Are you ready to join the smart home revolution? Smart appliances used to be the stuff every Jetsons fan dreams of, but they have quickly become a reality in the past few years.
At the center of any budding smart home is the smart speaker/virtual assistant. The undisputed leader of this category is still Alexa and the Amazon Echo line of gadgets (Google Home Assistant is a close second).
If you're looking for a futuristic constant home companion, the Amazon Echo may just be the appliance you need. Paired with a vast selection of other smart appliances, the Amazon Echo can become your voice-activated smart home control hub.
With compatible smart appliances, you can simply ask Alexa to turn off your lights, adjust your thermostat, control your entertainment center, lock your door, etc. With this setup, it does feel like we're already living in the home of the future.
If you want to jump-start your smart home journey, here are 13 smart appliances you can use with Alexa or Google right off the bat.
1. Smart lights that work with Alexa
We’ve all thought about how we can redecorate a room. Sometimes it’s a new coat of paint; sometimes you just have to move the furniture. But what if all you needed were some new lightbulbs?
There are plenty of reasons why you should consider getting smart bulbs now. Aside from setting the mode in your home, they can also save you money, time and improve your health, too. Tap or click here for the 5 best reasons why your next lightbulbs should be smart bulbs.
Although with their own smartphone apps, you can control smart bulbs from anywhere, this is my favorite reason why I love smart bulbs - voice control via an Amazon Echo.
Paired with Alexa (or Google Home/Apple's HomeKit), you can be like Captain Kirk and simply tell your virtual assistant of choice to turn your lights on or off.
For added convenience, you can even group your smart lights by specific rooms or areas and turn them all on at once with a single voice command. For example, you can issue commands like "Alexa, turn off kitchen lights" or "Alexa, turn on living room lights" from anywhere within range of your Echo.
You can also dim your smart lights without lifting a finger by saying "Alexa, set bedroom lights to 50%" or "Alexa, set reading light to maximum." Yep, it sounds so futuristic but the future, as they say, is now.
You start your setup with a Philips Hue Color Starter Pack and an Echo Dot. However, if you can spend a little bit more, you can skip the separate Philips Hue hub, and get the Echo Plus. The Echo Plus comes with one Philips Hue white bulb and a built-in hub that will work with other smart appliances.
Philips Hue may be the most well-known name in smart lighting but they can be pricey. Fortunately, there are tons of cheaper smart bulbs out in the market which can do pretty much the same thing.
One such brand is Sengled. Sengled makes similar color and white smart bulbs that can do virtually anything a Philips Hue -- voice control, scenes, routines, etc. -- can do for a fraction of the price. Check out Sengled's color starter kit now.
2. Smart thermostats make your home comfortable
With the smart home revolution in full swing, one of the best investments you can make right off the bat is a smart thermostat.
Why? Switching your regular thermostat to a smart one will not only make your home feel more "hi-tech," but it can also help you manage and cut your energy costs. Smart thermostats also offer a level of convenience that we've never had before. What makes a smart thermostat smart? Click here to learn more.
Paired with an Amazon Echo, you can simply say "Alexa, set the temperature to 74 degrees" to control it without lifting a finger.
One of the best ones out there is the Ecobee4 Smart Thermostat. Like any good smart thermostat, the Ecobee4 can be set on a heating/cooling schedule as well as a vacation schedule.
The Ecobee4 can be toggled between "Home" and "Away" modes. When in "Away," the thermostat won’t kick on, but if the thermostat or sensors detect motion, the setting will be overridden.
It also comes with a separate remote room sensor that can sense if a room is occupied or not and adjust your home's entire temperature automatically. These sensors serve different functions that can help boost your HVAC's efficiency and save energy costs in return.
And here's something cooler - the Ecobee4 even comes with Alexa built in. So aside from controlling your home's temperature, the Ecobee4 can do most of what a separate Amazon Echo or Echo Dot can do. With it, you can control your other smart home appliances, play music, read the news, ask questions and more.
If you're looking into getting into the whole smart home trend, a voice-controlled smart thermostat should definitely be one of your first big purchases.
Honorable mention goes to the Nest Learning Thermostat. This smart thermostat has the ability to learn what temperature you like to keep your home comfortable and builds a schedule around yours. It will automatically adjust the temperature in your home so that you don't have to.
3. Smart ceiling fans controlled with Alexa
What goes well with your smart thermostat? Naturally, a smart fan with Wi-Fi connectivity and Alexa voice controls!
