gen Echo, Amazon Echo Plus or one of the newer Echo Show models. These Alexa smart speakers double up as smart home hubs and have the power to discover some smart home devices, if they use the Zigbee protocol.

While this will need a little investigation on your part, Belkin WeMo, Honeywell thermostats, Ikea Tradfli, Philips Hue and Yale locks are all Zigbee compatible.

Instead of needing to use an Alexa skill, you can search and find devices when they're plugged in. You might not get full functionality, however. For example, you might not get all color shades of a smart bulb.

add devices in alexa app

How to add devices to Alexa

Unless you’re using a Zigbee-enbled Echo speaker (detailed above), you’re going to need to install Alexa skills for the devices you want to Alexa to discover. This isn’t a complicated process, but you will need the login info for each of the smart device ecosystems you’re going to add.

That’s because an Alexa skill effectively links your Amazon account to that of Lifx, Philips Hue, Hive, Nest or whatever service you’re using. The easiest way to install the Alexa skill is to go to the app, open the side menu and select Skills & Games from the list, then search. The app will take you through the process of adding your login details.

Once you’ve set your devices up in their own ecosystems, it’s time to hook them up with Alexa. You can do this two ways:

1. Just ask an Alexa-enabled speaker: “Alexa discover my devices”

2. Or, head to the Amazon Alexa app, tap Devices on the bottom right of the screen and then press the + button at the top right (see above).

Alexa will scan your home network and also use the pre-installed skills to locate devices you might want to add.

Whatever you’ve named them in your app will be the default name when it’s sucked into the Alexa app - but those names can always be changed...

Alexa smart home lighting

Rename your devices in the Alexa app

Alexa will take the name of a device, found in its native app – but this can lead to clashes between devices, if for example, you have two different manufacturers of smart bulb, which have both defaulted to “lounge light”.

The result can be chaotic and you'll find you'll have some Alexa housekeeping to do.

However, you can name devices in the Alexa app separately, so you’ll want to go through and give them all easy-to-remember and logical names. Also, avoid clashes in Alexa between even random types of device. Having a “lounge” Sonos speaker and “lounge lamp” can play havoc with Alexa, so try and keep things separate.

To rename, follow the steps below:

1. Open the Alexa app

2. Tap the Devices tab at the bottom

3. Choose the type of product from this screen, which makes it easier to find the exact device

4. Tap on a device and select the Settings cog in the top-right corner

5. Tap Edit Name.

add alexa smart home groups

Set up Alexa smart home groups

From within the Smart Home menu of the Amazon Alexa smartphone app, you can add any device into a single group, which can be controlled by voice. For example, you may want to group all lights on your ground floor into a single "Downstairs lights" group.

That way, it'll be much easier to integrate the devices into routines, or control multiple devices with a single voice command.

Do so using these steps:

1. Open the Alexa app

2. Tap Devices

3. Press the + button in the top right

4. Tap Add Group

5. Choose Smart Home Group and give it a name that you'll remember. This could be "main lights" or "downstairs lights" for example

6. Tap the devices you want from within the list, and then you're done

Third party lighting scenes

Import scenes from third-party apps

If you've designed scenes within apps such as Philips Hue, Alexa will also detect and import them. During a scan of your network, scenes will be added to the Alexa app.

You just need to have installed the relevant skills. Once registered in the app, you can then ask Alexa to control them.

What Alexa commands can I use?

So you have your home lighting, cameras, plugs and more set up with Alexa, and your scenes and groups, too. Here’s some ideas to get you started.

"Alexa, lights on."

"Alexa, lights off."

"Alexa, dim main lights to 50%."

"Set the light to blue."

"Set the light to soft white."

"Make the light warmer/cooler."

"Alexa, set the temperature to 21."

"Alexa, it's Bedtime" [to activate a Scene].

What happens if Alexa can’t find your device?

If you’ve gone through all these steps and Alexa isn’t seeing your device, there’s some steps you can take. For brevity, here’s your essential Alexa troubleshooting checklist

  • Check it’s a Works with Alexa product
  • Is it powered on and ready to be discovered?
  • Delete and reinstall the Alexa skill, and sign in
  • Check your phone, Alexa and this device are all connected to the same Wi-Fi network
  • Turn Alexa off, the device and check how to do a hardware reset
  • Update your router settings

How to delete smart home devices from Alexa and remove duplicates

If you're sick and tired of hearing Alexa say, "A few things share that name, which one did you want?" or "Please try again using 'percent' for brightness or 'degrees' for temperature" after you give a basic smart home voice command, then take a look at our guide on deleting devices from your Alexa smart home.

More Amazon Alexa how-tos

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