You love Amazon's Echo. Or, if you don't, you soon will.
Echo is the smart speaker that has just about everyone talking to smart speakers. You use it to listen to your favorite radio station or podcast, buy products from Amazon, hail Uber, order food, control the temperature in your home and so many other skills.
Yet, even if you've been using Echo, and its voice-activated assistant Alexa for some time now, you probably don't know that you can control your home with Alexa's help. You'll be surprised to know that you can ask Alexa to dim the lights in your house to make it cozier and turn the temperature up.
We'll tell you about 14 smart-home products that fit almost everyone's budget that you can start using right now. Just think about how much money you can save and how much stress and effort you can alleviate by saying something like, "Alexa, shut the garage door," rather than getting up off the couch, heading to the dark and scary garage to press the button yourself.
Psst! Don't skip No. 14 - you'll be shocked and pleasantly surprised that you no longer have to do this hated chore!
1. Smart home hub
There are so many Alexa skills and so many smart-home devices that can control everything from your thermostat to lawn sprinklers, that you can easily feel overwhelmed. But, at Komando.com, we help with solutions.
One solution to all of this new technology is a smart home hub. Try saying that three times fast!
Simply, a smart home hub is one device that lets you control all the other smart home devices. With Amazon's Echo and voice-activated assistant, Alexa, you can tell Amazon to control the hub.
You can schedule your lights to dim or brighten or turn up the heat or AC. You're in control of your home's settings, or you can save money by scheduling all the lights to be turned off, for instance, and the heat turned down when no one is home.
Insteon utilizes dual-mesh tech. That just means it uses wireless radio and your utility lines to communicate to Alexa.
2. LED bulbs
Yes, these days, your lightbulbs are smart and easily controlled with Alexa. Just make sure you're buying Wi-Fi enabled LED bulbs that are compatible with Alexa.
You'll be able to dim your bulbs, schedule them to come on and go off at certain times of the day and more. "Alexa, turn off the lights."
The Kasa Smart Wi-Fi LED bulb, for instance, is dimmable and you can schedule it to turn on and off. More to the point, though, just say, "Alexa, turn on the lights" and you won't need to fuss with holding bags and trying to turn on lights in the dark - no more of that creepy feeling.
Tip in a Tip: When you're shopping on Amazon, type "works with Alexa" into the search bar.
3. Smart outlets
You may be wondering, "What's a smart outlet?" Once you use it, you'll wonder how you've gotten by without one all these years.
It's an outlet that let's you control your electronics with your voice. Just plug the smart outlet into any wall socket.
Then plug in your electronics, such as a lamp, sprinklers or air conditioner. Then, activate it by talking to Alexa, rather than walking around the house turning things on and off.
Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night wondering if you've locked the doors? We all have!
Now, you don't need to get out of bed in the middle of the night to check all the locks. "Alexa, lock the doors."
Smart door locks like Kwikset Kevo can be set up to work with Alexa. These are door locks that use Bluetooth 4.0 technology to wirelessly open with your smart phone or Alexa, or a regular door key.
5. Home security system
Nothing is more important than your family's safety. You also want to keep your valuables safe when you're gone for the day or leaving town for months.
Home security systems have come a long way the past few years, with wireless systems that are easy to install and easy to remotely monitor. Now, you can control your home security system with Alexa.
That includes home security cameras like the Canary View Indoor 1080p HD security camera. It streams high-definition 1080p video with a 147-degree lens and has night-vision capabilities.
Bonus: You can watch the video stream if you have an Echo Show or Echo Spot.
Remember the days when you turned your thermostat dial up when it was cold and down when it was hot? Those were the old days, although you may still have one of those thermostats in your home.
Thermostats these days are programmable with Alexa and have features that include different temperatures for different rooms. The brand Nest has been on the forefront of these advances and the Nest Learning Thermostat is on a new cutting edge - it learns the temperature you prefer.
That can save you money when Nest starts adjusting the temperature when you're not home. With Alexa, you just use your voice to control the temperature.
7. Garage door opener
It's never been easier to open, close and monitor your garage door. These days, thanks to wireless technology, you can remotely control your garage door and get alerts when it's open.
The Nexx Garage NXG-100 remote, for example, lets you open and close the garage door with your voice. "Alexa, close the garage door."
Note: Nexx Garage uses a 2.4 Ghz Wi-Fi connection.
Once you speak to your TV's remote control, instead of tapping on its keys, you never want to go back to life before a voice-activated remote control. Now, you can control your TV with your voice.
The 43-inch Sony XBR43X800E can do just that and at just $648, is a few hundred dollars cheaper than most voice-activated TVs. This is a top-of-the-line TV, too.
It has a 4K ultra-high-definition display along with High Dynamic Range technology for life-like images. It has edge-lit LED and Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac plus a 60Hz refresh rate.
These days, home appliances barely resemble the ones that your parents used. Just think about voice-activated appliances like the Kenmore Smart dryer.
It has 14 different drying cycles and you can make your own cycles. There's also a steam option to reduce wrinkles in about 10 minutes.
10. Electric car charger
Have you jumped into the electric car trend? If you're like most people, you're still thinking about it.
One concern you may have is charging it. Fortunately, chargers have gotten smaller and are easily installed in your garage.
Now, you can also get Wi-Fi enabled chargers that you can control with your voice. ChargePoint Home WiFi charger, for instance, is a 32A EV charging station that can give you a 25-mile range with about an hour charge.
The Wi-Fi lets you schedule the time when you're charging. Or use Alexa to remotely turn it on.
11. Ceiling fan
Ceiling fans typically spin around to push air down on you to cool you off. They used to be loud and wobbly and didn't always do much good.
The Hunter 59222 Symphony ceiling fan uses WhisperWind tech so that it's ultra quiet. It's sleek, too, with three plastic blades that pitch up 13 degrees at the end to optimize airflow.
12. Remote control
Smart home hubs control just about every smart device you have in your home (see No. 1). Smart home remote controls do the same thing, including turning your TV set on and off, but from a remote control.
It's nice to listen to music on Amazon Echo. "Alexa, play disco classics."
But if you want to really get your groove on, you need a bit more power. You can find that in wireless speakers like the Sonos Play:1.
It has two class-D digital amplifiers. It has a tweeter for clear high-pitched sound and a mid-woofer for thumping bass and vocals.
Let's face it, almost no one enjoys vacuuming. That's why families are moving away from carpeting to wood floor or tiles.
It's also why so many people have embraced robotic vacuums that do the work for you. Now, it's even easier to get those robovacs cleaning by using asking Alexa to turn the vacuum on and off.
The Neato Robotics Botvac D3, for instance, can be turned on with your voice or its on-off button. It uses lasers and smart navigation to move around your room and spin flow technology to power clean your floors, no matter what kind of flooring you have.
5 reasons you'll love Amazon's Alexa
If you're an experienced Amazon Echo user, or if you're a first-time user, you know some of the basic skills it has. "Alexa, play songs from the 1970s."
You'll be surprised by all of the ways Alexa can help you, whether you're ordering pizza, hailing a ride from Uber or dimming the lights in your house. Yet, Alexa can do even more than that, including helping you out in an emergency or reading books to you.