The leading name in smart home fans is Hunter. With Hunter's SIMPLEconnect enabled ceiling fans, you integrate them with home automation systems like Alexa and Apple HomeKit and control them with your voice. You can even sync your smart fan with your smart thermostat to efficiently cool down your house.
You can also do all sorts of cool things like routines and automated triggers. For example, you can set your smart fan to automatically turn on based on your location and have it turn on as soon as you step in your home. You can set schedules and timers too for ultimate energy savings.
4. Convert outlets with smart plugs
Another easy and cost-effective way to fast track your way into an Echo-controlled smart home is through smart plugs.
Think about everything in your house that just simply plugs into an electric socket. You might have lamps, colorful string lights, a stereo, a coffee maker, or a fan. When you want to turn them on, you walk over and flip a switch. Now imagine flipping that switch with your voice or an app instead.
A smart plug works with an electrical outlet. You plug your lamp or another device into the smart plug and then control it with your digital voice assistant or phone.
The best thing about smart plugs now is that their prices keep coming down. There are tons of affordable smart plugs available at Amazon that work pretty much the same way. Look for plugs from brands like TanTan, Etekcity, Aukey, and iClever.
5. Transform any TV into voice-controlled smart gadget
The Fire TV Cube mixes two of Amazon’s most popular creations, Fire TV and Alexa, into a black cube with a glowing strip of light. If you want to seamlessly expand your voice controls to your entertainment center, this is the device you want.
The Fire TV Cube has built-in Alexa functions, which means you can dim your smart bulbs, control your smart appliances, ask questions, set timers – pretty much anything a regular Amazon Echo can do. You can also use your voice to search, play, pause, fast-forward and handle all the things you would typically do with a remote.
If your TV is compatible with HDMI-CEC, you can switch it on or off and adjust its volume. But don't worry if you have an older TV; the Cube has a built-in IR transmitter, so you can use the device as a universal remote and control almost any TV by using your voice.
The Cube can also connect to your Echo Show, mirroring its small display on your big screen. With an Alexa voice command, the Cube can provide you with detailed weather forecasts, display lyrics to songs and show you live video feeds from Alexa-compatible security cameras.
Amazon favors its own content on Fire TV, but you can also access apps like Netflix, Vudu, Hulu, Plex, HBO, DirecTV Now, AT&T Watch TV and Sling TV. For video, the Fire TV Cube has support for 4K content, HDR, Dolby Atmos.
6. Get a smart TV with voice-control built in
Do you want to turn the center of your entertainment system (the TV) into the center of your smart home too? With LG's ThinQ line of OLED and SUPER UHD TVs, you can.
Aside from being excellent displays, these smart TVs all come equipped with LG's ThinQ artificial intelligence tech and Google Assistant built-in so you can control all your smart home appliances with just your voice and the remote.
ThinQ TVs are also compatible with Amazon Echo gadgets and you can command Alexa to change channels and inputs, change the volume, and launch your Smart TV apps with just your voice.
Bonus: All 2019 Vizio SmartCast TVs are also compatible with Amazon Alexa. After setting them up via the Alexa app, you can start controlling your Vizio TV remotely, or command it with your voice. You can even put your Vizio TV in a group and set routines for it.
7. Make your patio a voice-controlled tech wonderland
Indoor smart plugs are great, but what if you want to control outdoor fixtures like your Christmas or patio lights? You don't want to risk electrical shock and fire damage from shorts caused by your smart plug's exposure to the elements, do you?
Outdoor smart plugs to the rescue! These types of smart plugs are made of weather-resistant material and they can withstand heat and rain. How can you tell the difference?
Well, indoor smart plugs are typically white, and outdoor smart plugs traditionally come in black. This is not always the case, though, so be careful. Make sure you check their labels and ratings first (the warning label is usually printed on the plug itself) and see if they're appropriate for outdoor use.
Other than that, outdoor smart plugs work exactly like their indoor counterparts -- plug them in, connect them to your Wi-Fi network, set them up with the Alexa app and start controlling them with your voice.
For starters, iHome makes an ultra-durable outdoor smart plug, the iHome iSP100 Wifi Outdoor Smart Plug, and it works with Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple HomeKit. It also comes with a 6-inch shielded power cord for added versatility.
8. Control smart devices from one central hub
One thing that could potentially frustrate a budding smart home fan is the sheer number of platforms available, some even requiring their own hub and ecosystem.
To help simplify things, there's the Amazon Echo Plus. However, if you want a hub that can also work locally even when your internet is down, check out the Hubitat Elevation Hub.
