This step-by-step guide will walk you through how to set up Alexa throughout the house. It will include how to set up Alexa skills, scanning devices, managing your smart home, renaming your smart devices, creating a group, room, and routine, and other related questions.
We will also discuss some of the devices you need to accomplish your project of turning your house into a smart home. To start off, let us first get acquainted with the Alexa family of smart speakers that will be required for your smart home ambitions.
Guide on Setting Up Your Smart Devices for Alexa
The first thing you should do when setting up Alexa in your home is to connect any smart devices you already have, including smart heating, lights, cameras, and plugs.
You will need to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure that each device is properly set up and functioning properly. This entails plugging the device in a power source, connecting a hub to your router, installing the Alexa app, searching for your device, and entering your passcode.
Best Smart Devices that work with Alexa
There is a wide array of devices which are compatible with Alexa, and the list continues to expound. If you are searching for the best smart devices that work with Alexa, here are some options (with Amazon links) you may want to consider:
- Hive lights
- Philips Hue
How to Set Up Alexa in Your Home Using Alexa Skills
Alexa Skills are a set of built-in capabilities that are tailored for different functions.
Some of the basic Alexa Skills perform tasks such as playing music from multiple streaming platforms, answering questions, providing weather forecasts, and querying information hubs such as Wikipedia.
A good way of thinking about Alexa Skills is as apps which mainly interact with voice prompts.
In order to find Alexa Skills for your smart devices, you can either ask Alexa to search for them directly via voice command or just use the Alexa app on your phone to search for them.
You should note, however, that even if you install the apps by using your voice, you will still need to enter your account details in the app in order to connect it to your smart devices.
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to enable Skills using your smart device:
- Open the Alexa app on your device.
- Click on the “hamburger” menu icon in the top left-hand corner of your Alexa app homepage.
- Select the Skills tab from the menu.
- Search for the brand you want depending on the smart device you are using (for instance Nest, Hue, Hive, etc.).
- Once you have located the Skill you need, click on ‘enable’.
After you have enabled the Skill, you will need to enter your account details for the device you wish to connect with Alexa.
The details you provide for the account should be similar to the ones provided when you set-up your smart devices. For example, when enabling Hive, you will use your MyHive ID.
It is critical that you read through all the details in case there are any specific phrases you will need to properly set up and control for your smart devices. For example, you might have to say, “Alexa, ask Hue to increase my heating temperature,” to prompt your desired response rather than, “Alexa, make it hotter in here.”
Scanning for Devices Using Alexa
Once you have completed the setup process for your smart devices, the next thing you need to do is to scan them via Alexa in order to finalize the installation. This Echo scanning process allows Alexa to identify all the smart devices in your house and sync them so that they can be controlled remotely through voice commands.
This step typically takes less than one minute. You can initiate the scan process using a voice prompt such as, “Alexa scan for devices.” After performing the scan, Alexa will tell you all the smart devices it has found in your home.
As long as the Skills are enabled and connected, Alexa will be able to interact with your smart devices via voice commands across any of your Echo devices and through the Echo app on your smartphone.
Anytime you add a new device, you will not have to enable the Skill again since you can just scan it on Alexa and it will be detected. Hence, your scanned devices should work based on the Skills that are already set up on your device.
Managing your Alexa Smart Home
Once all your smart devices are connected to Alexa, you can easily and conveniently control them remotely using voice commands on your smartphone. Here are the steps you need to follow in order to view the control features on the Alexa app:
- Open the Alexa app on your smartphone device.
- Tap on the “hamburger” menu icon at the top of the page.
- Click on ‘smart home’.
You will be able to see all of your smart devices that Alexa knows about including all lightbulbs and cameras that are connected. In some cases, you might find duplicates especially if there was a Skill change.
It is therefore important to manage all your devices since failure to do so might lead to Alexa constantly asking “which device” you are referring to.
Renaming Alexa Smart Home Devices
One of the most effective ways to manage and control your smart home devices that are connected to Alexa is to rename them.
Renaming your smart devices also allows you to personalize them according to your preferences. So instead of confusing which light to turn on, for example, you could tell Alexa to, “turn on living room light,” for more clarity.
Here is a simple guide on how to rename your smart devices:
- Open the Alexa app on your smartphone.
- Tap on the ‘hamburger’ menu icon and select ‘smart home’.
- Scroll through the devices tab and select the smart device you wish to rename.
- Go to the top left-hand corner and select “edit’.
- Input the name of your choice.
Ensure that all the names you choose are easily memorable as this will help you give specific voice prompts to Alexa when you need to manage specific smart devices.
Creating an Alexa Group or Room
The grouping feature on Alexa allows you to control several connected smart devices at the same time so that they function simultaneously. Apart from grouping smart home devices, you can also create multi-room audio using this feature.
Here are the steps you need to take when creating a group on Alexa for your smart devices:
- Open the Alexa app on your phone.
- Tap the ‘hamburger’ menu icon in the top right-hand corner.
