​Alexa smart home guide: How to add and control your lights and devices

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

How to set up your Alexa smart home

If you’re the proud owner of an Amazon Alexa smart speaker, you have a super smart home controller at your disposal. But if you're stumped on how to add your smart home devices to Alexa, we've got your back.

Smart speakers are gateway devices; they're the key that unlocks easy control of the smart home. Research has shown that the preferred 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.

Best Alexa compatible deals

Fire TV Stick 4K - Save $25
Fire TV Stick 4K - Save $25
Echo Show plus Hue and Dot - Save $70
Echo Show plus Hue and Dot - Save $70
Sengled multicolor starter kit - Save $28
Sengled multicolor starter kit - Save $28
Philips Hue white starter kit - Save 29%
Philips Hue white starter kit - Save 29%

Alexa smart home guide: How to add and control your lights and devices

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 devices.

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.

Alexa smart home guide: How to add and control your lights and devices

How to add 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, 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: first you can just ask “Alexa discover my devices” or you can 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 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.

Alexa smart home guide: How to add and control your lights and devices

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.

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 > Devices tab at the bottom. Choose the type of product from this screen, which makes it easier to find the exact device. Tap on a device, select the Settings cog in the top-right corner and tap Edit Name.

Alexa smart home guide: How to add and control your lights and devices

The top Alexa-compatible smart home tech

Smart plug: Amazon Smart Plug
Smart plug: Amazon Smart Plug

If you're in the Alexa ecosystem, Amazon's own smart plug is the slickest, if not the most feature-packed, of the bunch.

Security cam: Ring Video Doorbell 2
Security cam: Ring Video Doorbell 2

Ring's doorbell offers all the essential features along with some decent Alexa integrations. Now in its second iteration, it's one of the best smart doorbells money can buy.

Smart lights: Philips Hue (starter pack)
Smart lights: Philips Hue (starter pack)

Philips Hue still offers the best in smart lighting, with a great range of high quality bulbs - and full Alexa compatibility.

Smart thermostat: Ecobee4
Smart thermostat: Ecobee4

The Ecobee4 isn't just Alexa-compatible, but even has the assistant living inside it. It's also a fantastic smart thermostat in its own right.

Set up Alexa 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 > Devices > press the + button in the top right > 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.

Alexa smart home guide: How to add and control your lights and devices

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 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].

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

More Amazon Alexa how-tos

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