The Hubitat works with a variety of home automation platforms like Zigbee, Z-Wave and Lutron, plus it's compatible with Alexa, Google Home, IFTTT and tons of other smart appliance brands including Philips Hue, Wink, Samsung SmartThings, Kwikset, etc.
For ultimate control, you can then access the hub's dashboard via its web portal. For extra fanciness, I recommend wall mounting tablets around your home and turn them into not just ultra-versatile multimedia fixtures, but central smart home controller, too.
9. Feed plants with smart sprinklers (really!)
Keeping up the perfect lawn can be a difficult task. You need to remember to water consistently and then make sure you’re watering the correct amount, among other things.
But if you have a smart sprinkler, it will take all the guesswork out. Here are a couple models to choose from:
This Rachio Smart Sprinkler lets you care for your lawn remotely by downloading its app. Not only that, but it works with Amazon’s Alexa, so you can use voice commands to water the lawn.
You can set your own schedules or input details like plant types and sun exposure to let Rachio automatically water your lawn with exactly what it needs to thrive.
Another option is the Orbit B-hyve smart indoor/outdoor sprinkler system. It also is compatible with Alexa and has Weather Sense technology that provides watering based on site conditions such as slope, soil type, sun/shade and more.
The system automatically adjusts to deliver the right amount of water. And since it works with Alexa, you can control watering with a single phrase.
10. Monitor your home with smart cameras, gadgets
Smart technology goes way beyond just convenience these days. It can also be used to keep us safe. Simply place a couple smart gadgets around your home with built-in cameras and you can see what’s going on at all times. Here are a couple smart products that can help.
This Ring Wi-Fi enabled video doorbell is a great way to see exactly who is pounding at your door. It lets you answer the door from anywhere, even when you’re not home.
Stay connected with motion-activated alerts, HD video and two-way talk. Get alerts on your phone, tablet and PC when anyone comes to your door so you can see, hear and speak to visitors no matter where you are.
Plus, it works with Alexa so you can control it with your voice. If you have an Echo device with a screen, like the Echo Show, you can say things like, “Alexa, show the front door camera,” and see what’s happening at any time.
Here’s more smart technology that will help you keep an eye on things. It’s the Ring Floodlight Camera that lets you see, hear and speak to visitors from your phone, tablet and PC. It also works with Alexa.
Monitor your home in 1080 HD video with infrared night vision. It includes built-in ultra-bright floodlights and a siren and sends alerts as soon as motion is detected.
11. Secure your home with keyless locks
OK, this one is super cool! This August Smart Lock Pro + lets you control and monitor your door from anywhere. It uses Bluetooth technology to unlock and lock the door as you arrive or leave as long as you have your phone with you.
You can even give keyless entry to family and friends, or schedule access for home services without worrying about lost or copied keys. Installation is very easy, too. It attaches to your existing deadbolt in minutes.
Plus, it works with Alexa, so you can control the smart lock with your voice. Tap or click to get yours from Amazon.
12. Cook to perfection with Wi-Fi-connected range
Did you know that with GE WiFi Connect, you can control any of its Wi-Fi-enabled appliances with Alexa? It’s true.
That makes this GE Profile electric range the perfect addition to any smart home. It has built-in Wi-Fi that lets you control the range from anywhere in the house using your smartphone or Alexa.
13. Tell time with Echo wall clock
Ever wished that your wall clock is a little bit smarter? Then this one's for you -- Amazon's very own Echo Wall Clock.
Introduced last year together with a slew of other Alexa-enabled appliances, this analog wall clock doesn't actually have Alexa built into it, rather, it works with your other Echo devices to show your Alexa timers via LED lights around its rim.
As a bonus, this connected wall clock will also set its own time and adjust itself to Daylight Savings Time automatically.
Although it had its share of connectivity problems early on and Amazon had to pull it out to sort out its bugs, the Echo Wall Clock is back and it can be yours for $30.
Looking for more Echo ideas? Get our eBook, "How to use Amazon Echo: Tips and Tricks" at Amazon.
Bonus: Even things you own that aren't already smart, don’t have to stay that way. An inexpensive smart plug can make your dumb appliance, lamp or hair dryer smart. Kim gives some tips on inexpensive ways to start upgrading your home to a smart home.
13 Alexa skills that you’ll use time and time again
Amazon's Alexa can perform so-called “skills” to make your life eaiser. Amazon and its partners have developed more than 15,000 skills, and they run the gamut of uses – from workflow to domestic life to entertainment to safety to whimsical party tricks. Clearly you won't use all of them, but here are some skills that you'll use all the time. Tap or click to learn the Alexa tricks.