- Click on ‘Smart Home’.
- Select the Groups tab then click on the ‘Add Group’ button.
- Click on “Smart Home Group” and input a name for the group, for instance ‘Bedroom lights’.
- Select the devices you wish to include in that group.
Once you create a group on Alexa, all the devices in that group that will simultaneously react to your voice prompt. The grouping feature typically works best with on/off applications.
However, you can use the feature to give your devices more detailed prompts. For instance, you can use the command, “Alexa, make the lights dim in my living room.”
Here is a helpful video for finding devices, creating groups and scenes.
Create Alexa Routines
Apart from setting up groups for enhanced control of your smart devices, you can achieve a great deal of automation by creating Routines. These allow Alexa to associate some actions and prompts with specific trigger phrases.
Routines can be a bit complicated to work with since the phrase you select must be distinct in order to avoid confusion with other commands that are native to Alexa.
Here is a guide on how to set up an Alexa Routine:
- Open the Alexa app on your smartphone device.
- Tap the ‘hamburger’ menu icon found on the top right-hand corner.
- Select ‘Routines’.
- Click on the + (add) button to create a new Routine.
- Input a phrase that triggers the routine as well as the time when your new routine should happen.
- Scroll through the actions you want from the offered categories and select the one you desire.
- Choose the device you want the routine to activate.
Amazon Smart Speakers Compatible with Alexa
As mentioned at the outset, you need Amazon smart speakers in order to set up Alexa throughout your home. There are three options you can choose from, and it is possible to use them together in various combinations, but more on that later. The Amazon speakers you can choose from for your Alexa-controlled smart home are:
Amazon Echo/Echo Plus
This powerful speaker is designed for playing music and other audio. It comes with a very sensitive and wide range microphone that can pick up sounds from a considerably long distance.
With the Amazon Echo, you can dictate voice prompts to Alexa and she will hear and respond even if you are in another room. Its robustness and performance, however, puts this smart speaker higher on the price spectrum compared to the other Alexa-compatible speakers.
Amazon Echo Dot
The Amazon Echo Dot is basically an Echo with the speaker removed and an added audio output port. It also comes with a built-in Bluetooth radio. This device has always-listening features, much like its high-profile cousin.
It also plays music on its own, although the sound quality is similar to that of a smartphone rather than a dedicated speaker. But this should not be a big issue since the audio output and Bluetooth allow you to connect it to your own speakers or home entertainment system for better sound quality.
Unlike the other two members of the Alexa family who have an always-listening feature, the Amazon Tap trades this convenience for portability thanks to its battery-powered design.
Just as its name hints at, you will need to ‘tap’ a button in order to give your voice prompts. With the other two speakers, you only need to say the Alexa wake-word to trigger a response.
It is worth noting that while the Amazon Echo and Dot do not have tap-to-speak features, they are compatible with a Bluetooth remote that allows you to give commands beyond normal listening range. You only need to push the button to give voice prompts. This remote can be purchased separately from the smart speakers.
All three of these options offer their pros and cons, so it is up to you to choose the one that fits your needs, level of desired convenience, optimal features, and price range.
Selecting the Right Amazon Smart Speakers for your Home
Choosing the right smart speaker is crucial when setting up Alexa in your house. The Amazon Echo is a great choice if you want a high-performance virtual assistant as well as a music-playing device to fill a large space with decent sound.
The Amazon Dot is the most affordable option, so if you do not care as much about music quality and are only looking for an always-listening assistant, this may be the right choice for you.
This smart speaker is also not a bad pick even if you are looking for a music-playing device since you can easily connect it to your home sound system or dedicated Bluetooth speaker.
The Amazon Tap lacks some of the conveniences of the other two smart speakers since it does not have the always-listening feature. However, it is still a good choice if you want Alexa and a portable speaker in your outdoor spaces.
Additionally, perhaps the lack of the always-listening feature is what you are looking for; if so, the Amazon Tap is a great choice and will work well.
Recommended Setup for Alexa Depending on House Size
One of the most important factors to consider when setting up Alexa for your smart home is the size of your house. Considering this technology acts in response to voice commands, it will be important to consider the range and distance at which you will be commanding your virtual assistant.
For small homes and apartments (one-floor) of up to 1,000 square feet, a single always-listening Alexa device such as an Amazon Echo or Amazon Echo Dot should be sufficient.
It is advisable to put the smart speaker in a central location in the room that you most consistently inhabit in order to remain within shouting range.
Both the Amazon Echo and Amazon Echo Dot are able to pick up your voice through one closed door. However, if your house has lots of interior doors, you may want to purchase a Voice Remote to minimize shouting.
If your house is medium-sized (one or two floors) with a floor area of between 1,000 and 2,500 square feet, one Echo or Echo Dot smart speaker is enough as long as you place it in a central room.
Alexa will still be able to hear you even with a one-wall separation. However, if you want to give voice prompts that can be heard over music and television noise, you will need to be in the same room as the smart speaker.
