If you’re the proud owner of an Amazon Alexa smart speaker – such as the Amazon Echo or Sonos One – you’re probably well versed in all the cool and clever things Alexa can do. But after a few weeks with their smart speaker, evidence shows a lot of people start to look at starting to create their smart home.
Smart speakers are gateway devices to the smart home, and are the key that unlocks a world of control. The favourite device of Amazon Alexa users is smart bulbs, followed by smart home hubs, thermostats and cameras.
In this guide we look at how to connect your devices up with Alexa and how to control them.
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 she automates stuff.
That moment where it all makes sense is different for everyone – ours was connecting our thermostat, being able to quickly boost the heating without having to leave the sofa, or open an app. Simple, intuitive and quick.
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 get the mood in your entire house, be it walking in the door, getting ready for some TV time, or just switching everything off for bed time.
How to set up your smart home devices
The first bit isn’t an exact science, and 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 – you’ll need to install it properly first within its own app and ecosystem before you get going with Alexa.
How to add smart home devices to Alexa
Unless you’re using the Amazon Echo Plus, 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.
Essential reading: Essential Philips Hue apps
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, choose Skills from the list, and search for the brand. The app will take you through the process of adding your login details.
Scan for smart devices
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: first you can just ask “Alexa discover my devices” or you can head to the Amazon Alexa app > Smart Home and Choose Add devices.
Alexa will scan your home network and use the pre-installed skills to locate devices. Whatever you’ve named them in your app will be the default name when it’s sucked into the Alexa app.
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
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” for example. The result can be chaotic.
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 head to the Alexa app > Smart Home and tap on a device. From there you can quickly rename each device.
Set up device 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.
It's pretty easy to do. Head to the Alexa app > Smart Home > Groups > Add group. Choose Smart Home Group and give it a name that you'll remember. This could be "main lights" or "downstairs lights" for example. Tap the devices you want from within the list, and then you're done.
Import scenes from your 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.
So you have your lights, 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].