For large homes (two floors or more) with a floor space of more than 2,500 square feet, it is recommended to keep one Amazon Echo or Amazon Echo Dot device per floor.
The single-wall hearing limit still applies in this regard. In case your home floor plan is wider than it is long, you will require more than one Echo device for proper coverage. If you realize that Alexa can not hear you over your TV or music playing, the best way to resolve the problem is with the use of a Voice Remote.
Amazon Tap devices are typically convenient for moving between places where you only want to play music occasionally. However, you can also use Amazon Echo and Amazon Echo Dot smart speakers for the same purpose since they can be unplugged or replugged easily.
How do Alexa Smart Devices Work in Combination?
Adding multiple devices to the same Amazon account is a very simple and easy process that you can do in a matter of minutes. The Amazon Alexa app has a step-by-step guide that can help you synchronize the control of any smart home devices to a single Echo product, or multiple devices working simultaneously.
The Amazon Echo Dot and Tap work particularly great together thanks to the audio line-in feature in the former and Bluetooth in the latter.
You can easily connect these two smart speakers using a cable or choose to do so wirelessly via Bluetooth. Combining these devices is very advantageous since it provides you with the good quality speakers and portability of the Tap as well as the always-listening Alexa feature of the Dot.
Purchasing these two devices together will cost you the same as a single Amazon Echo. This makes it a very good deal, especially if you think about all of the convenience, portability, and flexibility you will enjoy.
Another great combination of Alexa smart speakers is the Amazon Echo paired with a Voice Remote. This costs slightly more than the Amazon Echo Dot and Tap. However, it comes with a reasonable payoff since you get the best speaker out of all the Amazon devices.
The Voice Remote is also Bluetooth enabled and has a very impressive range. This means that you can make voice prompts from remote areas (such as the basement) and Alexa will still hear and respond to your command.
If you are looking for the most affordable way to extend Alexa in your house, I would recommend buying the Amazon Echo Dot and extending it with a Voice Remote. That setup will cost you only half the amount you would pay if you were to opt for the other combinations.
If you already have a speaker system for your Amazon Echo Dot, or do not care about using Alexa for music playback, then this is definitely the best option for you.
Must all my Smart Devices be of the Same Brand?
This is without a doubt one of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to connecting Alexa with smart home devices.
If you are using Alexa as your central control platform for all your smart devices, you do not really need to worry about mixing different brands. Generally, the system will work quite well with most brands.
Obviously, there is an advantage in choosing lights and plugs from the same brand since they all use the same hub and app. This makes setting them up very simple and tidy.
You may also end up saving a lot of money by opting for a single brand of lights or plugs. However, all smart devices do not have to be of the same brand in your smart home.
You should note that there are a number of brands that may be incompatible with Alexa or simply not very convenient to connect. For instance, most Zigbee devices lack advanced features, custom controls, and firmware upgrades.
It is, therefore, recommended to use Zigbee for basic devices such as single light bulbs rather than sophisticated devices such as thermostats that typically require more advanced control features.
What Happens when Alexa Goes out of Sync?
While adding multiple devices to your Alexa app is a very simple process, you cannot combine two Amazon Echo devices to achieve a stereo effect.
You should note that putting several Amazon Echo smart speakers too close together might lead to a lack of synchronization. For instance, if you prompt the Echo in your bedroom to play a certain track, the Amazon Dot in your kitchen might also hear the command. This would lead to both devices playing the same tune, but out of sync.
Luckily, there is now an easy way to fix synchronization problems between Amazon Echo devices. If you have several Alexa smart speakers in hearing range, only the one that hears you best will respond. However, you need to have all the devices synced to the same account in order for this to work.
In case your kids or partner log into one of your smart speakers with a different account, you will very likely still experience overlap between the devices.
Supposing you do have a family member with a different account and an Amazon Echo speaker in an adjacent room to yours, the best way to prevent overlap problems is to switch the wake word for one of the devices. You will need to open the Alexa app and program it via voice prompt, to respond to a ‘wake’ word of your choosing.
Is Alexa Worth the Investment?
Yes, Alexa is worth the investment. Alexa is undoubtedly one of the most versatile and useful technologies in the world today.
Thanks to its effective home automation capabilities and wide array of convenient and practical features, this virtual assistant has certainly revolutionized the way we live.
You can easily connect all the smart devices in your home and operate them remotely using the voice prompts of this central control system. It is no surprise then, that many people are adopting this great innovation by Amazon to make their domestic lives more convenient.
If you have been thinking about setting up Alexa in your home to run your smart devices, you can be sure that this is an investment worth making. With Alexa, you will completely transform your ordinary home into a highly efficient and comfortable nest for your entire family.
In case you were wondering how to connect and operate your smart home, I have no doubt in my mind that the information in this article has fully equipped you with all the information you need for this exciting project. Install Alexa into your home and enjoy all the endless possibilities that this groundbreaking technology has to offer.